A spicy and relatively short ferment, kimchi offers an unlimited canvas on which to paint different flavors. Use any crunchy fresh vegetable. Or tweak the paste by varying the amount of ginger, garlic, fish sauce, and red peppers (or by adding any other ingredients) to customize the taste exactly to your liking.
Most traditional kimchi recipes like this use kochukaru, a red pepper powder (available at Asian markets) to slather every morsel of the veggies. Check out our fresh pepper-only kimchi recipe here.
Note: When buying kochukaru (red pepper powder), be sure to check the ingredients to make sure that red pepper is the ONLY ingredient. Some brands include salt or even preservatives. We want to control our own salt level, so only buy the pure stuff! At the Asian market, I had to dig and ask around, and I eventually found a few Korean brands where the peppers were actually grown in Korea. Korean pepper powder is less intensely red than the stuff from China, and most of the brands offered were from China. (Bonus points for authenticity!)
Recipe: Traditonal Kimchi
- 2-3 lbs./1 kg organic Napa or green cabbage (1 head)
- 1 lb/ 1/2 kg organic daikon or Korean radish (about one 12 inch/50 cm length, 1-inch/3 cm diameter)
- 2 quarts/liters filtered water
- 1/2 cup/120 ml sea salt or kosher salt
- 4 organic scallions (green onions)
- 6-8 cloves (one bulb) organic garlic
- 1 (3-inch/13cm) hand organic ginger
- 1/4 cup dried red pepper powder (no-salt)
- 1 Tbsp./15 ml fish sauce with no preservatives! (omit if Vegan Variation)
- 1 Tbsp./15 ml tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) or soy sauce
- Soak Vegetables: Dissolve salt into water in a one-gallon (or larger) glass or ceramic container. Stir until salt dissolves.
- Remove any “floppy” outer leaves from cabbage (Compost or reserve for another use.) Chop the cabbage into 1-inch chunks/strips.
- Peel and cut stems off radish and carrots. Cut into thin slices using a mandoline, V-slicer, or knife.
- Add cabbage, 1 scallion and radish to the brine. Cover with a plastic lid or plate and weigh down (I use a glass wine bottle filled with water) so that the contents stay under the brine. Leave for 4-6 hours (overnight is okay).
- Drain the veggies through a colander, reserving about a cup of the brine.
- Prepare spice paste: Chop 3 of the scallions into thin slices. Add to a small glass or metal mixing bowl or the mixing bowl of a food processor.
- If you don’t have a food processor, peel and grate the ginger, and mince the garlic. If using a food processor, you can just roughly chop the garlic and slice the ginger. Add to mixing bowl or food processor bowl.
- Add pepper powder, soy sauce and fish sauce to mixing bowl. Vegan variation: omit fish sauce.
- Stir and mash contents (or pulse with food processor) together until a paste forms.
- Pack Jar or Crock: Wearing a latex or plastic glove to protect yourself from the heat of the peppers, Mix the paste thoroughly with your hand into the drained vegetables and the other half of the scallions. You can mix everything directly in the fermenting container, or in a separate large mixing bowl. Mix until the veggies are coated nicely with the paste.
- Ferment: Cover with a plastic lid or plate, and weigh down so that the contents stay under the brine. Some brine will continue to form once the veggies are pressed down.
- Cover with a cloth and rubber band to keep flies out.
- If after one day, the contents are not completely submerged, top it off with some of the reserved brine.
- Store in a warmest spot in your kitchen for a week. Note: Your house will smell like kimchi.
- Transfer contents to mason jars and store in fridge (or swap with your local club members!) There it will keep for many months.
Number of servings (yield): 3 pints
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