Growing up, I despised kimchi. I could not imagine who would voluntarily eat the fermented cabbage, green onions and carrots. Sure, I loved sauerkraut, but that was different! 😉 That was delicious and I was a keen advocate for going to the sauerkraut festival in our neighboring town each year.
The pungent garlicky odor of the kimchi, though, was on a whole different level. It seemed to permeate every corner of my mother’s refrigerator – and heaven forbid when she actually took it out during meals! I made her do a lightening grab for the cabbage thereby limiting the time the lid on the jar stayed open.
Needless to say, I was a bit of a drama queen any time this red speckled cabbage came to dinner. 🙄
So, if you happened to stop by one day last month and saw this sitting in my kitchen:
and not to mention a bowl of this prepping on the side:
You might just furrow your brow with suspicion and confusion. Is that really the beginnings of kimchi being made? To be EATEN? Is the sky falling? Have the cows come home? Are there pigs flying in the sky?!!
I’ve had to eat my words and apologize for my youthful over-dramatics because now I LOVE kimchi. You can’t blame my mother for not really believing me until she saw the jar sitting in my fridge. I tried it again for the first time in my adult life in Trader Joe’s Kimchi Fried Rice. I picked it up on a whim, but the spicy kimchi was just right with the soft rice, and I soon devoured it. That got me buying my first pouch of kimchi from Trader Joe’s and from there a jar of Sunja’s Kimchi from my local Whole Foods. I now eat it with my rice at every opportunity and I’m looking forward to doing more with the still stinky but oh, so, yummy fermented pickle. Like this light spread of food that I had yesterday for lunch:
But buying my kimchi at $4 a bottle every few weeks was getting to be a bit expensive. I saw this as a long-term love affair that needed nurturing and care. So, like with many other recipes that are staples in our home, I tried my hand at making it myself. I even went so far as to purchase a special jar! The blue lid canning jar from Bormioli Rocco Fido was the perfect size with the best sealing capability for my kimchi.
The actual making of the kimchi was surprisingly easy. I did a search online and used this recipe from Chow as my base. I bought the appropriate Korean Red Chili flakes, fine sea salt, and veggies from my local asian grocery. From there, it was simply a case of chopping, salting, draining and mixing. I set aside a whole afternoon, but really it didn’t take anywhere near that long to make.
The scary aspect of the whole kimchi making process is the fermentation. When you pop open the lid after day 3 (you should check your kimchi every day for a week) and you can see the gases float out and the smell hits you like the fermenting garlic-ginger punch it is, well, it made me worried if I was doing it right. I had made sure to sanitize everything before making my kimchi, but, well, you never know. 😕
Luckily I didn’t get sick and all was well. 🙂 I had the most delicous kimchi, it was vegetarian (something I had to look out for when I was buying it since most “authentic” kimchi contains fish paste) and it was CHEAP! Making your own kimchi is a wonderful toe-step into fermentation and I now feel much more confident having completed my first successful batch.
Here’s my take on the recipe from Chow! It makes about 1 Liter worth.
- 1 medium napa cabbage (or any asian cabbage will work fine), washed thoroughly and chopped into 2 inch pieces
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup fine sea salt
- about 4 inches of daikon, peeled and diced thinly
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2 inch matchsticks
- 3 bunches of green onion, cut into 2 inches pieces
- 3 inches ginger, peeled and ground into a paste (if you like less ginger but more garlic, you can tweak the quantities to suit your taste)
- 1 tbsp ground garlic
- 5 tbsp Korean red chili flakes (more or less depending on how hot you like it – I found 5 to be just right!)
- Rub rinsed and cut cabbage with salt until all surface areas are coated. Let sit in a bowl with a weight on top (another bowl or lid) for 1 -2 hours.
- Rinse and drain cabbage.
- Combine all vegetables in a big stainless steel bowl. Add seasonings and mix thoroughly until evenly coated. (Be careful since it does stain.)
- Pack into a clean jar and let it sit in a dark cupboard for 1 week. Open the lid and release the gases once daily. You can press the vegetables into the resulting brine, but use a clean utensil and be sure that your hand as clean to avoid any contamination.
- You can taste it as it ferments, but be sure to wait the week for the best flavor! 🙂 Store in the refrigerator.