In addition to being obsessed with salt, I am currently enamored by fermentation, and the zillion ways you can vary a simple recipe like Kimchi. This is a fairly classic version, but see the Variations for some interesting green alternatives. It’s another excerpt from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen. (You can buy it here – B&N – and here Amazon ).
I use a kimchi pot made by a friend of mine, Chef Glen Ochi—who is a potter when he is not teaching culinary arts. But don’t worry! If you don’t have a kimchi pot you can still make your own kimchi. See the Variations for those instructions.
2 tablespoons coarse unrefined salt – use any coarse sea salt, or look for coarse Korean sea salt, sometimes labeled Korean kimchi salt, or a medium grind of Himalayan or Bolivian rock salt.
1 quart water
1 head of garlic, chopped roughly
4 green onions, chopped
1-3 teaspoons dried Korean chile, (or red chili flake)
1 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion
1 pound daikon (Korean radish or Mu), which is about ½ of a large daikon
1 head Napa cabbage
- Stir together salt and water, and set aside, stirring occasionally, until salt is dissolved.
- In a mortar or food processor combine the garlic, green onions, chile, and ginger. Puree to a rough paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Slice thin the yellow onion, daikon, and cabbage, and add to the bowl. Add the salt water (which should now be a brine) and begin kneading and squeezing the cabbage until it wilts. (You might want gloves here.)
- Place the vegetables into a kimchi pot, and press down so that the brine rises up. Place a weight on top (most pots come with a ceramic weight), so that there are no vegetables floating on the surface. Put the lid on and fill the rim with water. (Kimchi pot lids have a gutter for water, which keeps the bad stuff out while letting the internal gas from fermentation to escape.) Leave the pot at room temperature for three days. Replace the water on top as necessary. On the third day, open the lid and taste your kimchi. If it tastes good to you, transfer it to airtight containers and store in the refrigerator. If it lacks excitement, leave it another day. (If it tastes horrible, well, something went wrong, or you just don’t like kimchi.) Serve it along side your Korean BBQ, put it on your hot dog, or add it to your noodles (hot or cold), fried rice, or scrambled eggs.
Jar Kimchi – If you lack a kimchi pot, fill large canning jars with your kimchi mixture. Press the vegetables under the brine and weight it using a super clean, sterilized rock. (I sterilize my rocks by running them through the dishwasher.) Put the lid on and continue with the instructions as written.
Green Options – You can add so many different greens, it’s impossible for me to list them all. But whatever else you add, be sure you have at least 30% cabbage for the proper texture. I like using chard, mustard greens, kale, wild curly dock, lambs quarter, watercress, or a mixture of cabbages.
Veggie Additives – Feel free to add other veggies to your kimchi (as long as you still have 30% cabbage). You will frequently see any number of onion variations, including shallots, leeks, and garlic chives. Grated carrot, sliced cucumbers, any kind of radish, fresh chiles or sweet peppers are also common additives. Get creative, and use what you have on hand.