I think it was a good place to start - to see how I could take things I always use and have on hand like
- fish sauce,
- crushed chili flakes, and
- cooked jasmine rice
- brined microshrimp (saewoo juht),
- gohchoogahroo (Korean red chili flakes), and
- sweet rice flour (chahpssahl gahroo)
entire packages of which would take me many months to use up - and make a manageable batch of the thing I grew up eating almost every day but now eat maybe once a week.
And it worked out pretty well. I mean, it tasted good, and it was manageable alright. Maybe too manageable, though. Because that was four days ago and today, three bowls of the girlchild's Sapporo Ichiban ramen and one family meal of Momofuku-esque ssahm later, that batch is gone. And I won't be able to mooch any more kimchi off my mom anytime in the next couple of weeks, so it behooves me to make another batch. A double batch, maybe.
Which I did.
And in that way that recipes for four are often more efficient and effective than recipes for two, this double batch just seemed to work out so much better. From an amount of cabbage much more likely to come from an average head of Napa, to a yield that should last more than half a week but get eaten before it goes to fermentation hell that reeks of death, and finally to a more rounded flavor (funny how sometimes it's a matter of just the right quantities, even in roughly the same proportions), this double batch is just... BETTER.
So, twenty hours after I've made the batch, as the tiny fermentation bubbles are already popping, and barring any unexpected failures, I'm gonna say that this recipe is probably a better one to start off with if there's more than one person in your household to eat that spicy, garlicky, and goodschtinky pickled goodness.
A BIG, FAT OVERGROWN BABY BATCH OF KIMCHI
Makes roughly 2 quarts (a half gallon). See notes.
Please see post mortem notes at the end of this post, which will explain the range of measurements on this recently tweaked recipe.
- 4 pounds Napa cabbage, cut into roughly 1"x 2" pieces (should be about 30 cups of chopped raw cabbage)
- 1 bunch green onions, washed, roots trimmed, and cut into 2 inch segments (it's not pictured here because I forgot them when I took these pics, but you can just add them with the cabbage at the beginning)
- 1/4 cup kosher salt (about a quarter less if you're using regular table salt)
- 1/4 cup minced garlic (about 5 or 6 large cloves)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger root (about a 2" segment)
- 1/3 cup crushed red chili flakes (like the kind you get with your pizza - you can find 13 to 16 oz. pouches of this in the Mexican spice section at most any grocery store) 1/4 cup for mild, 1/2 cup for extra spicy - I used 1/2 cup.
- 1/4 cup steamed white rice, lightly packed, depending on how much cabbage you use. Less cabbage, less rice... (short or long grain is fine - I used jasmine because it was handy) *If your rice is a little stale, microwave it in a bowl with 2 Tablespoons of water for 45 seconds first)
- 1/4 cup fish sauce (like Tiparos or Three Crabs)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water for blending
- 1/3 cup of water for getting the remaining seasoning off the bowl and making additional brine
1) In a large stainless steel or mixing bowl, toss the raw cabbage and the salt together to pre-brine the cabbage. Make sure to thoroughly incorporate the salt throughout the cabbage. In 10 to 15 minutes, you should start to see the cabbage leach liquid and wilt.
Let the cabbage sit for about 2 hours, tossing and redistributing every 30 minutes to ensure even brining. While you're waiting for the pre-brine to finish, it's a good idea to make the paste. (Step 3.)
2) After 2 hours of pre-brining, rinse the cabbage with enough water to cover the cabbage by 4 or 5 inches by swishing the cabbage in the water 7 or 8 times. Remove the cabbage into a strainer and let the excess water drain while you prepare the paste.
|just tossed in salt|
|2 hours later|
|after rinse and drain|
4) Get into the bowl with your hands and mix that paste into the cabbage until all the pieces are evenly and thoroughly coated.
5) Pack your kimchi into a bottle or other tight-lidded container (This time I repurposed a half gallon kimchi jar) and use the last 1/4 cup of water to swish around the mixing bowl, pick up all the remaining paste, and pour that liquid on top of your kimchi.
Your batch of kimchi is now ready for fermentation in a dark but not cold place like the inside of your cupboard.
It's been mid to high 70s here lately, and both batches began the fermentation process well within the first 12 hours. I like to redistribute the kimchi every 10 to 12 hours to make sure everything gets evenly seasoned and fermented, which is much easier to do when you make a smaller batch and leave ample room for movement.
I'm now 20 hours into this batch, and I can start to smell and taste a little of the tang and effervescence of the ferment. The slightly increased amounts of sugar and liquid from both the water and increased amounts of ginger and garlic certainly seem to be moving the process along nicely.
|20 hour old kimchi|
A side by side of freshly made to now:
You can see the slight lightening of color as well as a little bit of the translucence brought on by fermentation.
A 24 hour ferment was not *sour* enough for the kinders (that's when I throw in a little bit of distilled white vinegar to fool their pre-teen palates), so this batch will probably sit out a full 48 hours before it goes into the fridge this time.
08.01.11 - Just some post mortem notes.
Here's the kimchi at about 42 hours. You can definitely smell and taste the fermentation. It's still not sour enough to be used for cooking. I think I'd have to leave it out a few more days for that, but my nose doesn't want me to. (It doesn't take long for the
funk aroma of ripening kimchi to take over a 650 square foot space.)
Since I don't have a separate kimchi fridge - yes, they exist - whenever I put kimchi in the fridge, I double bag it with clear, plastic produce bags - the sturdy ones - and tie a somewhat tight knot at the top. That seems to keep the kimchi waft at bay fairly well.
|42 hour old kimchi|
Maybe it's because I used Three Crabs fish sauce this time (I used Tiparos last time), but there is definitely a funkier (in a good way, IMO), more pungent fish flavor to the kimchi that makes it really reminiscent of the stuff that's made with oysters or squid. That stuff is for the die-hards. If you're into really funky, old school kimchi, you'll probably like the flavor. I do.
|Three Crabs. (There's even Korean on the label!)|
This kimchi is also a little more salty than I like, which is not to say it's all that salty. I've just taken to making my Korean food with a little less salt than is typical (Korean cuisine in general is one of the saltiest I've come across - lots of high salt braising and preserving going on.) For the next batch, I'll probably decrease the amount of salt for the pre-brine.
Observations made, I'm going to tweak the recipe a bit more for now, leaving the original measurements in, but expanding the range for certain ingredients, so you (we) can customize your (our) kimchi.
Fermentation is a fascinating process for sure. One one hand, I'm tempted to take the academic route, read up on it a whole bunch, and ease up the learning curve a bit. On the other hand, I love the process of observing, intuiting, and conjecturing on my own. In the end, I'll probably do the latter first, and then read up to either prove or disprove my own theories. It's more fun that way, I think... :)