I’m always looking for new ways to make simple fermented foods. I’ve made yogurt, apple cider vinegar, shrub syrup, pickled beets and many other things. I like to make things that don’t take a lot of equipment and don’t take a long time to ferment. I have a busy life and I don't have a lot of disposable income. Apple cider vinegar takes the longest to finish. It was weeks in the process. Fortunately, I could make a lot and don’t use it up terribly fast. Also, it keeps a long time in the fridge.
I’ve always wanted to try kimchi and got a nice Napa cabbage from my neighbors so I decided to give it a try. I had seen a recipe from a garden place near Santa Cruz that claimed the recipe was not overly spicy so I thought I’d give it a try. I have made other things following their recipes and have noticed that they, while surely good-intentioned, always leave something important out of the instructions. I wondered what it would be this time.
I found what it was. It didn’t have enough brine when I followed the recipe to the letter and also the taste was extremely bland. They offered no remedy so I doctored it. I have to say, without bragging, that it turned out pretty well and tasty. OK, I’m bragging a little.
If you didn’t know already kimchi is a lightly fermented Korean sauerkraut. My favorite way to use kimchi is plop a big tablespoon on top of rice with sauteed greens and sliced avocado topped with a easy over fried egg. You can also use it as a condiment in a sandwich like ham and cheese. I also eat it straight out of the jar (using a clean spoon preserves the good bacteria!)
Try it. You’ll like it!
Easy Homemade Kimchi Recipe
Yield: Makes about a pint to a quart depending on the size of your cabbage
Prep time: 30 minutes to 45 minutes
- 1 medium head Napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt (check the label. Make sure there’s NO iodine or other additives)
- Water, preferably distilled, filtered, or well (don’t use tap water with chlorine or other additives)
- 1 tablespoon grated garlic - 5 to 6 cloves (I actually used powdered garlic and it worked fine)
- 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 to 5 tablespoons of Korean red pepper paste (I use gochuchang because I always have it for other things like BiBimBap)
- Cutting board and knife
- Large bowl
- Gloves (optional but recommended)
- Something to weigh the kimchi down. (I used a juice glass)
- Sterilized jar (1 quart or 1 pint as needed) with canning lid
- Bowl or plate to place under jar during fermentation
Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters. Cut the cores from each piece. Chop each quarter into fine strips or chunks.
Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your clean hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit. Add enough good water to cover the cabbage and then put a clean plate on top of the cabbage. Weigh it down with something clean like a glass filled with water. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.
Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce, and stir into a smooth paste. Stir in the gochuchang. Less is less spicy. More is, well, more spicy! Set aside until the cabbage is ready.
Combine the cabbage and spice paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the spice paste.
Pack the kimchi into a jar that accommodates the cabbage with a clean stainless steel spoon. Press down on the kimchi until any liquid to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top. If there's too much take some cabbage out and if you need to you can add a little boiled water that has cooled down to room temperature. Put the weight on it. I put a piece of plastic wrap down in the jar on top of the kimchi and then I press a glass that just fits into the opening of the kimchi jar so the veggies stay beneath the liquid. If I need to I’ll add water to the glass to make it heavier but usually the kimchi compacts all right. We’re looking to keep as much air out of it. Air has the wrong kind of microbes to make the kimchi work.
Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. When it starts fermenting it may bubble over. Let the jar stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for at least 5 days. I put mine in the pantry and close the door. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out. That’s why we place it on something to catch that.
Keep an eye on it but don’t disturb it unless you see mold starting. If you see mold, of course, throw it away. But if you don’t, after 5 days you can then refrigerate it. You may eat it right away, but it's best after another week or.
Kimchi can stay refrigerated for up to a few months. Use clean utensils each time to extract the kimchi from the jar.