I’ve always enjoyed kimchi at Korean restaurants, or at a friend’s house, but not something I’ve purchased myself. I have no idea why, but I decided a couple weeks ago to attempt making some myself. I started researching on-line and found a ton of recipes, conflicting techniques and arguments over proper ingredients. I’ve been told we do have a Korean grocer here in Omaha, just north of I80 on 84th, but I was too lazy to drive down there. So instead of using Korean pepper flakes, Korean red pepper powder and Kimchi sauce; I used: Schillling crushed red pepper, Chinese red pepper powder and Thai fish sauce. Maybe this isn’t a traditional kimchi but let me tell you; it’s sweet, sour, crunchy, soft, garlicky, spicy — goodness.
- 2 Napa (Chinese) cabbages
- 1 yellow onion
- 5 green onions
- 8 cloves garlic, about 2.5 tablespoons
- 1-1/2 tablespoons ginger root, minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons Chinese red pepper powder
- Thai fish sauce
- Kosher salt
Before starting make sure all cooking utensils, including hands, are very clean. I washed everything with soap and water, and thoroughly rinsed under hot tap water. Kimchi is a fermented product, you don’t want to add bacteria that will spoil the batch.
Remove outer leaves of cabbage.
Slice cabbage in half. You want the two halves to remain intact for now. Rinse the cabbage well under the tap, including between the leaves.
Spread the leaves apart and rub/sprinkle salt on all sides of each leaf, putting more on the thicker areas of the leaves. Some people soak the cabbage in a brine solution. The idea is to force the cabbage to give up water and to soften.
Within two to six hours the cabbage should be soft enough. It depends on how much salt you use. I salted mine four hours. You can see in the picture above how limp the leaves are. The ends of the leaves should be soft while the base of the leaves remain somewhat crunchy. The next step is to rinse the cabbage three times under running water, squeezing the water out each time. The halves should remain whole but don’t be afraid to really squeeze and twist hard. The idea is to get as much salt off as possible. Set the cabbage in a colander, cut side down and let drain while you make the sauce.
In a large mixing bowl combine, crushed pepper, powdered pepper, sugar, ginger and garlic. Add enough fish sauce to this mixture to make a paste. Slice onion and green onion into bite size pieces and mix with the paste.
Remove stem from the cabbage and cut the rest into bite size pieces, mix with the paste until all the pieces are coated.
Now all that’s left is to put the batch into a covered container, let it ferment at room temperature for one to three days, and then refrigerate. I let mine ferment for 64 hours. The time really depends on how sour you want the kimchi . The longer you leave it at room temperature, the more sour it gets. Also be aware that the fermentation continues after you put it in the refrigerator, it just slows considerably. A good way to judge how sour the kimchi , is to taste it each day. Just make sure you use a clean utensil; you don’t want to introduce bacteria that could spoil the batch. Another thing, the lid on the container should allow some air to escape. As the kimchi ferments it lets off gas which could cause a tightly lidded container to explode! Enjoy your kimchi as a side, with soup, eggs, rice, whatever you like.