Kimchi (gluten-free, opt. vegan)
by Reeve Gutsell
This classic Korean staple is a fermented dish made of any of a variety of vegetables, but often including cabbage as the main ingredient, along with Korean hot pepper, ginger, garlic, and daikon radishes. (Kimchi also often includes fish sauce or shrimp paste, but this can be left out for vegetarians.) Fermentation is an ancient food preservation method that goes all the way back to the Neolithic age. It is often used when making items like pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt, and, of course, alcoholic beverages.
Note: You will need disposable gloves for this recipe, as well as a large bowl and a jar or can of something heavy, like beans or tomatoes. For local folks, Korean red pepper flakes and the fish sauce or shrimp paste can be found at Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley or Mom’s House in Amherst, if not at your local supermarket.
Prepping and salting the cabbage: 1-2 hours
Preparing and adding the remaining ingredients: 10 min
Cook time: none
Fermentation time: 2-5 days, or to taste
1/2 large head napa cabbage
1/4 cup salt (coarse is best, but use whatever you have to hand)
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1 to 5 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce, salted shrimp paste, or water
1/2 daikon radish, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
2-3 carrots, trimmed and cut into matchsticks (optional)
3 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Cut the whole cabbage lengthwise in half. Put one half back in the fridge for some other purpose (including to make another batch). Cut the remaining half into halves lengthwise (so you have 2 long quarters). Remove the core from each quarter. Cut each quarter sideways into 1-inch-wide strips.
Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your hands, distribute the salt evenly throughout the cabbage, breaking up any chunks of cabbage leaves as you go. Add enough water to cover the cabbage. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy, like a can of tomatoes. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours, during which time the cabbage will wilt.
Rinse the cabbage thoroughly under cold water at least 3 times, or until the salt level is acceptable to taste. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the large bowl you previously used for salting the cabbage. Thoroughly mix the ginger, garlic, sugar, hot pepper flakes, and fish sauce, shrimp paste, or water.
Once the cabbage is done draining, add it to the bowl, along with the radish, carrots, and scallions. Using your hands (preferably with gloves), work the paste through the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated.
Pack the kimchi tightly into a 1-quart jar. Press down on the kimchi until the brine (the liquid that comes out) rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top. Screw the lid on (a little loosely is fine) and put a plate or bowl underneath the jar, as the fermentation process may cause liquid to overflow. Put the kimchi somewhere out of direct sunlight.
Let it ferment for about 2 to 5 days. If you see bubbles inside the jar and brine seeping out of the lid, this indicates that fermentation is occurring. Open the jar daily to a) release the gases produced by fermentation; b) press down on the vegetables to keep them submerged; and c) taste it. When the kimchi is fermented to your liking, store it in the fridge for eating.