If you’ve been with me for a while, you’re well aware of my undying love for kimchi. Yes, it is stinky and bubbly and more than a little wild, but WOWZA the taste and the texture are so worth it. If you’re new to the Foodie with Family family and you aren’t familiar with kimchi, I can give you a super condensed description; it’s essentially spicy, aromatic Korean sauerkraut.
Kimchi comes in almost as many forms as there are vegetables because nearly any vegetable can be fermented. They range from super mild smell to mega funky and mellow to melt-your-face-off spicy and there is one for every possible point in between. The kimchi that I’m sharing today is my family’s favourite version. It’s chock full of fabulous pro-biotics (as most kimchi is) and the longer it ages (translation: ferments) the stronger it becomes in both flavour AND pro-biotic content. It’s like yogurt on steroids, people. That’s how good it is for you!
Here are a couple of fun kimchi facts:
- Health Magazine named kimchi one of it’s Top 5 World’s Healthiest Foods.
- Kimchi is low in calories and high in dietary fiber.
- It’s wicked high in Vitamins A, B, and C.
- It’s also incredibly low in fat.
- Many (if not most) Koreans eat a little kimchi with each meal or at least once a day.
- Kimchi is credited with helping most Koreans avoid obesity by virtue of its ability to satisfy even while being low calorie and low fat.
- Seoul National University conducted a study and claimed that chickens infected with the H5N1 virus, also called avian flu, recovered after eating food containing the same cultured bacteria found in kimchi.
Let’s get cracking and make some kimchi, shall we? The variety we’re making today is Mak Kimchi… In other words, it’s already cut up and ready to shovel into your mouth unlike what is usually just called ‘kimchi’ which is whole heads of napa cabbage smeared with the kimchi paste and allowed to ferment all wrapped up. This version is FAR easier to make, far faster to be ready, and way easier to eat straight from the jar with a pair of chopsticks or a fork.
To begin with, you’ll need a big old head or two of Napa cabbage. I had two heads like the one above weighing in at about 3 pounds each. It yielded, when all was said and done, about 3 quarts of kimchi, so that was perfect for me. You can cut that back if you think you can’t consume that amount of kimchi, but I find all sorts of places to tuck it in, so it’s not an issue here and it’s only my husband, myself, and two of our boys who eat it.
Lob your cabbages in half lengthwise, then use a paring knife to remove the gnarly core from them before cutting in half lengthwise again, leaving you with quarters. Cut across the quarters to make bite-sized squares of cabbage. I usually shoot for 2-inch squares.
Add the cabbage to a monstrously huge bowl (or bowls), top with the julienned carrots, and sprinkle salt over the whole works. Toss the veggies and massage the mixture until the cabbage just starts to wilt. Pour in enough cold water to over all the cabbage and carrots by a bit.
Stir it up with your hands and let it rest at room temp for a couple of hours.
After a couple of hours, when the sturdier pieces of cabbage have become flexible, pour the whole lot into a strainer and let the brine water drain away.
Now you’re going to whizz up the good stuff. Garlic, ginger, the white parts of scallions, Korean Red Pepper Powder*, fish sauce, unsweetened pear or apple juice, miso paste, and whatnot go into the food processor or blender and get smashed into a lovely, red, fabulous smelling paste. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t just up and increase the garlic because it can make kimchi linger more on your breath than you’d like it to do. And by the same token, you shouldn’t increase the ginger willy-nilly because that can make the final product a little more bitter than you’d like it to be. Start with the mixture and proportions I’m giving you and then play with it in subsequent batches.
*It’s important to note that you cannot use American or Mexican Chili Powder in place of the Korean pepper powder here. They’re COMPLETELY different animals. Follow the link above (Amazon affiliate link: If you click on it and order it, I will receive a small commission which in no way effects the price of the item for you. Thank you!) or click on the picture of the Korean Red Pepper Powder below.
Now you’ll CRAM this stuff into jars or food-safe plastic containers. When I say cram it, I mean shove it in there as firmly as you can without putting your fist through the bottom of the jar. I do prefer glass canning jars, if you’re wondering, because they don’t retain odors like plastic does, and, well, this stuff is odiferous! Gently place a lid and ring on the jar, but don’t screw it tightly into place because BOOM. It’ll pop. This is active stuff, mes amies!
