Sarah’s Simple Kimchi
Kimchi was my gateway ferment – the thing that made me want to give this whole fermentation thing a try. It can be ridiculously expensive to buy at the store, but it’s quite easy to make. The one tricky part is that you really must use authentic Korean gochugaru, or chili flakes. Gochugaru is ground dried chiles without the seeds. The flavor is spicy, sweet, and smokey all at the same time, and not at all like American chili powder or crushed chile flakes. The good news is that it’s usually sold in 1lb. bags which will keep for several months in your pantry, or for years in your fridge or freezer. Gochugaru can be purchased at Asian food markets or online. (Amazon sells it.) Other than the gochugaru, this recipe can be made with ingredients you’ll find at most grocery stores.
Sarah’s Simple Kimchi
1 quart or liter
1 medium napa cabbage, about 2lbs.
1 bunch scallions
¼c gochugaru (Korean chile flakes)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1t minced ginger
1T fish sauce
Rinse the cabbage, remove any blemished outer leaves, and slice lengthwise down the center. Place the two halves in a large bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt. Use your fingers to rub in the salt all over the cabbages, including between the leaves. Place a plate on top of the cabbages and something heavy on top of the plate – a large can of tomatoes works well. Cover the whole thing with a towel and set aside until the cabbage is very wilted, about 3-6 hours.
Drain the cabbages and rinse well to remove the salt. Gently, but firmly, squeeze the cabbages to remove excess water. Place them on your cutting board and slice them across the grain into 2-inch pieces. Return the sliced cabbage to your bowl. Slice the roots off the scallions and then cut a 2-inch piece from the white end of each and add these to the bowl with the cabbage.
Thinly slice the greens of the scallions until you have ¼ cup. Place these in a small bowl and add remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to this to make a thick paste, about 2 tablespoons. Add this paste to the cabbage and scallions and use your hands to toss it all together, making sure all the cabbage is well coated with the paste. (You may wish to wear gloves for this, although it’s never bothered me.)
Pack everything into a 1 quart or liter glass jar, using your hands to smash it down firmly, then secure the lid. (If using a mason jar, screw the ring all the way and then loosen it a half-turn. For a hermetic jar, clamp the lid shut.) The mixture will be quite dry at first, but the cabbage will soon release more of its juices. Let ferment at room temperature out of the light until it has turned sour and very bubbly, usually about 3-5 days. When it is sour enough for your taste and delightfully effervescent move it to the fridge.
Napa cabbage ferments quickly, even at cold temperatures, so plan to eat this up in a couple weeks. (If it lasts that long!) After that it will get very sour and start to turn soft. You might like it that way, but if you find it’s not quite as tasty as a side dish, then add it to soups, stews, or hot rice. My favorite breakfast is hot rice with kimchi stirred in and a fried egg on the top. YUM!