First Kimchi!

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Here we go!  It took a while to cobble together all my ingredients, but in the end, here’s the final tally:

  • 3/4 of a large head of napa cabbage, cored, wilted outer leaves removed, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 large daikon radish, peeled and cubed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 long, skinny carrot, peeled and cubed (about 3/4 cup)
  • about 6 cups of a 6% salt brine solution (specifically, I dissolved 121 g of fine kosher salt into 2018 g water)
  • 4 medium sized cloves garlic, roughly minced (about 1 heaping tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 inch knob ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp Mochiko sweet rice flour
  • 2 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
  • 1 tbsp sweet pimenton
  • 1 anaheim chile, de-stemmed and mostly seeded, thinly sliced
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled, julienned
  • 4 scallions, white and tender green parts finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup hijiki seaweed, rinsed

Day 1

The first challenge was finding a non-reactive bowl (most of my mixing bowls are stainless steel) that was big enough to hold the vegetables.  I decided to interpret “bowl” creatively and used my Le Creuset 5 Qt oven.   From beginning to end, I was struck by just how beautiful the process of kimchi making is.

DSC_0287 In went those lovely leaves of napa cabbage and bits of daikon radish and carrot.  Some recipes advocated for grated root vegetables, but I thought these cubes would be a nice textural and visual contrast to the supple leaves.  Next, enough brine to cover everything.  I weighed this down with some heavy plates for a couple of hours until, by some alchemy of osmosis, the vegetables stayed submerged on their own.  At this point I  covered the pot with a lid and let this set out on the counter over night.

Day 2

DSC_0290 I was so excited to pull the cover off the pot the next morning, drain the vegetables (over a bowl, to save the brine) and find them bright and beautifully crisp.  Despite Sandor Katz’s description in The Art of Fermentation and my research online, I still feared that such a long soak in the brine would leave me with cabbage, carrots and radish bits that were shriveled echoes of their former self.   Instead, after a quick and thorough rinse, they tasted slightly salty, a little sweet and had a lovely crunch.

Next up, I mixed 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of Mochiko sweet rice flour (I couldn’t find this at any of the local markets I go to for exotic things, so I ordered online) in a small saucepan, heated it, stirring constantly, over low heat just until it thickened, and then set aside to cooled.

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While waiting, I peeled and julienned my green apple, sliced my scallions and hot pepper, washed out the pot and added them in.   I think my mood might be improved considerably if I could start every day invited to this delightful party of colors, flavors and textures.       DSC_0296

Now for the fire!  I mixed the garlic, ginger, gochugaru (also ordered online), pimenton, and about 4 tbsp of the rice flour mixture to come up with a ferocious (but actually delightfully complex and not too spicy) paste.

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Remember, some of the vegetables are already quite salty and there’s also that extra brine, so don’t be alarmed if this does not taste salty at all – but do adjust for other flavors.

All in with the rinsed hijiki for a good mix.  Every recipe I looked at for kimchi notes that clean hands are the best tool for this, and that’s because it’s true.  I mixed for a little while to massage the paste into the cabbage leaves and to evenly distribute the vegetables.

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Finally, I packed this into the large, super clean flip-top jar that I chose for a fermentation vessel (with an extra mason jar standing by just in case there was overflow).  I pushed all the vegetables down into the brilliant red brine to make sure they were submerged and covered with a tiny bit of reserved brine for good measure.  One hiccup – I tried to find a good method to weight this down for a few hours until the vegetables stayed submerged on their own.  After a few disastrous attempts with glasses and jars of varying sizes, as well as a plastic zip top bag filled with water, I determined that I would just check every couple of hours and resubmerge the vegetables with my hands.  Hopefully this works, but so far I have learned to seek out a wider mouthed, straighter sided vessel for my next experiment.

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4 thoughts on “First Kimchi!

  1. Looks magnificent and I am sure taste amazing. I do my fermentation of cabbage and spicy carrots in glass bowl with a flat bottom. I put a plate just a touch of smaller diameter, something small on the plate and heavy cast iron casserole dish on top. I cover the glass to prevent sun exposure.

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    1. Hi thehungryartist – I was a bit worried that the kimchi aroma might take over our small apartment, but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the result and thought it a bit less pungent than other kimchis I’ve had… Maybe worth a shot? 🙂 Thanks for the comment, really like your recipes!

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