Kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage)

You either love it or hate it. Guess which camp I fall into! A national institution in Korea, kimchee is very spicy, has an odd smell, and admittedly is not for everyone. But, it’s easy to get addicted to. Eat it as a side, put it on rice, add to soups, And, I am glad to say, easy to make. There are many recipes, here’s mine. I find that Korean red pepper is best, and it is available in many oriental markets. As you experiment, you may vary the red pepper to suit your taste – and different brands vary in hotness, as one would expect.

1 nappa (Chinese) cabbage about 2-1/2 lbs (weight not critical)
3 TB kosher salt
2 c daikon radish peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1 c water

Remove and discard any damaged leaves from the outside of the cabbage then cut into pieces about 1 to 1-1/2 inch in size. In a large bowl, toss with the salt, sugar, water, and optional daikon. Weight with a plate and let sit for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and reserve the liquid.

1 bunch scallions
1 inch piece fresh ginger
3 TB red pepper powder

Peel and finely mince the ginger. Cut the roots and the top few inches of green off the scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces, and slice lengthwise into slivers. Toss the ginger and scallions and red pepper with the cabbage. I like to do this with my hands, but I make sure not to lick my fingers after! Here’s a pic of the ingredients all mixed together.

Pack the mixture into a well-cleaned glass jar – you’ll need about 2 quarts capacity. Don’t be shy about pressing it down—in fact, it should be well-packed. Add water and some of the reserved liquid to almost cover. The reserved liquid is salty, and add more or less depending on how salty you want your kimchee.

Put some water in a heavy-duty plastic bag and put it in the jar to weigh down the mixture. Pretty soon the solids will compress and be totally covered by the brine – just what you want. Ideally, the solids will be just covered, you  don’t want a lot of excess liquid. Let sit at room temperature overnight.

What gives kimchee its special character is fermenting, in essentially the same way as sauerkraut is made. The friendly yeasts, naturally present on the nappa, grow and multiply and give off various flavor compounds. You’ll never see these wee beasties, but you will surely taste and smell the result of their work! The longer the fermentation, the more potent the result. The longer you let it sit out of the fridge, and the warmer your kitchen, the more fermentation will occur. Once in the fridge, fermentation essentially stops. Experiment – you can always take it out of the fridge for a day to kick up the flavor if you like.

Keep your jar well sealed. The smell can be quite potent and even I don;t want to smell kimchee if I am not eating it. My approach is to cover the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap secured with a rubber band, then put the jar in a large zipper bag.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ethnic, Vegetables/potatoes/rice, Vegetarian

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