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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Kimchi 101

Making your own kimchi is actually easier than I thought, which is what I learned at a recent class that I took with my pal GP Norm. Called Fun With Ferments, we took cabbage and salt, and added various embellishments to make kimchi, curtido (a Salvadorian cole slaw) and sauerkraut. My favorite of the three was the kimchi - which was crunchy and spicy with a nice kick, and as I mentioned, surprisingly easy to make. Fermenting is fun!

makes 1 quart
prep time: 9 hours / rest time: 2-3 days

2 1/2 c plus 1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 head Napa cabbage (about 2 1/2 lbs)
1/2 lb. daikon, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 c mild ground Korean red pepper powder
* I doubled this, with medium-spicy results
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
* You can lessen or omit this if not a ginger fan (like me), and it's still tasty
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

• First, prep the cabbage. Dissolve 1 1/4 cups of the salt in 2 quarts water. Test the proper amount of salt by gently placing an egg in the water. If it floats, the salt solution is perfect. If it sinks, add a little more salt.
• Peel just the outer leaves from the cabbage. Leaving the cabbage untrimmed, quarter it lengthwise through the root end, so the root still holds each quarter together. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups salt between the cabbage leaves. Starting from the outer layer, lift each leaf and sprinkle salt on it, dividing the salt evenly, so that each layer of cabbage is salted. Put the cabbage in the salted water and place a weighted plate on top to keep the cabbage fully submerged.
• The cabbage should soak until the heavy white parts of the cabbage closest to the root end are pliable but not mushy. Try bending 1 or 2 leaves. If they break, the cabbage hasn't soaked long enough. It should take 3 or 4 hours, depending on the room's temperature. In the end, the cabbage should offer a little resistance but not break.
• Toss the grated daikon in the remaining 1 tbsp salt and let it drain in a colander while the cabbage soaks.
• Remove the cabbage from the salted water and rinse it thoroughly under running water several times (this is important or your kimchi will be too salty). Squeeze lightly and place the cabbage quarters, root-side up in a colander to drain. Drain for 1 hour. Rinse the radish, squeeze out the excess moisture, and continue to drain.
• Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the green onions, red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
• Squeeze the drained cabbage to remove as much water as possible. Slice the cabbage crosswise into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Add them to the bowl with the seasonings. Add the drained daikon and use your hands to toss and coat thoroughly.
• Transfer the kimchi and its juice to a 1-quart wide-mouth mason jar and push down with a wooden spoon. Fasten the lid and let it sit undisturbed at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours. Refrigerate for 2 or 3 days to let the flavors develop before eating. It should taste balanced but spicy and lightly fermented. It keeps, refrigerated, for several months. It's perfect for Addiecakes' yummy Kimchi Fried Rice recipe!




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