Making Basic Kimchi
There is a short story behind our love of kimchi. Last year, our youngest son was awarded a 16-day trip to South Korea for working his way to the top national level in Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary branch of the US Air Force. He went with a long-standing sinus infection, but he came back almost totally well and full of all the stories of eating and loving the different kimchees he was graciously served while there twice a day. The amount served with each meal was rather small (~2 TBSP), but now we can achieve the same wellness here at home by duplicating those regular small amounts of kimchi.
We (my son and I) just made another basic kimchi (ˈkim-chē), and it turned out smashing!
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables; the most commonly used are nappa cabbage and daikon radish. It is usually served as banchan, assorted Korean side dishes presented as part of a meal, but it is versatile and can be used in everyday cooking. It is delish all by itself, as a topper on roast beef sandwiches (a bit like a Reuben), or with a summer presentation of fresh avocado and tomatoes.
Whether you suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – or just want to increase your overall immunity and knock out a sinus infection- you know one of the best ways to keep a healthy gut flora is by following a diet rich in properly fermented foods.
Plan before making Kimchi:
1.) Kimchi needs time to ferment, so I recommend starting a batch about a week before you plan to use it.
2.) You will need a container and lid. I recommend using a jar with an airlock like The Boss Pickler from Primal Kitchen.
3.) You will need Korean red pepper powder or gochugaru; it is what gives kimchi its spiciness. It can be found in Korean markets in large resealable plastic bags. I use coarse. We have so much fun going into our local Asian Market.
4.) You may need a food processor for some shredding, but my son always chops the crisp nappa by hand. Even for me, it is so quick and easy to do and somehow chopping with that big knife makes me feel like a chef!
Basic Kimchi Ingredients:
- 2 large nappa cabbages, any outer tattered leaves removed, rinsed well
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup salt (enough to contact the surface of all the leaves)
- 10 – 12 cups cold water, plus more as needed to cover salted nappa
- 1 – 2 cups daikon radish, peeled and shredded
- 4 – 8 medium scallions or green onions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces (use all parts)
- 2-3 carrots, shredded
- 1 cup Korean red pepper powder and 1/2 cup water to make a thick red ‘paste’
- 1/4 cup fish sauce, optional
- 1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 6-8″ piece)
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 4 to 6 medium cloves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar (traditionally added and optional)
Cook’s note: these measurements don’t need to be exact, so relax. Also, we have not ever noticed a garlic breath smell when we use garlic in this way. Maybe it is the fermenting.
Cut the nappa cabbages in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2-inch pieces, discarding the last 1/2″ of the root end.
Place in a large bowl(s), sprinkle with the salt, and toss with your hands thoroughly until the cabbage is coated. Add enough cold water to cover.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or another inverted bowl and a pretty kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. This will wilt and shrink down the nappa and begin the fermenting process in this recipe. It will not go bad during this time because of the salt.
At the end of the wilting time, rinse and drain the nappa with cold water several times to remove the excess salt. Even though you rinse the greatest part of it off, this creates a salty environment. Drain out excess liquid and leave cabbage in the same large bowl; set aside.
Add the remaining shredded ingredients into the large bowl with the nappa cabbage.
You can add the red pepper ‘paste’ (see ingredient list) at this time or separately, but work the whole mass with gloved hands until it is all thoroughly incorporated and blended.
You need 5 elements to ferment foods. You need an environment that is:
~Moist ~Salty ~Dark ~Oxygen-free ~Room Temperature
Pack the mixture tightly into your clean container. I used the wide mouth Boss Pickler 1.5L jar (they have many sizes), placed the Crock Rock on top of the kimchi to weight it down under the juices. Wipe the rim so there are no bits of food to prevent a good seal and seal the wire bail lid. This creates the oxygen-free environment.
The juices will usually rise a bit, so don’t fill the jar too full – leave at least 1″ of head space.
Let sit in a dark place at room temperature for 24 hours. The mixture should begin to bubble. I recommend not opening the container you use or you will introduce bacteria and mold into that environment. At the end of 24 hours, refrigerate. Wait at least 48 hours in the fridge before eating (most feel kimchi is best after fermenting about 1 week). Even my meat-and-potatoes-loving husband appreciates this basic kimchi. Refrigerate for up to 45 days.
So whether you want to see if it will help you kick a sinus infection like it has helped my son or just get on the path to better health, enjoy!
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