Place the jar on a rimmed pan or baking dish. The rim is pretty crucial here, because as the kimchi ferments at room temperature (and more slowly but still actively in the refrigerator) it will bubble up and may release a little juice over the edge of the jars. In other words, you could have a kimchi river a-flowin’ on your counter top unless you take precautions. It’s easiest to use the pan and not worry about it!
It’s going to spend a couple of days at room temperature getting bubbly and fragrant. Every day, you’ll insert a clean chopstick or butterknife into the jar to help release air bubbles and top the jar off with extra brine if needed to keep everything submerged. When it’s almost carbonated looking (usually between 24-72 hours after packing the jars), it’s ready to refrigerate. I highly recommend refrigerating it on the tray you used to contain the Grand Kimchi River while it fermented. There aren’t a lot of things quite as unnecessary as removing everything from a fridge and mopping kimchi juices off of it.
It’s ready to eat at that point! Of course, it gets stronger and more kimchi-y the longer it sits. I love cooking with the older stuff and eating the newer stuff ‘raw’. One of my all-time best-loved ways to eat older kimchi is in pancake form. Not like Aunt Jemima pancakes or flapjacks, but savoury, crispy-edged, kimchi-studded, pan-fried, snack cakes that convert even die-hard kimchi skeptics. It’s the only way my eldest likes kimchi, but OH how he loves it this way.
Bonus: This stuff lasts just about forever when you make sure the veggies are submerged in the brine. It’s hard to go wrong. If at any point mold develops, simply remove the parts that have mold on them and the rest is still good to go!
- 3-8 pounds napa cabbage
- 2 bunches green onions, trimmed of the root bits
- 2-3 large carrots, peeled, thinly julienned
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ½ cup korean chili powder
- 15-20 cloves garlic, peeled (overdoing garlic makes this stay on your breath more than usual.)
- 4-6 inches ginger, peeled, rough chopped
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- unsweetened pear juice (or unsweetened apple juice)
- 4 tablespoons white miso paste
- Cut the napa cabbage in half longways, then in half again longways. Cut the core out of the four quarters. Cut the cabbage into squares (about 2-3 inches square), pop it in a bowl with the carrots. Sprinkle with the ½ cup kosher salt, massage so everything is coated in salt and starting to soften and wilt. Fill with cold, chlorine free water to cover it well and let it soak for at least 1½ hours.
- Pour the cabbage and carrots and liquid into a strainer. Let the brine drain away.
- Lob off the white bits of the green onions and put them in a food processor with the garlic cloves, ginger, miso paste, and korean pepper powder. Zap it on high 'til it's smooth-ish. Add in the fish sauce and a couple of slops of pear juice and zap it more until it's about pancake batter consistency... maybe a bit thinner.
- Put the brined cabbabe/carrots in a big, anti-reactive (glass, enamel, or stainless steel) bowl. Rough chop the green parts of the onions and add those to the cabbage/carrots. Pour the chili paste combo over the cabbage and wear gloves to massage it all over the cabbage/carrots green onions so everything is completely covered.
- Pack super tight in canning jars. CRAM it in there. Add a two-piece lid, but just set the ring in place to hold the lid down without screwing it in place. Place it on a rimmed baking dish to catch any spill-over. Let it sit at room temperature for up to 72 hours, until it is bubbly and fragrant. Once every day, insert a clean chopstick or butterknife to release air bubbles. If needed, pour in some additional brine to keep all the vegetables submerged.
- Store on a rimmed sheet in the refrigerator for up to six months, being sure that the vegetables are submerged the whole time. The older it gets, the stronger it will become.
Would you like some fabulous recipes to make with kimchi?
- Bo Ssäm
- Kimchi Stew
- Spicy Beef and Kimchi Stew
- Kimchi Rice with Beef
- Kimchi Fried Rice AND another version of Kimchi Fried Rice (the second one has a fried egg on top. SWOON!)
- Kimchi Tuna Rice Patties and Balls
What’s your favourite way to use or eat kimchi?