Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional fermented vegetable dish (Korea’s national dish), which used to be fermented underground–but David says it’s now common to see it on rooftops in big earthenware jars. For Koreans, this traditional dish is not just food but has been elevated to a kind of mythical status (believed to have healing properties, curing a wide range of diseases, including cancer apparently). Koreans even say “kimchi” when posing for photographs. In addition to their alphabet, it is one of their major sources of national pride. As a result of it pervasiveness, David has had more than his fair share of kimchi when living in Korea. We’d tried one recipe previously, which turned out quite well, but was somehow missing something. My mom bought us a new pickling/preserving book recently, so we thought we’d give it another go.

Recipe

adapted from Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving
Makes about 3 pints

2 lbs Napa cabbage
2 oz noniodized salt
4 scallions, chopped
4 tbsp minced garlic
1-1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger root
1-1/4 C sliced daikon
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp dried cayenne chili flakes
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp dried shrimp pounded to a paste with 1 tsp salt
1/4 cup fish sauce

Quarter the Napa cabbages, and cut out the tough core. Layer with the salt in a large nonreactive bowl or vat. Cover, and leave overnight, stirring a few times to ensure that the salt is evenly distributed. The next day, drain the salted cabbage, rinse it in cool water, and lay it, cut side down, to drain. Toss the cabbage in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients to the pot and mix thoroughly, until everything is evenly moistened. Firmly pack the cabbage mixture into scaled pint jars, a crock, or any other nonreactive vessel. Store in a cool, dry place. Taste after 2 days, and continue fermenting until the kimchi has soured to your liking. Stored in a refrigerator in a sealed container, it will keep for weeks.

Musings

A few notes on preparation: We deviated a fair bit from the original recipe, which called for chive shoots, Korean anchovy sauce and salted shrimp, amongst other things, that we didn’t have. After it fermented for 2 days, David packed it in 3 pint jars.

Given that David has sampled a fair bit of kimchi during his tenure in Korea, the fact that the kimchi tasted quite like the kimchi he’d had in Korea is high praise indeed. He declared it to be suitably spicy and sour, great over rice with a bit of hardboiled egg. His only critiques were that because we’d let it sit in salt overnight as well as all of the next day (as we didn’t have time to get to it sooner), the cabbage was a touch on the soft side. He also commented that more daikon would be good, as it is a nice contrast in texture to the cabbage. Definitely one to re-visit!

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