“Are you really going to eat that?”
“Yes and I can’t wait.”
That’s how the conversation typically goes when people see a jar of kimchi fermenting on my kitchen counter.
Kimchi is considered the national dish of Korea. They boast over a hundred different types and no meal there is complete without it. The vegetables have a softened texture, but retain a pleasant crunchy bite. Ingredients vary greatly, however the most well-known version has Napa or Chinese cabbage, scallion, ginger, a good salty brine and Korean red pepper.
Lots of Korean red pepper–which can be wicked hot.
I made this recipe for the first time about a year ago having never tried kimchi in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My husband and I tried to make sauerkraut a number of years ago and it was a complete disaster. It looked pretty funky and when I described to my mother (who could make sauerkraut with her eyes closed) how it looked, she screamed “Don’t eat that! Throw it out!” ‘Nuf said, Mom.
There’s a lot of buzz lately about how fermented foods are good for your health. They’re loaded with good bacteria (aka probiotics) which means they provide immune system support along with being great for digestive health. I’m not making any health claims here–I just love this stuff!
This kimchi takes about a week from start to finish. Napa or Chinese cabbage is available at any grocery store, however, I find the best price for it at an international market in my area. Each head generally weighs two to three pounds. The process is simple: Slice the heads of cabbage into about two-inch rounds leaving the stem and bottom core behind. Take each “round,” and loosen it up into a large stainless steel bowl then salt generously with sea salt. Place a dinner plate and another heavy object on the plate and let that sit for 24 hours. The cabbage is going to wilt significantly because of the salt. I drain the excess water out several times in the 24 hour period.
After 24 hours, the next step is to rinse the wilted cabbage under cold running water. Squeeze out all the excess water, add the remaining ingredients and place in a non-reactive container such as a large glass jar. Close the lid and let sit on your counter for three days.
Now, I’m not sure why, but mine has never “bubbled.” Don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I’ve made this three times now. There has to be enough salt, vinegar and Korean red pepper in there to kill anything that is even considering lurking in there.
After it has been sitting at room temperature for about three days, store in the refrigerator for four days. After that it’s ready to eat. This will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and up to a month.
I’ll have a recipe or two for you in the very near future that uses kimchi as one of the ingredients. Enjoy!
2-3 pounds Napa or Chinese cabbage
2-3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (or as needed and to taste)
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper
2 tablespoons honey (or to taste), preferably raw unpasteurized
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 bunch scallions, white and light green part only, sliced into 1-inch pieces
DAY 1: Slice cabbage into 2-inch thick rounds, leaving stem end and bottom core behind. Loosen into a stainless steel bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss to combine.
Set a plate over the cabbage and another heavy object such as a cast iron skillet on top to weigh it down. Set aside for 24 hours. Drain off excess water as necessary.
DAY 2: Rinse the cabbage well under cold running water. Squeeze out as much water as possible.
Add the rice vinegar, red pepper, honey, ginger and scallion and toss well to combine. Adjust rice vinegar and honey to taste. Cabbage should be somewhat covered with liquid.
Place in a large non-reactive container such as a glass jar. Close the lid and leave at room temperature for 3 days.
DAY 5: Place in refrigerator for 4 days.