Fermentation isn’t just for beer. Kimchi.
Beer and alcohol aren’t the only notable things produced from fermentation; foods are well! This kimchi recipe started as a personal mission to find kimchi as I enjoyed while stationed in Korea with the Army. Every kimchi that I purchased here in the states just couldn’t compare. Kimchi is most definitely an acquired taste, but once you acquire it and start to enjoy it, it’s hard to settle for anything but great kimchi. The listed ingredients are a recommended starting point. I encourage you to look at other recipes and make adjustments according to your taste as I have. The first and foremost step in any food preparation is a great beer. For this batch, I enjoyed a Stingray Shuffle Double IPA by Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton, NC.
- Gallon of Water
- 1 -2 cups Kosher Salt
- 4 cups Water
- 4 tablespoons White Sweet Rice Flour or regular flour
- 4 tablespoons Raw Sugar
- 3 Large (8 pounds) Napa Cabbage (quartered)
- 4 cups Daikon Radish (matchstick)
- 2 cups Carrots (matchstick)
- 14 Green Onions (chopped)
- 1 cup Fish Sauce
- 2 tablespoons Fermented Shrimp Paste
- 1 cup Garlic (approx. 50 cloves)
- 2 tablespoon Ginger
- 1 large Onion
- 1 – 3 cups Pepper Flakes
Brine the Cabbage
Cut the cabbage in quarters lengthwise. Slice all the way through the stem, then gently separate the cabbage. Do this for all three heads of large cabbage. After the cabbage is quartered, mix the brine solution. The amount of salt will impact the saltiness of the finished kimchi. Place the cabbage in a very large bowl or pot (one that will fit in the refrigerator) then pour in brine solution until all the cabbage is covered. Use a weight to place on top of the cabbage to hold it under the brine solution. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
The following day drain and rinse the cabbage with cold water several times. I start by draining, then refill the pot with fresh cold water. Agitate the cabbage to get fresh water in all the areas of the cabbage. Drain and repeat no less than a half dozen times. If not, you’ll risk the kimchi being too salty after the cabbage is thoroughly rinsed, spread out on a towel to let drain and dry out as much as possible.
Prepare the Paste
In a medium saucepan, add the water and sweet rice flour. Slowly bring to a boil, should take about 10 – 12 minutes. Once boiling, then stir in the raw sugar. The finished paste will be slightly brown, from the raw sugar, and translucent. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Start by peeling the daikon radish and carrots (I buy carrots already cut into match sticks to save time). Then cut both into match sticks and dump into a large mixing bowl. Chop green onions, including the green portion, and add to the mixing bowl. Set the bowl of vegetables aside.
Add Spices to the Paste
Add the garlic (I use already peeled garlic cloves to save time), ginger, and onion to a food processor, mince. Pour the minced vegetables into a mixing bowl. The fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste will make this kimchi rich and very close to authentic Korean kimchi, but it also tends to be what some people don’t like about it. Please adjust accordingly. Add the fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste to the minced vegetables. Mix well. The pepper flakes are the heat, spiciness of the kimchi. This is another ingredient that needs to be adjusted to personal taste. I don’t like a lot of heat with mine, so I use about a cup and a half of pepper flakes. Add pepper flakes to the mixing bowl. If the paste prepared earlier is completely cooled, add it to the spice mix and stir well. You should have a nice paste-like consistency. Now add this mixture to the radish, carrot, and green onions in the large mixing bowl and mix, incorporating all the vegetables.
Fermenting the Cabbage
Ensure you have a sizeable fermenting crock, vessel, or sizeable sealable containers to ferment the kimchi in. Grab a quarter of the cabbage and spread the spice mixture throughout all of the leaves. After coating the cabbage, I fold the quarter in half lengthwise and place it in the crock. Be sure to pack the cabbage in whatever container you’re using well, pushing out any trapped air. Once all the cabbage has been coated with the spice mixture and placed in the crock, pour whatever is left of the mixture on top of the cabbage. Place a weight on top of the cabbage to ensure it stays submerged. Then seal the crock and install the airlock device if you have one. If you’re using a sealable container, ensure that you break the seal once in a while to release the gas build up as the kimchi ferments. Set the crock in a cool location out of direct sunlight. It’s best to keep the kimchi at between 68 and 72 degrees. The fermenting cabbage will generate some heat of its own. The length of fermentation is entirely dependent on your taste. I suggest letting it ferment at least a day or two, then sampling it to see how it’s coming along. I’ve fermented kimchi from a couple of days to three weeks. It will most certainly change its flavor and complexity over time.