Ken and I were both excited about making Kimchi. Our favorite sushi chef, Henri, said we were brave. I didn’t find it difficult, but it was a project Ken and I did together and I always enjoy that, very much.
After viewing about 15 different websites and watching about 6 or 7 videos, I found what I considered to be a fairly authentic, but easy recipe and we set out to make kimchi. Most of this recipe came from Everyday Dish. I didn’t use as much salt, only 1 Tablespoon and I also let the cabbage soak in salted water for 12 hours instead of just salting the cabbage and getting on with the process. After the cabbage had soaked for 12 hours, I rinsed it many times, probably about 4 times to rinse away most of the saltiness. I also didn’t have scallions, so I used daikon radish instead. I did use the amount of red pepper she recommends and it is delicious. One thing about Kimchi, you can use just about any vegetable to make it.
We documented our progress in pictures: (Make sure you click on the smaller ones to open up larger pictures.)
First we cut up our 4.5 pound head of Napa Cabbage into small, bite-sized pieces and soaked it in a large pot for 12 hours covered with pure water and 1 Tablespoon of salt. After 12 hours, I rinsed thoroughly to remove most of the salt and placed in this crockpot crock.
We then put 1-1/2 cups water and 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet rice flour into a saucepan and whisked it until it was well combined. We then let it heat over medium heat, whisking continuously, until mixture thickened and started to simmer. We removed it from the heat and let it cool off a bit. Once it was cooled off, we added ginger and garlic, whisking well, again until well combined. Not all recipes called for this step, but when we went to the Asian Market, the owner said that was a good thing and showed me the correct rice flour to get. The one I used was Koda Farms Mochiko Sweet Rice Flour, Blue Star Brand.
While the above mixture was cooling, we shredded the daikon radish (using our wonderful Saladmaster shredder, I don’t know what we would do without this tool), and then added the radish to our cabbage.
Next we added 5 Tablespoons of Korean Red Pepper Flakes (purchased from the Asian Supermarket). You think about red pepper flakes (this actually appears to be ground), would be hot, but this is not hot like our traditional “cayenne” pepper here. This pepper just has a nice, tangy, soft kick to it!
We then added the liquid mixture of water, rice flour, ginger and garlic.
Start tamping down the veggies. The cabbage will start to put off liquid. You want to keep the veggies below the level of this liquid, so you can do several things. You can use a plastic bag filled with water to weight it down, you can use stones to weight it down, or you can place folded cabbage leaves on top to hold it down. We just tamped them down several times during the fermenting process. Every time we thought about it, Ken went in a tamped them down. Sorry we didn’t take a picture of that, I don’t know why.
Now for the fermenting process. This was great and the house began to smell like kimchi.
We transferred the veggies to a different type of container for the second day of fermenting.
Time for a taste! Oh boy was it ever good! We are so pleased with our first effort at making Kimchi!
It is important to note here that the fermentation process is very important. Here is an exerpt I found on the web about kimchi and fermentation: The critical ingredients for the fermentation process are:
* Salt (sea salt)
* Lack of oxygen
* Cool temperature
Salting the food preserves the food and protects it from bacteria, so it doesn’t spoil before it ferments. Sea salt is most desirable for that purpose, rather than table salt. (Table salt has been bleached and has had other important minerals removed.) (Note from Jackie: Also, some people use raw apple cider vinegar for this process instead of salt. The fermentation is very important and keeping the “bad” bacteria from forming is very important, so if you choose to use vinegar instead, make sure you do your due diligence in researching it. There is a group which is all about fermented vegetables and it is at www.group.yahoo.com/groups/kimchi-sauerkraut-cabbage, you can get a lot of good information there.)
Once the food is salted, it needs to be kept in a cool place with minimal oxygen.
To keep the contents cool, Koreans have traditionally placed their Kimchi pots in the ground, which stays at 55 degrees year-round. Basements and root cellars are also good. For the rest of us, one author recommended using a small refrigerator at the least cool temperature setting.
The final step is keeping the air out, which allows fermentation to occur. It’s a process that only takes place in the absence of oxygen. That’s why an apple core rots at the bottom of a garbage can, but simply dries out at the top. So you keep stirring compost to keep it from fermenting (and smelling), but you want your kimchi to ferment. Go figure. (The fermentation does produce a bit of an odor, but you get used to it.)
The ideal way to keep the air out of the process is to put a stone in the jar that fits to the edges. The stone keeps constant pressure at the top, continually squeezing air out as the contents condense and settle.
I didn’t have a real proper fermentation jar to use, but I will have with proper weights when I make this next.
Everyone who has tasted our kimchi has really enjoyed it. We are down to only one small container left. Ken and Rusty had kimchi for lunch today with their salad and steamed vegetables. We need to make more soon and this is a process that I think Ken and I are both very willing to venture into again.
Happy, Healthy Eating,