Friday, August 29, 2014

Fermentation: Kimchi

I've been learning more about food fermentation lately.

We eat a lot of fermented food in the western diet. Bread, alcohol, cheese, sour kraut, yogurt, sour cream, country ham, prosciutto, ketchup, vinegar. But this pales in comparison to the Asian pantheon of fermented and preserved foods.

Soy sauce, fish sauce, XO sauce, shrimp sauce, kimchi, katsuobuchi, natto, shrimp paste, and this is a tiny fraction of whats out there. Check out this abbreviated list from Wikipedia.

Fermented Foods

Within this list there nearly infinite varieties and variations of many of these products. Kimchi is a Korean pickle. Mostly it's associated with pickled Napa Cabbage. Even in this form there are dozens of varieties. depending on the length of the fermentation, the flavors added, the season and the way the cabbage is cut. But Kimchi doesn't have to have Napa Cabbage at all it can be any type of vegetable that is fermented with Korean chili powder and Garlic. There are even varieties which don't use Korean chilies, so called White Kimchi.

I love Kimchi... Maybe not as much as the Koreans do who eat 40lbs per person per year. In Korea it's used as a condiment much like we use ketchup or mustard.

Here is my recipe for Kimchi. Enjoy!


5 pounds napa cabbage (2 giant heads)
1/2 cup Kosher salt

2 cups water
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw

1 medium sized Daikon radish cut into julienne
3 carrots diced
2 bunches green onions, chopped

Seasonings and spices:
20 garlic cloves
2 inches ginger
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot) with the salty brine, chopped
2 cups hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)

Stinky baby shrimp noms! This is about the size of a quarter.


Prepare and salt the cabbage:
Cut cabbage into 1/8th lengthwise and slice into 1” sections. Salt liberally with 1/2C of salt. And mix very well with your hands. The cabbage will shrink a lot during the salting process.
Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours.  Toss every 30 minutes.  
After 2 hours, wash the cabbage under running water. As you wash, squeeze the excess water and salt out of the cabbage. Rinse several times until most of the excess salt is gone. The cabbage will have lost 75%-80% of it's volume during the salting.

Combine the water and the sweet rice flour. Stir constantly over a medium heat until it has thickened and comes to a boil. Add the sugar and remove it from the heat.
Place garlic, ginger, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes into the rice flour porridge blend it in a blender or with an immersion blender.
Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, mix well.

Toss the cooled spice mix with the brined Napa Cabbage. Mix very well, using your hands. Place this mixture into mason jars or clay jars do not pack it tightly, you need room for air pockets for optimal fermentation. I have them very lightly sealed to allow puffs of air out during the fermentation process. Clean the rims of your jars or they will get very sticky when you try to remove them.
This was completely full of fresh cabbage
Yeah, it smells that good!

The Kimchi will start fermenting a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity of the room. 
You can keep it on your counter for as long as you like until it has reached the level of fermentation that you desire. When it reaches that level you can put it into the refrigerator to retard the fermentation. My last batch I fermented on the counter for 1 week then fermented in the refridgerator for 15 months to make the most amazing Kimchi ever!

I want to try to make my own Miso next.


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