I don’t remember when or where I first tasted kimchi. I do remember how taken I was with the flavor. As a person who loves sauerkraut and spice, kimchi was the perfect marriage of the flavor and texture that I so enjoy.
The flavors were so interesting and complex that I assumed that making kimchi would be a time-consuming and difficult process. Then Sasquatch Books sent me a copy of their new cookbook Fresh & Fermented by the founders of Firefly Kitchens. The book is beautiful and contains a recipe for their famous Firefly Kimchi. I read the recipe and was surprised to learn that making kimchi was no more complicated than sauerkraut.
In the past few months, we have been making a lot of sauerkraut. You could easily say that I have a new found obsession with fermentation. I have been adding our Classic Sauerkraut to everything and making a fresh batch each week to ensure that we always have a steady supply of its bright, crisp flavor in the refrigerator and fermenting away in the pantry.
After making several successful batches of sauerkraut, I felt like I could attempt a batch of kimchi using the recipe in Fresh & Fermented. The instructions were simple and the method was the same as those required for sauerkraut. Suddenly, I believed that I might be able to make my own kimchi right here in our farmhouse kitchen.
I mixed up a batch following the recipe to the letter. I secured the mixture using my Kraut Source lid system and set it aside to ferment for a few days. Five days later, I removed the lid to taste our creation. It was fantastic and every bit as delicious as the kimchi I had first tasted and fallen in love with.
I have made a few minor changes to the recipe since then. Through a little experimentation, I have discovered that I prefer to use a combination of green cabbage and Napa cabbage. Using equal parts of the two different types of cabbage results in a kimchi with a lovely combination of textures that I enjoy. I also love the zing of the fresh ginger, so I triple the amount of minced ginger called for in the original recipe.
This recipe is very adaptable, allowing you to make changes to the seasonings in order to suit your taste. As long as the ratio of cabbage to salt is constant and the vegetables are kept under the brine as they ferment, the results will be delicious every time.
This kimchi is so delicious that it has inspired me to create meals around it. Just last week, we enjoyed burgers topped with kimchi and a fresh quick pickle. That dinner was preceded by an evening’s dinner of dumpling soup filled with delicious fresh vegetables, brimming with flavor, and topped, of course, with our homemade kimchi.
My recipe uses one pound of green cabbage along with one pound of Napa cabbage. I find that a half of a large head of green cabbage and one head of Napa cabbage usually delivers the amount I need. I experimented with several different types of red pepper and red pepper blends when fine tuning this recipe. My favorite was a McCormick Gourmet Sriracha Seasoning Blend that I found at our local grocery store. You can certainly use all of one type of cabbage or a different red pepper to make your kimchi.
I use the remaining green cabbage along with a small head of cabbage to make another batch of sauerkraut. Yes, I’ve become the person who routinely adds three heads of cabbage to my cart at the grocery store!
I hope that you’ll join me in making your own homemade kimchi. In minutes, you will have a batch fermenting in your kitchen. In mere days, you’ll be ready to taste your homemade kimchi. I’m willing to bet that you’ll take the first bite and wonder why you hadn’t made your own kimchi sooner!
adapted from Firefly Kimchi from Fresh & Fermented
Lacto-fermentation takes advantage of the beneficial bacteria (including Lactobacillus) that are naturally present on the surface of fruits and vegetables. When held at room temperature and submerged in brine, these healthy bacteria convert the natural sugars in the fruits and vegetables into lactic acid. The lactic acid will naturally preserve the kimchi and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
Much like canning, fermentation requires clean tools and surfaces to safeguard against potentially unsafe bacteria. Simply washing all the tools and equipment along with your hands with soap and hot water before beginning the recipe is sufficient. This will ensure that you have begun the process with the clean environment necessary for successful and safe fermentation.
2 pounds cabbage (I like to use one pound of green cabbage and one pound of Napa cabbage)
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) sea salt
2 green onions, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons McCormick Gourmet Sriracha Blend Seasoning (or cayenne red pepper)
brine as needed (1 teaspoon sea salt dissolved in 1 cup cold, filtered water)
Quart-size Mason jar
Kraut Source Unit or Mason Jar Lid
Rinse the cabbage in cold water. Quarter each cabbage and remove the core before finely shredding. Place the two pounds of shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Add the sea salt, tossing to evenly distribute. Allow the cabbage and salt to rest for 20 minutes. This rest will allow the salt to begin to draw the moisture out of the cabbage.
Massage the sea salt vigorously into the cabbage for about 5 minutes. Working the sea salt with the shredded cabbage will help to draw more liquid out of the cabbage and begin the process of breaking down the fibrous nature of the cabbage. As you are working the cabbage, it will begin to shrink and release more of its liquid. At the end of the 5 minutes, mix in the onions, ginger, garlic, and red pepper to the cabbage, stirring to work them into the cabbage mixture.
Pack the cabbage into a clean quart-size, wide mouth Mason jar. Use a pounder or wooden spoon to really press down and pack the cabbage in to remove any air pockets . The top of the mixture should be even to the shoulder of the jar. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the cabbage by one inch, add enough brine to cover.
Secure your Kraut Source unit or lid on the jar. Take care not to tighten the lid too tightly. As the cabbage ferments, carbon dioxide will be released. If the carbon dioxide is not allowed to safely escape the jar, it can cause the jar to break or the lid to be forced off of the jar.
The innovative Kraut Source unit contains a spring and a press to hold the cabbage underneath the surface of the liquid while allowing the carbon dioxide to escape. If you are using a standard lid, a piece of the cabbage’s core or a small weight can be used to keep the sliced cabbage below the liquid .
The lid can be removed every few days and replaced to adequately vent the excess carbon dioxide. During fermentation, the cabbage must be completely submerged in the liquid to prevent spoilage. Additional brine can be added as needed to completely cover the submerged cabbage.
Allow the kimchi to ferment at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 5-7 days or until it develops the desired flavor. After 5 days, begin tasting the kimchi every few days to determine if the flavor is to your liking. When the taste is agreeable, transfer the covered jar to the refrigerator. Any lid, weight, or cabbage core used to keep the kimchi submerged can be removed and discarded at this point. Kimchi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.
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