Courtesy Jordan Champagne, Happy Girl Kitchen Co. and Café in Pacific Grove
A Korean national passion, kimchi is often eaten at every meal, including breakfast! Chinese (napa) cabbage is the base, and the pickle usually includes radishes or turnips, scallions and other vegetables, and often, seafood. It is commonly seasoned with ginger, garlic, hot red chili peppers and sometimes fish sauce.
The aromas created are enlivening themselves. My father, a pilot during the Korean War, told of smelling kimchi while flying in his jet.
Making kimchi is very similar to making sauerkraut. However, it is usually eaten “younger,” as it seems to ferment faster. This recipe will take at least one week to ferment.
Yields 1 quart
1 pound Chinese (napa) cabbage or bok choy
1 daikon or other radish
1 to 2 carrots
1 to 2 onions, scallions or leeks
3 to 4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons fresh ginger root, grated
3 to 4 hot red chilis, dried (hot chili sauce or chili powder may be substituted)
Optional: Add fish sauce (without preservatives) to spice mixture
Combine 4 tablespoons sea salt with 4 cups non-chlorinated water to make a brine.
Chop the cabbage, carrots and radishes. Since Chinese cabbage is more delicate than green cabbage and will shrink as it ferments, slice into larger chunks than you imagine enjoying later.
Cover the vegetables with the brine and weigh down with something heavy to keep submerged. Let them soak for a few hours or overnight, until they are soft.
Prepare the spices by chopping the garlic, grating the ginger, crushing the chilis and slicing the onions. en mix them all together and set aside.
Drain the brine off the cabbage and reserve. Taste the vegetables and judge their saltiness—if they taste too salty, then rinse them off a bit. If you can’t taste salt, then add a little bit at a time, tasting after each addition.
Combine the vegetables and spices.
Pack mixture into a glass jar or vessel of your choice and pour over enough of the reserved brine to cover the mixture. Press the vegetables tightly into the jar, punching out air bubbles.
Weigh down the mixture with a smaller glass jar or plastic bag filled with the extra brine or just push the vegetables down with your fingers every day.
Ferment in a warm place (not more than 70° degrees F) like a kitchen counter, for about one week or until it is as sour as you like.
Remove the weight, cap the jar tightly and store it in your refrigerator where it will keep for months.