Â Most of us have come down with the first cold of fall. Â If you ask me, nothing is better for a cold than kimchi. Â The spicy sourness of this traditional food eases cold symptoms and it is rich in probiotic power. Â (It is also good for easing morning sickness, especially when made into soup with noodles.)
Actually, one doesn’t need an illness or excuse to make and eat kimchi. Â This lightly-fermented probiotic condiment is simple to make, and is delicious on anything from pizza to scrambled eggs. Â Throw some in the middle of your grilled cheese and you won’t be sorry. There are many variations, but most kimchi starts with Napa cabbage. Â From there, family recipes vary quite a bit. Â I arrived at my own recipe after trying many, many different recipes, combining the elements I liked from each. Â I also use a hot pepper paste recommended by the owner of my local Asian market, which I prefer to recipes calling for powdered pepper blended with dried shrimp, sugar, and other ingredients.
Here’s my recipe:
- 2-2 1/2 lbs of Napa cabbage
- 1/2 cupÂ kosher salt
- 2 large glass or ceramic (non-reactive) bowls
- cold water to cover the cabbage
Prepare ahead: Chop Napa cabbage into one to one-and-a-half inch pieces, including the ribs. Â Divide the cabbage between the two bowls, sprinkle each bowl with 1/4 cup kosher salt and gently massage the cabbage a few times (do NOT used iodized salt. Â It will give an off flavor to the finished product). Â Add cold water to each bowl until the cabbage is covered (you may need to add a plate on top to help keep the cabbage submerged.)
Let bowls of salted cabbage sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Â Then drain the bowls and rinse cabbage thoroughly in cold water to remove the salt.
Dry the cabbage with a clean tea towel, scrunching gently. Â Place the wilted cabbage in a collander and allow it to drain completely. Â Â Now that the cabbage is prepared, you are ready to put the kimchi together. Â (A quick note: Â The pictures won’t match the recipe exactly – Our Asian market was out of daikon, so I used three large carrots this time. Â Kimchi is very adaptable. Â Sometimes, if I can’t find daikon, I will use two Granny Smith apples, an extra carrot, or add another 1/2 lb of cabbage.) In one of the large glass bowls, gather:
- One small to medium white daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
- 6 scallions, root end and the very dark green portions removed, and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup Korean hot pepper paste (if your brand doesn’t include sugar, add 1 tsp sugar to it)
- 1/4 cupÂ fish sauce (Golden Boy brand is very good, but if you can’t find it, ask your local Asian grocer which s/he prefers.)
- A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated (including juice!)
- 5-7 cloves of garlic,Â crushed
Â I used to use ground hot peppers, and mixed them with other ingredients, including sugar and dried shrimp. Â One day, the owner of our Asian market saw me scanning the shelves and asked what I was looking for. Â I told him hot pepper powder for kimchi, and he said, “You should try this instead. Â It’s what all my Korean customers buy.”
I’m very glad I tried it. Â The pepper paste is delicious, spicy, sweet, salty, and makes a great kimchi. Â I don’t like my kimchi super spicy, so if you do, increase the amount of paste to suit your taste. Â If you are worried about using up the whole tub, it also makes a fantastic spicy rub for BBQ beef or pork.
Â The market has an overwhelming array of fish sauces. Â The flavor can vary quite a bit, so if you aren’t sure which to pick, ask the grocer. Â If you haven’t cooked with fish sauce before, be prepared – it smells horrendous. Â But it is full of delectableÂ umamiÂ flavor, and vital to the dish. Â Flavor isn’t the only reason it is necessary, however – fish sauce is fermented, and will help jump start the fermentation of your kimchi. Â Mix the ingredients in the bowl together until the garlic, ginger and pepper paste are thoroughly distributed. Â Then, by hand (you may wish to wear a glove because the paste can make your skin burn a bit), add the cabbage and mix it into the other ingredients, scrunching it with your hand as you go. Â Put the kimchi into a fermentation vessel (or two quart jars), packing the ingredients in tightly as you go. Â Amongst fermented condiments, kimchi is the most notorious for making a lot of liquid, bubbling over and escaping the vessel. Â Because of this, I leave ample head space before adding the weight. Â Place the weight and lid on your vessel. Â This will keep mold spores and other contaminants out. Â If using a mason jar with lid and ring, leave the ring loose, so gases can escape and your jar doesn’t crack. Â Place the vessel on a plate to catch any juice that bubbles over during fermentation.
Leave the kimchi on the counter at room temperature for 24-72 hours, tasting it every day, and moving it to the fridge when it as bubbly and sour as you like. Â Be aware that by the second day, a lot of liquid may have bubbled over. Â This is normal, and a sign that the good bacteria are creating a health pickled food. Â (Kimchi is lightly fermented, and unlike sauerkraut, is ready in days instead of weeks. Â Leaving kimchi on the counter too long will result in a mushy, unpleasantly sour final product. Â Once it is moved to the fridge, kimchi will still slowly ferment. Â Enjoy it in the first two weeks after you make it for the best possible crunch and flavor.)
(Joining Wooly Moss RootsÂ for her Gratitude Sunday today. Â Very grateful that in the midst of feeling crummy, I can make something to help us feel better and get better. Â It’s good to take care of my family after months of being unable to do so.)
More from out in the garden early in the week.