Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homemade Kimchi

I've been trying to add a little heat to my diet.  A few sprinkles of dried red pepper flakes here, a spoonful of sriracha or sambal there, and then top it off with kimchi.  Crunchy, tangy, and spicy, kimchi was a much loved condiment in my childhood home.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too spicy for my tastes so I would have to rinse off most of the fiery sauce before I could eat it.  Of course that was before you could find mild and medium varieties at the grocery store.

I found a recipe for quick kimchi in a new cookbook, and decided to give it a try.  I was attracted to the word "quick", and liked that I could control the level of heat but I did not like the results.  The kimchi tasted sour, and too much of rice wine vinegar.  There was no umami, no depth of flavor.  I should have know that any "quick" recipe for a dish that's traditionally fermented should be avoided.

I decided to try making kimchi again only this time with a more traditional recipe so I opened up my favorite research tool:  YouTube.  I typed in "how to make kimchi" and viewed several videos until I found one I wanted to try.  I selected Anna Metcalf's recipe because it had the simplest ingredient list, and the instructions were very easy to follow.  I also liked the idea of adding fruit into the recipe to cut down the amount of sugar used.

The volume one head of napa cabbage produces when chopped is amazing!  In the beginning I had to place the cabbage into two large bowls.  After an hour or so in the salted water they wilted enough to be combined into one bowl.

I love to chop vegetables, but I'm not very fast.  Luckily, I had no deadline to meet, and it was fun trying the technique Anna demonstrated to julienne the vegetables. 

I mistakenly bought ground red pepper instead of red pepper flakes but I think it worked fine.  I wanted to make a mild kimchi so I used about half the amount of red pepper called for in the recipe.

I have to admit I sampled a few forkfuls at this point, and it was delicious.  (Although very fishy!)

I placed the bowl holding the vegetable and pepper mix on a plate to weigh down the cabbage while it finished softening in the salted water.

Since this was my first attempt with this recipe (and after my disastrous results with the quick kimchi) I cut Anna's recipe in half, which made a little over two quarts.  The results were very tasty, although I'll have to continue to experiment with the amount of hot pepper, and how long to ferment to make the perfect kimchi for me.

I really encourage you to try to make your own kimchi.  It is not difficult, doesn't take much time at all, and tastes so much better than the kimchi you can buy in the store.

adapted from Anna Metcalf's video

4 lbs Napa cabbage
1/2 cup salt
4 Tablespoon anchovy or fish sauce
6 green onions, diagonally sliced
6 ounces daikon radish, julienned
1/2 medium yellow onion
2 teaspoon (about 2") ginger, grated
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 heaping cup of red pepper powder
2 Tablespoon sugar
4 cup water
1/2 Asian pear
1/2 Fuji apple

Cut cabbage into quarters and remove core.  Chop cabbage into bite sized pieces.  Dissolve salt in water, and pour over cabbage, and mix well.  Let cabbage sit for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile place apple, pear, onion, garlic, and fish sauce in food processor, and puree.  In a large bowl combine puree, radish, and green onion, and set aside.

Rinse wilted cabbage well, (at least 3 times), drain, squeeze dry, and add to bowl with pepper paste and mix well.

Pack kimchi into clean quart sized glass containers leaving at least an 1" clearance at the top, and seal jar with lid.  Let the jars stand at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for at least one day.  Check kimchi each day by pushing down with spoon to help release gas, and sampling for taste.  When kimchi tastes ready, refrigerate for at least two days before serving.

Kimchi lasts approximately one month in refrigerator.

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