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Making Kimchi At Home

January 9, 2012

Homemade kimchi bubbling away in my pantry.

I eat a lot of kimchi. I’ve always loved it, but I’m currently obsessed with it. At least part of that is probably because my boyfriend is, so it was being brought to me with breakfast in bed and, let’s face it, anything is delicious when a hot guy you happen to be in love with is bringing it to you in bed. It is, however, also partly due to the brand of kimchi that he introduced me to, which is NOT traditional Korean kimchi.

He introduced me to Firefly brand kimchi, which is made here in Seattle. If you like traditional Korean kimchi, this may not work for you. But if you like something a little less fishy / powerfully rotten, and a little more spicy, tangy, crispy, this is THE SHIT! I could eat the whole jar.

And that’s the problem, I’d be in the poor house if I was buying this in the quantity that I eat it. So, before I give you my recipe, promise me this, (repeat after me, preferably out loud and with a hand resting on something sacred-ish to you):

IF I BUY KIMCHI, I WILL SUPPORT FIREFLY KIMCHI, BECAUSE IT IS COOL, SMALL, ORGANIC AND REPRESENTS ALL THINGS GOOD ABOUT SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS AND FOOD.

I want to support them, and remain confident that most of you will not turn  your kitchen into a fermentation laboratory, so I’ll tell you how I make it. Because, for those of you who are more like me (crazy) you’ll be into this. The rest of you, buy Firefly.

INGREDIENTS:

All of these quantities are totally flexible, this is what I like, but alter to your taste.

  • 1 large head of Napa Cabbage
  • 3 large carrots
  • 7-inch chunk of daikon radish
  • 3 bunches of green onions
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1/4 cup dried red (hot) peppers
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 3-inch chunk of fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (read the label, make sure there is no MSG or other preservatives. You can get this in any Asian market, usually by the soy sauce etc….)
  • 4 Tablespoons sea salt

MAKE IT:

  1. Slice the head of Napa Cabbage in thin strips, coleslaw style.
  2. Chop green onions using much of the green parts also. Grate the carrots.
  3. Dissolve the 4 Tablespoons of sea salt in roughly 1/2 gallon of water, then put the cabbage, carrots and green onions in the salt water to soak for at least 3 hours. You can soak it overnight, though I am impatient and have never made it past 4 hours, which seems to be perfect. Strain the soaked veggies (save the liquid just in case you need it) and dump them into the biggest bowl you have.
  4. Using a grater or food processor, grate the daikon radish and one red pepper, then add to the other veggies in the bowl.
  5. If you have a gas range or open-flame broiler, char the other red pepper on all sides and peel off the charred bits by immediately wrapping it in a paper towel and rubbing them off. Rinse it. It won’t be perfect, that’s okay.
  6. Place the charred red pepper in the bowl of the food processor with the metal chopper blade on.  (Or a blender, or in a bowl with a stick blender…) Add the garlic, ginger, dried red peppers, fish sauce. Mix it all until it’s a paste.
  7. Add the pastey peppery gooey stuff to all the veggies and mix it well until all of the ingredient seem evenly mixed.

JARRING IT:

You want to have some sterile jars, plastic wrap and lids on hand. Ideally, you also have some sort of sterilized rock or other weight type thing that fits just inside the rim of the jar and is roughly half an inch or so thick. (I use giant rubber stoppers that fit in the top of the glass carboys that I use when I brew beer.) You will use this to make sure that the kimchi is fully submerged under its own juice to prevent aerobic bacteria from forming.

When I do this, it usually makes 1 quart and 1 pint-sized jar of kimchi. Though it never seems to make the same amount twice, since I don’t measure anything, ever….

  1. Using a spoon that fits inside the mouth of the jars you’re using, scoop the kimchi into the jar and press down, really smooshing it in. Keep doing this until the kimchi reaches about 1/ 2 inch from the top.
  2. Take some plastic wrap and fold it a few times so that it is 2 or  3 layers thick. Cover the top of the kimchi, pressing the wrap down onto the kimchi. Then place your rock, or other weighty thingie, on top of the wrap and squeeze down to put the lid on tightly.
  3. Do this over a sink or bowl to catch the juice that will otherwise spill all over everything.

WAIT. KEEP WAITING. REALLY, KEEP WAITING.

Let at least 3 weeks pass before you taste it. Try to wait a month before you eat it.

This will, in theory, last a month or two in the fridge. (Probably longer, but it will get more and more pungent.) Never lasts more than a week in my house.

I feel the need to point out something obvious, which is that I am not a scientist or a doctor or anything else. I, personally, love fermented foods of all sorts. I make and eat them in my home all the time and have never had a problem. But, my sharing my recipes with people is not the same thing as telling you that you should do it, and  I do not take any responsibility for your actions in your life. You are solely responsible for the things you choose to do. Science is cool, but eat science experiments at your own risk.

That said, people around the planet have been eating live, fermented, non-pasteurized food for centuries. We are far too paranoid…..  I highly recommend that you buy a copy of Wild Fermentation, and get wild with your food. If you are in my home, you will get fed my homemade kombucha, feta, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut……  I’m wild that way.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 10:23 am

    We made kim chee once, a long time ago. Even though I have a degree in microbiology and my wife is a Korean with a degree in biology, it is a lot easier to buy it. But it is fun. Thanks for the tip about the Firefly kim chee. Where can we buy it? Uwajimaya? PCC? Probably not Ballard Market. We’re in Fremont.

  2. Alyssa Royse permalink*
    January 27, 2012 5:06 pm

    HI John – we’ve been buying it at Madison Market. I haven’t looked at PCC, but I’d bet they carry it. It’s soooooo awesome! ENJOY!

  3. August 31, 2012 7:35 am

    Oh boy…thanks for the nice piece Alyssa. John we live in Fremont too and we make all this great kraut in Ballard. We now sell at all the PCC’s Whole Foods and Town and Country’s too. Madison Market is also a fantastic store and we are usually at Ballard Farmers market on Sundays. Cheers and Kraut. ps…we have our first big batch of Kaled Kimchi brewing!

  4. Alyssa Royse permalink*
    September 8, 2012 6:46 am

    Kale Kimchi! Tell me when it’s done, I’ll be first in line to buy some. I have bought your kimchi for so many people who tell me they don’t like kimchi. Seriously, you guys rock. I hope my evangelism sends you guys some loyal fans. (I’m just such a DYI geek I can’t help but try to hack everything…….)

  5. April 22, 2014 1:59 pm

    Good article
    Thanks for the recipe

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