Let’s Make Some Kimchi! By Mary Lowe

This is the 5th blog post in a series about food preservation by HDFFA guest blogger, Mary Lowe. Mary has been a certified Master Food Preserver volunteer with Oregon State University Extension for 10 years and will be sharing up-to-date, research-based information and tips for safe food preservation at home. Happy preserving!

Kimchi is delicious! Before preparing to write this blog I had never before made Kimchi or even tasted it. I was under the impression that Kimchi was hot and spicy. I am not fond of hot spicy food so I have stayed away from making it or eating it.

Some of the many goals in writing this blog drew me forward to choose to make some Kimchi. Goals like, using what is growing in local gardens or is available seasonally in stores or farmers markets, and to encourage people to try new things and to learn safe methods of preserving foods and to get rid of assumptions or outdated methods. I also want to draw readers in to read what I write. So, here I am, making some Kimchi and letting you know about my experience.

Fermented foods are very popular. They’re delicious, come in many forms and are very good for our bodies. For more on the history of Kimchi and all the good-for-you things about it, read this.

The 7 Ingredients

Kimchi is fermented, many of the vegetables in it are available in spring gardens and I, and possibly you too, might learn something new in the world of food preservation.

Many cultures offer fermented foods. A friend of mine who grew up in Israel recalls her grandmother, originally from Iran, who kept a jar of fermented vegetables on the kitchen counter and lovingly offered it to anyone who might have a tummy ache or other distress. Another friend, an American of Norwegian ancestry (Norwegians are known for making Lutefisk, a fermented fish) lived in Jordan for a while and was fed actual Kimchi from a Korean family living in Jordan. I love to think about that mix of cultures.

Sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, is from Europe. Preparing cabbage for fermentation doesn’t take long but the fermentation process takes weeks.

Aren’t we all fond of a good fermented dill pickle? That process also takes weeks. While I have successfully made and enjoyed sauerkraut, I have never successfully made a fermented dill pickle. Maybe the temperature where I kept it varied too much. I don’t really know. Let’s just say that, after many tries, I will gladly buy my fermented dill pickles in future. You should try it, though.

Another fermented food you may be familiar with is Kombucha. It’s easy to make but, those “babies” just begin to take over your counter space, then the refrigerator and, because you just don’t want to “kill” them, you’ve considered starting a kombucha business.

Sourdough is similar. Easy to get a starter going and baking some bread or pancakes is delicious and intriguing…for a while. Then, you discover that that original starter has grown and grown and has filled every available jar in your kitchen. All your family, friends and people you barely know have been blessed with a starter and they have started running away when they see you coming. They just don’t want another sourdough starter or baby kombucha! (I do suggest reading a delightful fictional book titled Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. It’s mystical, funny and inspiring.)

The Napa cabbage cut into 1” pieces & mixed with salt.

Here comes Kimchi. Simple to prepare, ferments fast and when you eat it you eat all of it! Nothing left over. Then you make some more.

To write this blog, I chose the simplest Kimchi recipe I could find. It has just 7 ingredients and takes only 1 to 4 days to ferment. There doesn’t seem to be a link to the actual publication with the recipe that’s from Oregon State University Extension for Kimchi. So, here it is:

Ingredients

2 lb Napa cabbage

¼ lb daikon radish

3 cloves of garlic

2 tsp. Sugar

2.5 TB canning & pickling salt

2 green onions

2 tsp. Finely chopped red pepper

Optional ingredients

Add 1 tsp finely grated ginger

Substitute hot pepper for red pepper

Add 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Rinse and cut cabbage into 1inch pies. Toss cabbage in a bowl with 2 TB’s of salt and let sit for several hours until reduced to half its volume. (For me, this took about 4 hours. And it really did shrink to half the size.) Put into a colander and rinse thoroughly with water. Drain without pressing.
  2. Cut and peel daikon into matchstick pieces (for authenticity) or shred coarsely in a food processor. Cut off green and white portions of onions into thin slivers. Mince the garlic and red pepper. Mix all the vegetables in with cabbage. Add remaining salt (1.2 TB) and 2 tsp of sugar. Toss well.
  3. Pack loosely in a  1-quart jar and cover. (I put some into a regular 1 quart glass canning jar and the remainder into a special fermenting jar with a spring. Both jars worked great. There was no difference in the results.) Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 4 days, then store in the refrigerator.

Fermentation proceeds more rapidly during warm weather and the flavor varies considerably with the length of fermentation.

Tada! Delicious, crunchy, salty, good-for-you Kimchi.

The results are a salty, crispy crunch of yummy fermented vegetables. I ate it plain, added it to a quinoa salad I had purchased. Putting it on a sandwich would be amazing. The uses are endless. 

Next time, I’m going to try some spices. There are many, many variations of Kimchi recipes available. Here’s another blog post from OSU Extension that has some more interesting stuff about fermentation and Kimchi.

Now it’s your turn. Dive in and make some Kimchi. Let me know how it goes.

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