It used to be pickles. I love pickles and that was the first thing I ever made. Sauerkraut was next because I wanted to make Reuben sandwiches. Reubens pair perfectly pickles. In fact, I say if there isn’t a pickle on the side, it ain’t a Reuben. It wasn’t till much much later that I would try Kimchi.
I’m not sure where or when I first had Kimchi. I do vaguely remember that I was turned off by the smell, so how it came to be that I would ever want to make it is a mystery to me. However things happened, I’m glad they turned out the way they did.
I’ve just made a big batch of Kimchi and it is seriously freaking D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. It’s waaaaay spicy, just like I like it.
God, I’m salivating just thinking about it.
I’ve made Kimchi only a handful of times. Usually, I go by the instructions from Sandor Ellix Katz’ book Wild Fermentation. Unfortunately, my results are inconsistent. And many times, the Kimchi suffers from adding too many vegetables. (Is that possible? Sadly, yes it is.) But this last batch seems to have everything going for it. It’s simple and it’s hot.
Here is how I made this batch, though I should mention that it’s probably not “authentic” Kimchi. So don’t give me any guff about that. And it’s not a precise recipe. Oh, and I like really hot stuff.
- 5 LB Napa cabbage
- 1/2 bunch red radish
- 1/2 bunch green onion
- 1 small head of garlic
- 1 big honk of ginger
- 3 Habanero chiles
- 2 Serrano chiles
- 4-5 dried red peppers
- box of Kosher salt
You’ll start by making the brine.
You need a big, non-metallic, food-grade container, maybe a big mixing bowl. Whatever, find something. Mix 8 cups of water* with 8 tablespoons of salt and stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
*Chlorine inhibits fermentation, so if your tap is chlorinated, use spring, distilled, or filtered water. I use straight tap water and it seems okay.
Now let’s work on what we will put into the brine.
Take the Napa cabbage, discard the outer layer. Chop off the bottom of the cabbage. Separate the leaves and wash them. Wash the radish and green onion. Drain everything.
Coarsely chop the cabbage and green onion. (Discard the bulb end of the green onion.) Thinly slice the radish. (If the green tops are attached, chop and keep those.)
Put the vegetables into the brine. Dunk it all into the brine, swish it around, make sure that nothing is stuck together. You want that brine to get all up in that cabbage’s business. You also want the vegetables to stay under the brine. So take a zip loc bag and fill it with water. Set the bag on top of the brine.
Okay, now you’re brining! Set it in a room temperature spot, out of the way. Cover it with a clean dish towel. Let it sit for a few hours to overnight. It’s your call. (I’d let it sit overnight.)
The Next day. Let’s make the paste!
Peel and mince your big honk of ginger. Peel and mince the head of garlic. A garlic press works best.
If you have a mortar and pestle, bust it out. If you don’t, you could try using a small food processor. Or just chop everything as fine as you can. And shortly we’ll be working with real peppers, so I want to see goggles, people! (Seriously, if you’re a sensitive soul, you might consider wearing gloves and/or safety goggles.)
Place the dried peppers in the mortar and grind them down. Then add the ginger and the garlic. Mix that all up and smash it and grind it good.
Back to the cutting board. Mince the serranos and the habaneros. Add them to the paste mix. Grind them up as well. Set your paste mix aside.
Grab your brine bowl. Drain it, reserving a cup or two of the brine. Taste a piece of the cabbage. It should be salty, but not overly so. If it’s too salty, rinse the cabbage. If it’s not salty enough, sprinkle some more salt and mix.
Now that the vegetables are drained, add in the pepper paste. Mix everything together. Keep mixing, yeah, that’s it.
Time to pack it in!
Okay now get a jar. You probably have some in the recycling. Make sure there is no residual odor. Take your vegetable pepper mix and jam it into the jar. Pack it in tightly till about 3/4 from the top. Pour a little of the reserved brine over the top. You want to cover the vegetables.
Annnd you’re done! If you still have more vegetable- and I hope for your sake you do -pack another jar. Put the jar(s) in the same spot you put the brine and cover with a clean dish towel. Let it sit there for a few days, up to a week or so. Taste a little each day. The flavor develops over time, so once you are happy with it, put the lid on the jar and stick it in the fridge.
Try Kimchi on pizza. Yummmm…