Intro: Wild Kimchi
Now is the season for going out and collecting some wild plants. Some of the ones which we'll be using in this recipe are super tasty, nutritious, can be found pretty much anywhere and are free for the picking. For Wild Kimchi I have selected 2 plants which are abundant from the spring into the fall, easy to identify and nutritious and the 3rd plant which we will use can be omitted if you can't find any of it. The first two are Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica, one of my favorites) and Dandelions (Taraxacum) and the third is Ramsoms / Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum). Actually, many people consider these to be weeds and try as hard as possible to try to throw them away.
Kimchi takes a while to make so pick a lot and make a big batch of it. Pick more than you think you will need. You won't regret the extra preparation. Whenever I make kimchi, I always seem to eat it all faster than the time it takes to ferment and then I'm left with no kimchi. Post fermentation, your kimchi should last at least month in the refridgerator.
Like I wrote earlier: this is going to take some time. So let's get started!
Step 1: Tools & Materials
Making kimchi uses simple, common ingredients and tools so you should have pretty much everything:
- 1kg(2.2lbs) of Dandelion greens
- 750g Stinging Nettles
- 250g Ramsoms
- 2c water
- 2tbsp flour
- 2tbsp sugar
- 1/2c garlic cloves
- 2tsp ginger
- 1 medium onion
- 2c hot pepper flakes
- 1/2c fish sauce
- 1/2c fermented-salted shrimp
- A knife and chopping board
- 2 large containers (bowls or buckets or pots)
- 1 medium sized sauce pan
- A salad spinner (useful but not absolutely nessecary)
- A whisk or fork
- Your hands (the best tool of all)
- Airtight containers
Step 2: Start With Your Greens
Pick your greens.
- The dandelions are easy to identify, even without their flowers. The leaves are hairless with toothed edges. Both leaves and flower stems are hollow and grow directly from the central root.
- I usually identify stinging nettle a few different ways; most commonly when walking nearby a grown patch of it the first way I notice it is by smelling it as it has a very distinct odor that, once you get used to, is very easy to identify. If I am really not sure if it is nettle or not, I simple let it "sting" me - then I know for sure. The leaves of the plant are 5-10cm long, hearth shaped with saw-tooth edges and are quite hairy (the hairs are what stings). Leaves are found in opposing pairs along the upper half of the stalk.
- Though the other plants don't really have any toxic look-alikes, ramsoms do...but they don't have any smell-alikes, so look for them with your eyes but then identify them with your nose. Their leaves are grey-green, oval and narrow, and grow around the base of the stem. If you find them, they will probably be growing in a colony with a lot of them in one spot. Rub the leaf in your fingers and smell it, if it is Ramsoms then it should have a strong garlicky smell. If you taste a bit of the leaf, it will also have an unmistakable garlicky or peppery flavor.
Step 3: Prepare Your Greens
Now that you have, what should be, a bucket load of wild greens. You need to prepare them.
Start by trimming off any root sections you may have plucked out of the ground and chopping off the flowers (you can just eat them with salad). Wash all of them thoroughly, discarding any other plants that might have snuck into your harvest, and dry them. A salad spinner will make super quick work of the drying if you have one or you can just pat them dry between a towel or two.
Cut all of your greens into about 7.5cm / 3in long sections (or shorter) and place them all in a, or a couple of, large container(s).
Step 4: Salt (not Optional)
Now is the time to salt your greens. The salting is a crucial step in the fermentation process.
Salt will prevent bad bacteria from starting to grow on your wild greens and encourage the lactic acid bacteria to grow. Too much salt could will also kill the lactic acid bacteria, so use it generously but not too generously. I usually sprinkle it heavily on top of the greens and then mix it all together.
Allow the salted greens to sit for at least an hour. During that time the salt will wilt the greens to some degree and also pull liquids out of them.
Step 5: The Glue
So with the greens salted and the lactic acid production begun, you could just let it go like this and make something like a sauerkraut, which is good, but not as good as kimchi.
In a saucepan, mix together Your water, flour, and sugar. Once that is thoroughly combined, put the saucepan on your stove-top at around medium/high and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer until the mixture thickens up to a viscosity resembling something between white glue and mud and then allow it to cool.
Once cooled, add your other ingredients and combine well. To remind you of the ingredients/quantities:
1/2c finely chopped garlic cloves, 2tsp finely chopped ginger, 1 finely chopped medium onion, 2c hot pepper flakes and the OPTIONAL of 1/2c fish sauce and 1/2c fermented-salted shrimp.
Step 6: Wash Your Greens
You'll need to wash your greens one last time to get the majority of the salt off of them. Squeeze them a bit to send the excess water down the drain and put them all in a large bowl.
Step 7: Get Your Hands Dirty.
Ok, your greens are all in a big bowl/container and your spicy glue has cooled.
Pour the glue over the greens. Mix everything together thoroughly with your (clean) hands. You will want all of the leaves to be evenly coated with the glue.
Divide your kimchi into several super clean airtight containers, press the kimchi down to remove any pockets of air, covering the greens in as much liquid (glue) as possible, and close them tightly.
Step 8: Let the Great Fermentation Begin!
Allow your future-kimchi to sit out at room temperature for 3 days to a week, and you didn't salt or coat the greens properly then you could get some spoilage. You can try fermenting in the fridge if it is not set too low but it will ferment much faster at room temperature.
That being said, I don't think I have had any kimchi spoil during the fermentation process and I have left it on top of heaters and in all sorts of super warm places to get it where it needs to go and FAST. Check on it every day and make sure nothing unwanted is growing on it (nothing should be growing on it). Press it down with a spoon also and release any bubbles that might be hiding inside. Taste it occasionally and when it gets as sour as you want it to be, then stick it in the fridge and slow that fermentation down.
You could also eat it right away, with no fermentation, but good things come to those who wait (at least when it comes to kimchi).
Step 9: Take Your Wild Kimchi to the Next Level
So now you have a pile of wild kimchi...what to do with it?
Well, the possibilities are vast:
- As a side dish (it's most common use)
- On top of a hot bowl of sticky rice (so good and simple)
- Kimchi stew (Kimchi Jjigae)
- Kimchi pancakes (Kimchi Jeon)
- Use it in your homemade Bi Bim Bap
- Put it on a burger, sandwich or hot-dog.
- Put it on some fries?
- Add it to scrambled eggs or put it in an omelette
- Make kimchi fried rice
- Use it in a Korean-fusion taco
- Use it in sushi
Become a food-pervert and put Wild Kimchi on all kinds of things because it's tasty and so good for you.