Saturday, October 9, 2021

Kimchi Making

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Homemade Kimchi
First batch of 2021 homemade kimchi

Kimchi...Kimchi...Kimchi...  That is all I have to say, goodbye...

I'm kidding of course, I have much more to say than that.  But now you're wondering, what is this Kimchi?  How do I Kimchi?  Is it what all the cool kids are doing?  I'm so glad you asked...

Kimchi is a delicious fermented food that can largely be found in Korean cuisine.  The main ingredient is normally cabbage with a whole bunch of other vegetables and spices thrown in, the flavors of which all mingle together in a hot and steamy dance party while a disco ball spinning above spews spiciness all over the ingredients giving everything a healthy, spicy, kick.  The cabbage juice (along with some salt) preserves all of this naturally, giving you an extremely delicious condiment that you can add to any (and all) dishes that you make.  Maybe I've been inside too long and need to get out to a dance party or maybe I just really need some homemade kimchi, or perhaps I need both.  Time will tell.

There are a few other important kimchi facts that you need to know.  Everyone who makes their own kimchi, claims that their kimchi, is by far, hands down, the best kimchi in the world.  Obviously everyone is a little bit biased here but what I think it really comes down to is that kimchi is so versatile, the variations are literally limitless that everyone just makes their own kimchi to their own tastes making their own kimchi the worlds best kimchi, in their own eye.  So maybe every single person who makes kimchi does actually have the worlds best kimchi.  One thing that every kimchi lover will agree on is that store bought kimchi is for the most part, crap.  Pure...utter...crap.  If you've only every tried store bought kimchi and you don't like it then you must seek out a kimchi maker and try some homemade kimchi (or just make it yourself).  It will be vastly different and while there is a chance that you may still find out that you do not like kimchi, at least then you can say you've tried real, homemade kimchi and you did not like it.  I would still encourage you to try other homemade kimchi's as there are so many variations and there is likely some version of it out there that you may like.  Or you may just not like the idea of kimchi which is certainly fair enough.  Just do yourself a favor though and give it a fair shot.  If you go throughout your entire life staying in your own little corner of the world, never venturing out, never exploring, sure you'll minimize running into things you do not like but you are also limiting yourself from discovering the many more things in this world that you DO like and you'll never even know it.  So get out of your corner of the world, jump out of your comfort zone, even if only for a single, minute moment of time and for the love of god, just try something that you do not know anything about, kimchi in this case.

Admittedly, my very own exposure to kimchi is extremely limited.  I have never been to Korea (neither South nor North however they are on my list, I'll probably hold off on going to North for a while though, indefinitely at the moment).  I've never actually had kimchi in a restaurant.  As far as I know I have never had a true, traditionally made, homemade kimchi.  I know I dislike store bought kimchi more than just about anything on earth.  However I have had several homemade kimchi's and they were sssssssooooooo delicious.  Having said all that, I'm probably the last person who should be writing a guide on how to make kimchi.  I do however think there's a strong advantage to having someone who knows nothing about the traditional way of making something, try that product, like it, make it, then tell other people how to make it.  Just keep in mind that this is likely not a traditional way of making kimchi and may be a westernized version but this is how I make my own kimchi and I stay away from claiming it is the best, but I very much enjoy it and I make it slightly different each and every year.

Enough chatter already, lets get to it.

How to Make Kimchi*:

-Grow a Cabbage (or buy one from a local farmer that has growing practices that align with what you want to support.  Are you getting sick of me saying that yet?)

Homegrown Cabbage
Homegrown cabbage, straight from the backyard of course

-Quarter the Cabbage and Remove the Cores

Quartered Cabbage
Quartering and coreing

-Shred each quarter and fill a large glass bowl with the shreddings.  Once your glass bowl is full, stop shredding your cabbage and continue with these instructions.  You'll have to come back and repeat for another round (or two or three depending on the size of your cabbage).  

Shredded Quarter
Shredded Quarter

-Once the glass bowl is full, add 1/4 cup of salt.  Massage the salt into the cabbage for 5 minutes, you want the cabbage to get nice and tender.  There is a very noticeable difference after massaging the salt into the cabbage.  The cabbage will start off being very firm and hard to work with your hands, after 5 minutes it will be much softer and will be very maliable with your hands.

Salted Cabbage
Cabbage salted and ready to be massaged

-Fill the glass bowl with water (yup, with the cabbage in it) and let it sit for 1 hour.

-Drain the cabbage into a collander (the spaghetti bowl with holes in it), wash off the cabbage and let it sit and drain for about 10 minutes.

Cabbage Draining
Cabbage draining

-Meanwhile take the empty glass bowl, wash it off, we are going to fill it with tasty ingredients while the cabbage drains.

-Keep in mind that you can add anything you would like to your glass bowl.  The goal is to have as many of the ingredients as possible come from your very own garden.  This is a very broad statement leaving the window open for possibilities.  Below are the ingredients that I use and are a good starting point.  You probably know by now that I normally go entirely by feel, taste, smell when I'm cooking and I stay far away from exact measurements for ingredients (unless following an actual recipe), it's more fun and exciting that way.  Here is what I came up with:

  • 4 or more chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 to 2 Tsp sugar
  • Few dashes of ginger, to taste
  • Hot and sweet chopped peppers
  • Chopped radishes
  • 1 or more onions
  • Chili flakes
  • Chipotle
  • Cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Dash of fish sauce
  • 5(ish) tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
-Mix all of those ingredients up with your hands (please wear gloves if you use any spicy peppers, seriously use gloves).  

Kimchi Ingredients
Ingredients mixed up in bowl

-Add the drained cabbage to the bowl and mix the cabbage thoroughly with the ingredients (again, please wear gloves).

-Divvy the contents of the glass bowl out into glass jars.

Kimchi in Jars
Kimchi divvied out

-Do not put the actual lid on the glass jars, cover the open jar with a paper towel (or cheesecloth) and secure with a rubber band.  You are letting the jar breath but keeping debris and dirt out.

Paper towel lid
Paper towel lid fastened on kimchi jar

-Let the jars sit on a table in your house for 3 to 5 days.  Once a day (more if you'd like), take the paper towel off and push the cabbage down as far as it will go into the jar with a fork.  You're squeezing the cabbage juice out of the cabbage, which is what preserves your kimchi.  You want the cabbage juice to be just covering everything in the jar when you press down on it.  If that's not happening, add a little bit of water to the jar.  The cabbage juice is what is preserving the contents of the jar so this is a very important step.

-While the jars are sitting in your house, your house will most definitely be filled with a kimchi aromatic smell of goodness.  That's part of the fun and is quite enjoyable, just enjoy it while it lasts!

-After the jars have been sitting for 3 to 5 days, remove the paper towel entirely from the jar and put the actual lid on.  Put the jars in the fridge and you have now made your very own kimchi that you can enjoy anytime you would like and you can put on anything and everything!

-The taste of your kimchi will evolve with time so use it often to see if you can notice the taste change, plus it's just delicious so you'll want to use it all the time.

*Keep in mind I have no idea if these instructions follows health regulations or not and you make it at your own risk.  However I have made this several times and have never gotten sick from it or anything of that nature.  Make it at your own risk but you'll likely be just fine.

Side Hustle Idea: Make and sell Kimchi (in a way that complies with health regulations in your area) at your local farmers market!

No comments:

Post a Comment