14 January, 2020
I’d like to start off by once again apologizing for the unexpected hiatus. Home and personal life have been stressful, so things fell a little bit to the wayside as I lacked the creative initiative to create new recipes to share with you all. With the new year, I’m hoping to get back to a more regular posting schedule, every other week if not weekly. I’m taking things as they come, at the moment.
Today’s recipe, kimchi, is something you may or may not be familiar with. To those who’ve never had its pungent aroma grace their nostrils, I like to describe kimchi as spicy Korean sauerkraut. It’s a delicious accouterment to most Korean meals, and it’s packed with probiotics to keep your intestines happy. According to recent studies, some of the bacteria in kimchi has even proven effective against some strains of influenza. Pretty cool, right?
Traditionally, kimchi was prepared and stored underground in large clay vessels during the winter. Subterranean storage prevented the vegetables from freezing, and fermenting them kept them from going bad. The practice has changed a bit over the past 2,000 years, but the end result is just as delicious (and just as stinky!).
1 head Napa cabbage (~3 pounds)
1/4 cup Salt
12 cloves Garlic
4 inches Ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp Sugar
2 tbsp Fish sauce
1/4 to 1/3 cup Korean red pepper flakes*
8 oz Daikon (about 1/4 of the radish), peeled and julienned
1 bunch (4-5) Green onions, roots removed
*If you can’t find Korean red pepper flakes, you can use dried chilies or crushed red pepper flakes (usually cayenne) and add 1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili powder, which you should be able to find at any Indian market.
Wash your cabbage and cut it into quarters lengthwise. Remove the core/heart and cut the rest into 2-3 inch chunks. Place it in a large bowl and cover with salt, massaging the salt into the pieces thoroughly before filling the bowl with cold, filtered water until the leaves are covered. Soak the leaves for 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.
Wash the green onions and cut them into pieces after discarding the white root nub. Place them along with the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce into a food processor and blend until it’s about the consistency of thin pancake batter. Stir in the red pepper flakes.
Strain the cabbage and rinse it two or three times in cold water to remove the brine. Set the cabbage aside to drip dry as you prepare the daikon.
Place the cabbage, daikon, and spice paste in a large glass (or other unreactive material) bowl and thoroughly mix everything together. Using your hands is the best way to go about this, but if that’s what you plan to do, use gloves. If you don’t, you’re going to smell like kimchi for quite a while.
Once everything is combined, pack — like, really pack it in there — the kimchi into clean, sanitized glass jars. (You can sanitize glass jars and lids by boiling them). Compact everything down so that the brine inside covers the vegetables. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar, and just set the lids on so that the cap is secured but air can still pass through. Keep in mind that this is a live culture, and fermentation gives off gas. The last thing you want to do is create a collection of glass bottle rockets full of garlicky cabbage and set them in your pantry.
Place the jars on top of a bowl, plate or tray to catch any overflow juices and let them rest somewhere away from direct sunlight at cool room temperature. The kimchi needs to ferment for at least 1 to 5 days before it’s ready. Ideally, wait a week or two before enjoying it. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets. You can store it in the fridge for up to 6 months.