Ahh… kimchi! Kimchi is Korean sauerkraut and it should be included on every condiment bar worldwide. There are countless styles and variations of kimchi/kimchee/gimchi, but this is my family’s favorite. I sure hope you like spicy fermented foods!
I first learned to make kimchi thanks to our Korean neighbors, who regularly drove an hour into Atlanta to purchase a red pepper paste in order to make their kimchi. Having sampled the red pepper paste, I decided that I could replicate it with red chiles and habanero peppers. After two attempts, my neighbors declared that they liked my red pepper paste better than the one the found in Atlanta. Apparently, I was on to something. Six years later, I found the Easy Fermenter kit while tinkering around on Amazon, promptly ordered it, and finally made the ultimate kimchi (according to my spouse and friends, anyway).
The recipe goes as follows:
2 heads Napa cabbage
2 Korean radishes or 1 daikon
1 sweet onion
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1 piece fresh ginger (it should have multiple “fingers”)
10+ cloves of fresh garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce*
4-5 dried shrimp*
1/2 Lb red chile peppers
1/4 Lb habanero peppers
1.) Begin by chopping the cabbage, rinsing it well, and then setting it to soak in enough water to cover it. Some people like their cabbage quartered lengthwise instead of chopped. My husband likes to eat his kimchi with chopsticks and often straight out of the jar, so he prefers the cabbage chopped. Choose your own adventure here. I fully trust your judgement.
2.) Mix the Kosher salt into the water and cover the cabbage with a lid. Peel the radish, cut it into 2-inch sections, and then slice it into matchsticks. Also chop the onion into slivers. Some will insist on using green onions, but I switched to sweet onions when the organic green onions at our local market were contaminated with E. coli. When I switched to the sweet onions, I was able to stop adding sugar to the red pepper paste.
3.) Cut the green stem-parts off of the peppers and place them in a blender with the peeled ginger and garlic. Be sure to add in the seeds if you like spicy kimchi. The seeds are where the heat is hiding. I store my ginger in the freezer and find it is much easier to peel and handle when frozen. Add the fish sauce and the dried shrimp and then blend it into a paste. Don’t worry if you taste it and doesn’t seem hot enough. Make sure it’s completely smooth.
4.) Drain the cabbage thoroughly. Mix everything (cabbage, onions, radish, and paste) together and begin packing it into clean glass canning jars. If you can, use The Easy Fermenter lids. No, Easy Fermenter did not pay me to recommend their product but it’s a great thing to have if you like to make your own fermented foods. I truly love their lid design and since using them, I’ve made the most crisp and tasty kimchi.
5.) When you pack the jars, you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit in each quart jar. Be careful not to get any of the juice in your eyes as you push the cabbage mixture down. When you reach the top, place a large piece of cabbage over the kimchi and screw on the lids. If you are using regular lids, you don’t need to tighten them all the way. If you are using the Easy Fermenter, use the little siphon to remove the air.
6.) Place the jars on a pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) and place them in a cool dark place for 24 hours. After 24 hours, mop up any spilled liquid. If you are using the Easy Fermenter lids, place the jars in the refrigerator and forget about them for 30 days. If you are using regular canning jars, place them in the refrigerator but you’ll need to keep them on a pan to catch any spills for the first week or so and tighten the lids as needed. Any leftover kimchi which didn’t fit in the jars is perfectly fine to eat right away but it won’t have the full-bodied flavor of fermented kimchi. After 30 days, enjoy your nutritious and tasty kimchi with your favorite dishes or as a snack.
*The shrimp and fish sauce may be a challenge to find in some areas. You can skip these ingredients without ruining your kimchi and easily make vegan kimchi. There are a lot of people with shrimp allergies and dietary restrictions. Vegan kimchi is delicious and very easy to make. Follow the directions above, however, instead of using the fish sauce and shrimp, use 2 Tablespoons tamari mixed with 2 Tablespoons of water, 3 Tablespoons of miso, and 1 Tablespoon of pineapple juice.
It should also be noted that carrots are a popular addition to kimchi. Feel free to add them to this recipe. I prefer to ferment carrots with cauliflower, onion, and dill.
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