While my sauerkraut is bubblin’ in the jar, I figured I would try something a bit fancier – kimchi. The concept is exactly the same: chop stuff and ferment it. The difference is that kimchi includes spices and seasonings. This big jar will need to sit around for about a week before I taste it – by which time it should be really stinky and (hopefully) good.
I started out shopping at the “Asian Superstore” in my city – where I promptly ran into difficulty with my lack of non-English reading skills. Specifically, I was looking for the gochugaru by trying to compare a google image of the word (in Korean) with various packages. And that store had hundreds of packages that could have been what I wanted. The store was busy enough that I literally couldn’t find anyone to help me – so I grabbed what looked approximately correct… and them promptly worried that I was going to create a disaster in my jar.
When I posted my dilemma on Facebook, my friend Melle recommended a local store at which I was able to pick up the authentic ingredients; there are plenty of recipe variations out there, though, if you don’t have a local Korean shop. In this case, the lovely woman working at the store was also able to grab some napa cabbage for me from the secret stash in the back – and gave me some advice on ingredients. Awesome.
Anyway. I’ll report back in a week or so as to how things turned out – in the meantime, here’s the recipe.
- 2 pounds of napa cabbage
- 1/2 cup salt (kosher – no additives)
- 8 ounces Korean radish (“mu”), peeled and cut into 2-inch strips
- 4 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (include the green part)
- 1/3 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
- 1/4 cup minced ginger (peeled)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoons Korean salted shrimp, minced
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut out the core. Chop the cabbage into 2″-sized chunks and place in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage and use your hands to work it in – crunching things up a bit as you go. Pour cold water over the cabbage, set aside, and let it soak overnight. Cover it with a clean dish towel or saran wrap to keep lint from getting in.
- The next day, rinse the cabbage with cold water. The leaves will have softened! Yay! Drain it well, squish out as much water as you can, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine all the other ingredients. To prevent staining (and hot pepper burning) wear gloves – I used nitrile gloves, but you can use latex or whatever’s handy as long as they’re clean.
- When everything is happily mixed, add the cabbage. Use your hands to squish it all together more – get everything well-coated and happily melded together.
- Pack it all into a 1.5 liter glass jar. Make sure it’s pressed down firmly.
- Put your stopper and airlock onto the jar, fill the airlock with water (see note), and set aside for a week.
- Ta-da! Kimchi!
The hardest part of this recipe is all the chopping and mincing and whatnot. I totally ‘get’ why someone would make a triple batch to put off having to do it again soon. If this turns out well, and if I try to make another batch, I’ll at least double it.
In recent emails with Geoff, from Canuck Homebrew Supply, I have learnt that water is not the most ideal thing to put into your air lock. There are some special products available (food safe) or you can use vodka! And who doesn’t love the idea of needing to buy vodka for healthy purposes? Not me, that’s for sure. You CAN use water, and I’d say it’s especially okay for a short-term ferment, but I am not a scientist and I do not play one on TV either. So.. yeah.
The original recipe that I found for this required 1/4 cup of fish sauce. I couldn’t bring myself to use that much. Time will tell whether I regret that or not. I feel pretty sure that I won’t. If you decide to use that much fish sauce, you should also increase your salted shrimp to 2 teaspoons because I also decreased that quantity because…
Salted shrimp are possibly one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen, let alone put into a recipe, but people seem to swear by them so .. they’re in there. I will try not to think about their beady little eyes when I’m eating the kimchi later.
And, finally, if you can’t find any regular mouthed 1.5L jars (I used wide-mouth because I already had some) you can make an adapter for your #13 stopper using a yogurt lid. Yes, for real. Here’s the instructions for that. I made my inner circle the size of the stopper, rather than a smaller jar lid, and it worked beeee-yooo-tifully. At least, so far.