This year my folks got me The Art of Fermentation for my birthday. Ever since then I’ve found myself fermenting all the things. It’s a fascinating (and delicious) process. I’ve made sauerkraut, yogurt, hard ciders, and kimchi. While all of them have turned out brilliantly so far, it’s the kimchi of which I’m currently most proud.
A friend on Twitter asked whether I could post my recipe. It follows, but it’s more of a method than a recipe per se. Ingredients and proportions are quite flexible, and the time required to complete the process is (quite literally) as variable as the weather. Still, here are the notes I took from my most recent batch. For more information (about this and so many other things), check out the Fermentation book I linked above.
- A larger container, for brining (I use and recommend one of these in an 8qt size)
- A smaller container, for fermenting (I use and recommend one of these in an 4qt size)
- A gallon zip-top bag, for weighing down the ferment
- Whole Napa cabbage
- Daikon (I used one ~25cm long and ~5cm in diameter)
- Scallions (I used 2 bunches)
- Kosher salt
- 50g Brown rice flour
- 1 head of Garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and roughly chopped (I used 44g)
- 1 Ginger root, peeled and roughly grated or finely chopped (I used 117g)
- Gochugaru (pepper flakes) to taste (I used 60g)
- Prepare the vegetables:
- Cut the Napa cabbage into pieces ~3cm square
- Cut the daikon in half lengthwise, then cut into 3mm slices (I use my mandoline for this)
- Cut the scallions–greens and all–into 3cm pieces
- When I completed this process, I had 1.841kg of vegetables.
- Brine the vegetables:
- Create ~2-3 liters of a 15% brine (weigh the water, then add 15% of that weight in salt, mix to dissolve)
- Place the vegetables in the larger container, cover with the brine, weigh down with a plate or some such, and allow to sit for 3 hours.
- Drain and rinse the vegetables.
- Mix it all up:
- Mix the rice flour and 200g of water in a small saucepan. Heat until the mixture starts to thicken, then cool to below 60C.
- Mix the garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes into the cooled rice flour paste.
- Using your hands, mix the spice paste and the vegetables in a large bowl.
- Put the mixture into the smaller container, pressing the mixture down and making sure there are no large air bubbles (which might foster mold growth).
- Create a 3% brine solution and half-fill the gallon zip-top bag with it. Place this bag on top of the mixture, making sure to cover the entire surface. This weighs down the mixture and prevents it from getting too much air contact.
- Cover the entire thing with a kitchen towel and place it out of the way for many days. The number of days will depend upon the weather. Fermentation will occur more quickly in warmer weather, more slowly in cooler. This last batch was ready in a week, but we also had many days in a row of temperatures around 35C.
- Every few days, remove the brine bag then stir and taste the mixture. When it reaches desired acidity, pack into screw-top jars and place in the refrigerator to stop fermentation.
The first time I tried this, I brined the vegetables for five hours and did not rinse them well. The end result was great, but ever so slightly too salty. This second time, I brined for only three hours and rinsed well. This worked brilliantly. My only complaint with this second batch is that it may be a little more heavily gingered than I’d have preferred, but that’s hardly a complaint. Overall, it once again turned out great.
The batch made approximately two liters of kimchi. How much you get out of it will depend entirely on how many vegetables you use. The entire recipe can be scaled up/down as you see fit. Use different vegetables. Use more pepper flakes. Add shrimp paste to the spice mixture. Do what you gotta do to make a kimchi you love.