Recipe: Small Batch Napa Kimchi

Kimchi is apparently a trendy food item right now, and as much as I try to resist that stuff I have to give it to trendsetters this time: kimchi is delicious, healthy, and cheap. It packs an amazing amount of flavor into every spoonful with a combination of spicy and sour, and although it can be quite salty it also is loaded with antioxidants. (There are even some reports that kimchi and other fermented foods can help lower blood sugar, although that’s still on the speculative side of science.)

Napa cabbage kimchi is the most common type, and is often made in huge quantities in Korean households during the fall cabbage season. For this reason it can be tough to find a good recipe for smaller quantities. This recipe uses a single medium head of cabbage. It does require some possibly unusual ingredients but you can easily find all of this stuff in your local Asian grocery. (If you absolutely can’t get to an Asian grocery in your area, Americans can order supplies online from Korean chain Hmart.)

Special Ingredients

All Together Now

Got your gochugaru, gochujang, and saeujeot? Here’s a full ingredient list with measurements. Kimchi is totally not an exact science, so go with what tastes good.

1 medium head of napa cabbage
1/2 cup of kosher salt
1/2 medium daikon radish, grated or sliced (I use my mandoline)
1 carrot, grated or in matchsticks
1 bunch of green onions, green and white both chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon saeujeot
2 tablespoons gochujang
1/4 cup of gochugaru
1/4 cup of sriracha
a sprinkle of sugar

Let’s Make Kimchi!

Kimchi requires very little labor to make, but it is a multi-day process.

To start, cut up the whole head of cabbage. I usually cut it in half and then just chop each half down to the stem (I prefer larger pieces of cabbage). Put it all in a big bowl and mix in the kosher salt. Let the cabbage and the salt sit in the bowl for two hours — the cabbage will almost immediately start releasing water. After two hours fill the bowl with enough water to easily submerge all of the cabbage. You may have to add a weight to the top. I use a combination of cling wrap and a dinner plate. Let the bowl of cabbage, salt, and water sit on the counter for about 24 hours.

The next day, drain the cabbage. You want to get rid of as much of the water as possible, so you can even wring your cabbage out as you go. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Cover your bowl and leave it on the counter for three days.

During this time you may start to doubt the process. “But Liore,” you might say, “you told me to leave a bowl of cabbage and shrimp on my counter for 72 hours. Are you trying to kill me?” But I am not! Occasionally it will even smell weird, although never gross or off. Keep the faith.

After three days, put your kimchi into containers (I use old washed yogurt containers because it can stain) and put those containers into the fridge. Ta-da!

kimchi

Kimchi will last in the fridge probably forever. I’ve always eaten it too quickly to really find out. Newer kimchi is best suited as a side dish, while old kimchi is amazing in stews and soups.

Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and going light on the carbs, and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently obsessed with Korean cuisine.

So, I’m a backer for this fermentation kit thing on Kickstarter …

I am no stranger to backing anything on Kickstarter. Honestly, beyond the games, it is the quirkier products that people pitch there that really get my attention. As someone always on the hunt for the next ‘upgrade’, I love seeing new uses for things to improve my life. That’s why when I decided to cruise their website for cooking-related projects, I just had to back Kraut Source.

krautsource

Okay, hear me out: I have never fermented anything and I barely eat sauerkraut. I don’t hate it, mind you, I just rarely think about throwing it on, well, anything. The same goes for pretty much every other kind of fermented food.

Why then would I want to back something like this? For starters, it is yet another innovation built atop the ever-present, ever-adorable mason jar. Seriously, you screw this device onto any wide-mouth jar and bam you are on your way to fermenting whatever you can stuff in that jar (hint, it’s usually a lot).

Maybe it’s the nerd in me but I adore modular technology. I love the idea of having something that I can add to/subtract from/reuse for x, etc. I built my first computer many years ago and I have been adding to and subtracting from it ever since. Sure, my computer tower is old, ugly, beat-up, and no longer contains the Windows Vista that it proudly has advertised on its side, but who cares when it works with brand new parts?

That’s always my biggest pet peeve with Kitchen-related anything. Most gizmos and gadgets are designed with singular purposes; sometimes, they don’t even justify their existence by doing that singular task that much more expediently than say a little added elbow grease and a fork. I wish I had the television show kitchen with the infinite room for infinite gadgets all stored in easy-to-access places that somehow never leave them dusty, but that’s a myth: most of us are cooking out of our closets.

Plus, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of those people utterly charmed by the average mason jar. They are just versatile, affordable, and nostalgic all at once. I am not one of those oddballs that uses them for mugs, but I do prefer them to stacks of plastic with tops I can never locate.

Moving on, there is also the experimental side of cooking that real foodies and hobby chefs know oh so well. Especially when it comes to a new technique of cooking or preparation, I get giddy inside and want to try it immediately. Will I be fermenting everything for a solid month while I learn what works for me and what doesn’t? Yes! Is that more exciting than Christmas? Yeah, kind of. Am I really worried that it is all going to be a super gross waste of time?

Most definitely.

If you’d like to learn more or become a backer yourself, there are still a couple of weeks left on the Kickstarter Campaign. The project asked for $35,000 and it is currently at $100,000+.

I backed the most basic kit still available, which is only setting me back $30 and plans to ship in November of this year.

While you are at it, sharing some of your favorite fermented foods/recipes/stories in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you all like and get started on ideas for what I will be making.


C. T. Murphy can more regularly be found over at his blog, Murf Versus. You can also find him on Twitter, where he is frequently at his weirdest. His favorite food is Thai, though his roots are in Soul Food, and he only ever cooks Tex-Mex. He’s a strange fellow.