(One) recipe for kimchi (baechu kimchi)
There are many different recipes for kimchi, so keep your mind open and feel free to add or take away as your taste buds dictate – this is a ‘ferm’ favourite.
Preparation time: 2 hours–overnight
Fermentation time: 5+ normal days or 3 hot days
Equipment: 2 L (68 fl oz) jar, pounder (optional), your chosen lidding system
- 2 wombok (Chinese cabbages)
- 5–6 tablespoons salt
- 65 g (2-1/4 oz/1 cup) sliced spring onions (scallions)
- 155 g (5-1/2 oz/1 cup) grated daikon (white radish)
- 155 g (5-1/2; oz/1 cup) grated carrot
- 1–2 nashi pears, sliced (optional; see notes)
Kimchi paste (gochujang)
- 4 garlic bulbs or 20–40 peeled garlic cloves (see notes)
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh ginger, unpeeled
- 1 cup gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes)
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) fish sauce (see notes)
- 110 g (4 oz/ 1/2 cup) organic raw (demerara) sugar (see notes)
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) tamari or light soy sauce
- Remove and discard the outer leaves of the wombok if they are damaged or discoloured. Wash the wombok, slice lengthways into quarters, then chop these lengths into bite-sized pieces. Place the chopped wombok into a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt and mix well. Let it sit for a few hours, or even overnight if you’ve room in your fridge.
- Blend the kimchi paste ingredients (minus the sugar if you’re adding the pears) into a paste.
- Drain the cabbage, add the other vegetables (and the pears if you omitted the sugar from the paste) and mix your paste through the vegetables well. You may want to put some gloves on for this, because you really need to get in there and mix it all in and around.
- You could keep this in the bowl, covered, to ferment, but I prefer to jar it. Push the vegetables down quite firmly with your fist or a pounder. You should easily have enough juice to cover all of the vegetables, so you won’t need to weigh them down (see notes about headroom). Seal with your chosen lidding system.
- Leave the jar on your bench for a few days. It should start to come alive, and if you happen to be using an air-lock system then you’ll be lucky enough to hear it bubble. Pop it in the fridge after 5 normal days or 3 hot days; go longer if it’s cool in your house or you like it mature. You could even put the crock or jar in the fridge to ferment from day 1 and leave it there to ferment for about 3 weeks. If you fridge-ferment you can add less salt. Add a touch more salt in hot weather.
This will keep for a long time in your fridge and will keep getting sourer with age.
It’s okay to omit the sugar and replace with 1–2 sliced nashi pears.
It’s a lot of garlic to peel – make it easier by putting the individual cloves into a bowl and covering it with a similar sized bowl and shaking it like crazy to shake the skin off. Shake it hard though.
Make sure the fish sauce is REAL. Check the ingredients – they should only include fish (anchovies) and salt.
When I talk to you of headroom, I’m serious and you need to pay attention. Don’t push it! Kimchi will produce gas and liquid as it ferments. You really are better off either getting another smaller jar to ferment leftovers in, or just cook it up or throw it out. Whatever you do, don’t be too optimistic and fill the jar all the way. Leave some room in your crock or jar, or it will overflow. Best to use an air-lock system for kimchi, but even then, if you don’t leave headroom the liquid will spill out of the air-lock and you’ll have red liquid everywhere. If it’s a warm day it may do this quicker than you’d expect.
When our kimchi started becoming a thing, and was ordered by shops in larger quantities, we became a little overwhelmed. We first started making it in 4 litre (135 fl oz) jars, and then upgraded to a 15 litre (4 gallon) German crock. Next, we moved to 50 litre (13 gallon) foodgrade plastic fermenters with air-locks.
Late one kimchi-making night, we had a bit left over and didn’t want to have a tub only a quarter full, so we just filled the tubs all the way. Just two days later I thought I’d better go and put them in the fridge as it had been hot and I was worried they’d ferment too quickly. When I got to The Fermentary there was red kimchi juice spewing out of the air traps and pooling into the lids. The floors were covered in red. Naturally we decided to open them straight away to see if they were okay.
Wendy and I tried to open the vats and couldn’t. They were jammed up tight. I ended up wrapping my arms and legs around one vat, bum almost to the ground, hugging it tightly as Wendy tried to open it. Grunting and tugging, trying to unscrew the lid, we started wondering how we’d get them open when finally, the pressure literally BLEW the lid off and the kimchi BURST out of the vat like a volcano spewing red spicy liquid up into the air, into Wendy’s face and down all over me. Not just a little bit – half the vat kept bursting up and out. The first vat was a shock and we were dismayed by the amount of time and work we’d put into making it … all of those orders for next week, all of the cleaning, no kimchi for anyone, just mess to clean up. The worst part was when we went to open the next barrel and realised its lid was also tight – and so was the next and the next. The four other over-filled vats were equally explosive, but we just had to take the eruption one vat at a time. If either Wendy or I were into Instagram at the time, I don’t think we’d have even been able to take a photo, we were so distraught. We had orders we couldn’t fill and had spent money and time on those barrels of kimchi. So listen up kids, and always leave headroom. If it gets too hot, move your ferment into a cooler place. We smelled of garlic for days after that, which helped get us back into the kitchen because, actually, the smell of kimchi is good enough to bring anyone back.
More from Ferment for Good:
- Five Ways of Making Yogurt
- Milk Kefir Recipe
- Sake Lees Marinade Recipe
- Sake Lees Pickle Recipe
- Shio Koji Recipe
Cover courtesy of Hardie Grant Books
Recipes excerpted with permission from Ferment For Good by Sharon Flynn, published by Hardie Grant Books May 2017, RRP $29.99 hardcover.