Kimchi Made Easy

Sometimes referred to as the magical “soul food” of Korea, Kimchi often appears on super food lists. The combination of garlic, pepper and fermentation lends to its immune boosting powers. Kimchi is distinguished by its staple ingredients: Chinese or Napa cabbage, radish, garlic, scallions, ginger and red chili pepper. Although there are several ways to make this delicacy, we are going to follow a very simple recipe found in the book Fermented Vegetables (Amazon)

A few months ago, I sowed a handful of seeds in a raised bed garden for a fall crop, and I foolishly told myself that I would remember what they were. So I was surprised to find Emiko cabbage growing where I thought I had put broccoli! The cabbage is delicious and mild in flavor. The seeds were purchased from Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. We have been getting seeds from there for a couple years and are pleased with their service!

Emiko Chinese cabbage

The first thing that came to mind was to make kimchi. I had never tried it before and Todd is a fan. So as I set out to gather the needed ingredients and was pleasantly surprised to find daikon radish at a local farm stand! Daikon is crispy mild in flavor yet still has that radish punch. Southgate offers a cute farm stand located in a beautiful barn with a great selection of organic, local produce.

The scallions, ginger, garlic and sea salt were sourced from another local favorite, Beiler’s Penn Dutch Market. The carrots, chilis and cabbage were grown on our farm. This fermenting crock, lid and weights are from Ohio Stoneware in Zanesville. It is a beautiful addition to the countertop arrangement!

The Recipe

1 gallon Kimchi brine (1 cup unrefined sea salt to
1 gallon unchlorinated water)
2 large napa cabbages (I used Emiko Chinese cabbage)
1/2 cup chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded daikon radish
1/4 cup shredded carrot
3 scallions, sliced and greens included
1 head garlic, cloves separated and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

  1. In a crock or large bowl, combine the brine ingredients and stir to dissolve. Remove the coarse outer leaves of the cabbage; rinse a few unblemished ones and set aside. Rinse your cabbage in cold water, trim off the stalk and chop into bite size pieces. Submerge the cabbage and reserved outer leaves in the brine using a plate or weights to keep submerged. Set aside, at room temperature, for 6-8 hours.
  2. Drain the cabbage for 15 minutes, reserving the brine liquid and set the saved outer leaves aside.
  3. Combine the chili pepper (I used whole, dried cayenne peppers with the tops cut off but you can also use crushed red pepper flakes), daikon, carrot, garlic and ginger in a food processor (or you can finely chop) and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add your chopped cabbage, sliced scallions and vegetable mixture to the crock or large jar and mix thoroughly, then taste for salt. Add a pinch more if needed. Usually the brined cabbage will provide enough salt but you can adjust to your liking. Add the reserved brine as needed to submerge the vegetables and leave about 3-4 inches of headspace. Use the reserved outer leaves to cover the vegetables then weigh it down with crock weights, a sealed water filled jar or a ziplock bag filled with water, to keep everything under the brine.
  5. Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight but where you’ll remember to check it everyday to make sure everything is submerged. You may see a little scum on top that is generally harmless, just skim it off. (see below for scum guide)
  6. Foam will appear on the top of your ferment. This is normal and should not be removed until the ferment is done, unless it’s spilling over the top (every time you dip into your ferment, you reduce the brine level and increase the possibility of contamination).
  7. White scum that forms at the top is a harmless yeast called kahm yeast. Removing it before the ferment is ready is a frustrating task that also puts your ferment at risk of contamination.
  8. Mold, bluish or orange, should be removed. It won’t hurt your ferment as long as your veggies are protected under the brine.
  9. If at the end of the ferment, the batch is pink or soft and slimy, or if it has a rotten odor (as opposed to pleasantly sour), or if you have any concerns about the quality, discard the batch. Since you are working with natural organisms, results can sometimes be unpredictable, and while failures may happen, the process is so simple it is easy to just begin a new batch. (scum reference)
  10. You can start to test the kimchi after about a week. It will taste mild at this point and the brine will be an orange-red color. Kimchi if often effervescent and normal whether its bubbly or not. When it’s ready, spoon into smaller jars making sure the vegetables stay submerged, put the jar lid on and keep in the fridge. This kimchi will keep, refrigerated, for 9 months. Enjoy!!

Thank you for stopping by, be sure to check back for new recipes! 🥬

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