Don’t you agree?
I’ve seen some pretty complicated kimchi recipes out there. First you have to brine the cabbage. Then you brine, separately, the daikon. Then you pour off the brine, reserving it, and then…
Maybe in their own painstaking way, those methods are more auténtico than mine. I don’t bury mine in the backyard, either, by the way. Nevertheless, it’s good. Spicy, sour, and slightly sweet, in our home it accompanies fried eggs and baby bok choy sautéed with onions, plum sauce glazed roast duck, or ginger-carrot soup with shrimp.
I eat a bit of kimchi almost everyday (on days when I don’t, I eat sauerkraut instead) and for the past few days, I’d been eying our last quart nervously, knowing I needed to get another jar put up soon so it would be ready in time. I like mine to ferment at room temperature for a few days and then finish up in the fridge for another couple weeks. So, it was time to get on it!
Traditionally in Korea, kimchi varied with the seasons. In the spring, summer, and fall, lightly fermented vegetables such as radish and cucumbers were prepared and consumed quickly. In November, households gathered together to prepare large batches of winter kimchi or kimjang, slicing and salting vegetables, packing them into earthenware jars, and burying the jars neck-deep in the ground. There, the vegetables would ferment and be kept safe from freezing, while providing nourishment until fresh greens were available again in spring.
Like so many traditional foods, everyone who makes it has his or her own special recipe for kimchi. This is the kimchi I make from fall through spring. It’s rather pretty packed in glass jars and full of locally grown ingredients (the cabbage and bok choy get scarce around here in the depths of winter, but everything else is local). When mandarin oranges are in season, I like to add those. I encourage you to play around and add what you like to your kimchi.
I don’t particularly recommend the fish sauce I have pictured below. I happened to run out just before a recent lactofermentation class and didn’t have time before class to get to our local Asian market, so I picked up this bottle at a grocery store. It just doesn’t have much fish flavor and I’m glad I’m nearly out of it. If you have a Korean or Asian specialty market nearby, see if you can find jeotgal, Korean fish sauce. Otherwise, the Vietnamese brand Three Crabs is a good one. You may notice that my recipe doesn’t include green onions, while many kimchi recipes do call for them. I just don’t like the taste of fermented onions, personally. If you do, by all means, include them.
When I was first figuring out kimchi for myself, I came across this Ultimate Kimchi recipe. What liked especially is Eric’s advice about mindset.
As you wash the vegetables, focus on your inner cooking. As you prepare the food, prepare your mind. Recognize that the way you prepare this meal is the way you are preparing your life. Put your total energy and attention into it. Clean your mind of all surface troubles and tribulations, all worries and fears. Focus on this exact moment in time. Observe the colors and textures of the vegetables. Feel them in your hand. Relax. Connect with your purpose and with the purpose of those who will be eating this food. Recognize that you are preparing totally healthy, life-giving fuel. Feel the love that you are demonstrating for yourself and for others as you perform this important service. Smile inside. This is going to be great! Its going to taste awesome!
Focus. Relax. Smile inside. Feel the love. Let’s make some kimchi!
Makes about 2 quarts
1 Napa cabbage
1 bok choy
1 daikon radish
1 very large carrot or a couple not so large carrots
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup fish sauce or jeotgal (Korean fish sauce) if you can find it
0-4 tablespoons Korean chili flakes (I used add a pinch, but now do about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons grated garlic
1 teaspoon honey
a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds
Prepare the vegetables: Cut the cabbage into lengthwise quarters.
Slice the cabbage into 1-inch widths.
Slice the bok choy into 1-inch widths.
Thinly slice carrot and daikon.
Put all the vegetables and apple in a large bowl.
Prepare the paste: Grate the ginger and garlic.
Put ginger, garlic, salt, fish sauce, chili, and honey in a bowl and mix until it forms a paste.
Add the paste to the vegetables and gently massage it in, mixing the vegetables thoroughly.
Notice that the vegetables begin to glisten as the salt draws water from them.
At this point, I walk away for an hour or so, leaving the salt to draw water from the vegetables and create a brine.
Pack the kimchi into glass jars or a ceramic crock. Press down hard on the vegetables, they need to be tightly packed to ferment properly.
Leave at least 2-inch of head space and cover the vegetables with brine. Cover with a lid. I prefer to use plastic one-piece lids or reusable plastic-and-rubber-ring lids with metal rings. Regular metal canning lids contain BPA and they also tend to rust when in contact with acidic ferments.
Place the jars on a tray to capture any liquid that may overflow during the initial fermentation. Leave out on the counter for 3-4 days, then refrigerate. I like kimchi best after about two weeks of refrigeration. Keeps forever and gets milder with age.