Homemade Kimchi

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are over 150 cataloged different kinds of kimchi. However, the most common, traditional kimchi is the one made with Napa cabbage. Since the process is rather lengthy, the long MLK weekend seemed a good time to attempt it. I’ll share this recipe step-wise with photos.

Cabbage

Step 1 – Cut one large napa cabbage into quarters. Wash it under running water. Sprinkle between all the leafy layers with a total of 1/2 c. coarse sea salt or kosher salt. Place in a large pot or bowl and add water until just covering the cabbage. Top with something heavy to weigh down the cabbage under the liquid. Let it sit for about 8 hours or overnight.

rice paste

Step 2 – Meanwhile, make a rice paste, which is the base for the kimchi paste that flavors the kimchi. Whisk together 1/2 c. sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour, available at Asian markets) with 1 c. water. Whisk continually over high heat until it just begins to thicken, then remove it from the heat, whisk until smooth, and allow to cool.

kimchi paste

Step 3 – Blend together the cooled rice paste with the following;

3/4 c. Korean red pepper flakes
1/4 c. fish sauce
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 c. minced garlic
1/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. salt
3 c. water
1/4 c. minced onion

kimchi paste final

Step 4 – Into the seasoned paste, add the following;

2 oz. each mustard greens and watercress, cut into thin ribbons
1 bunch green onions, sliced into small pieces
1 daikon radish, peeled and grated

Step 5 – After 8 hours of soaking, remove the cabbage quarters from the salt water and rinse 2 or 3 times under running water to remove salt. Place in a colander to drain for at least 30 minutes. What we’re trying to do here is remove as much water from the cabbage as possible. Mine still ended up getting pretty watery as it fermented, so next time I plan to make sure the water is very salty and let it sit in the salt water for 10-12 hours.

spreading paste

Step 6 – Wearing latex gloves to protect your hands from the pepper sauce, rub the prepared kimchi sauce in between each layer of the cabbage, making sure to cover all the surfaces. A video on the Aerie’s Kitchen website does a good job of showing the process.

final kimchi

Step 7 – The first recipe that I looked at called for a 1-gallon glass jar, or 4 quart jars, but I don’t have that many glass jars. You can buy the quart size in the canning section, but then you have to purchase 12 jars at a time!  So I followed the advice of another recipe that suggested using freezer bags. I packed all four quarters into one gallon-sized freezer bag and zipped it closed, trying to remove as much of the air as possible. Then I double-bagged it just in case there was any leaking.

The recipes suggested to let the kimchi sit at room temperature for 24-36 hours to start the fermentation process. I went with 36 hours since my house is cooler right now in the winter. Then put the kimchi in the refrigerator for another week before opening it up to taste.

Adapted from: Discovering Korean Cuisine, ed. Allisa Park

Update from a few days later:  The plastic freezer bag worked ok, but still allowed the strong smell of the kimchi to permeate the kitchen. I was worried that it would affect the flavor of everything in my refrigerator, so ended up transferring it over to a smaller quart canning jar, a freezer box and a glass bowl with lid (both put into plastic bags too.  This seemed to help contain the smell.

The kimchi itself is pretty tasty though not overly spicy. Now that I know what has gone into it I appreciate it more than I did previously. I’ll be trying a couple of recipes that use kimchi as a main ingredient, and will show you more photos of the final product in that future post.

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