Although we’ve fermented kraut several times before, this was our first take on Kimchi. Although I changed the recipe a fair bit it’s only fair to give a giant nod of the head to Tigress whose Kimchi Primer formed our starting point. I started with her because she’s a fellow chilehead and I knew she’d guide me right. It’s ironic that she posted another kimchi recipe yesterday – this one covers how to transform it into soup!
When we shared some teaser pictures of the ingredients going into the jar (on Feb 27), we received a few questions about our choice of ingredients. The choice of cabbage was obvious but the choice of carrots was a little perplexing to some. I had two main motivations:
- carrots are available, seasonal and I had them on hand.
- kimchi is rooted in tradition of fermenting vegetables with seasoning – but there are hundreds of varieties. Most fermenting traditions come from a time long before the abundance of the grocery store and hundreds of varieties of kimchi were created depending on what people had available and in abundance.
You’ll also notice that my kimchi isn’t made of ‘sheets’ of cabbage; my pieces are smaller than tradition, though they are larger that what you’ll see in sauerkraut. The reason for this is simple: I used the chopping blade on our food processor. This decision was largely one to save time. We were able to make 3 liters (close to 3 quarts) of kimchi over 2.5-3 weeks with total hands-on time of about 20 minutes. I’m a believer that aesthetics are important in some of my preserves but practicality is essential if one wants to eat more seasonally.
My final product is lacking the signature ‘red tinge’ that most see in kimchi:
The reason for this is also simple: the peppers we dried last year were green. I’ve often found the bright red color of kimchi a little off-putting so I was quite happy to have a clearer brine although I wouldn’t be turned off if all I had was red hot peppers.
On the lessons learned side, here’s a few takeaways:
- I loved the results of two-day process that Tigress uses (though I was a bit skeptical at the start). Who am I to question her genius? I should have known all along this would be great!
- I was very liberal with my hot peppers. I must continue to remember that, when they’re dried, a little hot pepper goes a lonnnnng way.
- I love ginger. If you don’t, it’s important to take great care to chop it really fine or the odd bite will throw you for a loop.
- 6.5 tablespoons of fine sea salt.
- 12 cups water. If you use tap water which is chlorinated, measure it into a large bowl and leave exposed to the air for an hour or two to let the chlorine evaporate (it can inhibit fermentation otherwise)
- 2 pounds of cabbage as mentioned I cut it with a food processor – a more authentic kimchi would but the leaves into 2 inch squares)
- 1 pound carrots
- 3 tablespoons of fresh ginger, chopped fine (remember that I love it)
- 3 tablespoons garlic (also a love of mine)
- 1.5 tablespoons cayenne
- 1.5 tablespoons paprika
- 1.4 teaspoons raw sugar (this helps with the fermentation)
- As many dried chiles as you can handle, chopped well. But be warned: their heat will spread liberally.
- I also used a fermenting crock, clean mason jar (1 quart) filled with brine and a few plates I don’t often use.
Directions – Day 1
- Dissolve salt into water. If you used heat to do so, ensure it cools to room temperature before proceeding (trick: dissolve the salt into 1 cup of boiling water before adding the rest at room temperature to help speed the cooling).
- Place cabbage in pot, cover brine (remember to fill mason jar and place a lid on it before proceeding).
- With plates to submerge and weight them down with the mason jar (I like to keep the lid out of the salted water as the metal lid will likely corrode). If the liquid doesn’t cover the cabbage, gently push down to release the liquid. After a few hours it should be completely covered – if not, mix some more brine or cheat with a little bit from the mason jar). You may have too much brine – store excess in the fridge until day 2 as you may need it then (but after day 2 you can discard it)
- Let it sit overnight.
Directions – Day 2
- Remove the brine from the cabbage – but do not toss it, you’ll need it soon (removing the brine helps you distribute the spices more evenly).
- Toss the rest of the ingredients in with the cabbage. Toss really well to ensure ingredients are spread throughout.
- Use your fist to push firmly down on the veg and further release the liquids.
- Cover everything with brine.
- Clean the plates from the previous day and cover the veg with them again, the key here is to ensure everything remains submerged.
- Weigh down the plates with your brine-filled mason jar.
- Store in a relatively cool place. Tigress recommends cooler than 68 degrees. Just keep in mind that the warmer the location, the faster the ferment. And while fast may be convenient, I believe that better things come to those who wait and that complex flavors develop over longer periods of time. Ours took almost 3 weeks to complete.
- If any pieces of cabbage have floated to the surface, remove them by skimming them off (continue this practice through the process)
Directions – The following Days
- Check after 3 or 4 days and check daily. I use care not to disturb the pot (but don’t be overly concerned). Taste as it goes until you are satisfied with the results. If mold/ mould appears, don’t be overly concerned: skim it off and clean anything that came in contact with it above the surface of the water (like the mason jar).
- When it’s done to your liking, fill mason jars and store in your fridge. This will slow (and practically stop) the fermentation process and this should easily keep for a year or more.
The carrots add an underlying sweetness to the heat and sour of the rest of the ingredients; we’re thrilled with the results!