I would like to say I have a dirty little secret, but it's not, it's a fabulous secret!
I like to rot stuff on my kitchen counter, then I eat it!
And it's delicious!
And I share it!
Then people ask me for my recipe. Well now here's the dirty secret. I don't have one. I wing it with what I have on hand and what I want to accomplish.
This is especially true for kimchi.
When I lived in Korea, I thought kimchi was pretty scary, and I'd only eat the thick stem part, but now, my palate has adjusted and I love the stuff. But in my years of cleaning up my diet and learning about additives and the like, there is a lot in commercial kimchi that I don't like, such as additives, preservatives and MSG. It is possible to find organic, additive free kimchi, but it's just easier to make my own. So I do. A lot.
I find there are 2 schools of kimchi on the internets. There are those who are teaching the traditional Korean way of making it, and there are those who are teaching the nourishing/ traditional food way of making it. They are often similar, except the nourishing folks aren't often Korean. I find their kimchi to be less red, less potent and less delicious, but I like the nourishing aspect of that kimchi. So I've created my own kimchi that takes both schools of thought into consideration.
For a small batch I use 1 napa cabbage, you can adjust.
1 napa cabbage head, chopped and the obvious dirt removed
2-3 carrots (optional)
2-3 green onions (optional)
1 diakon radish (optional)
Korean chili flakes (1/2 a cup, but to taste)
1/2 an asian pear (or a tablespoon of sugar, it's not for you, it's for the bacteria)
handful of kosher salt
5-6 garlic cloves
1 inch of peeled ginger
1/2 cup of a good fish sauce, I really like Red Boat. (check to make sure yours doesn't have any nasties in it like MSG etc.)
1-2 tablespoons of liquid whey (optional) can use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt instead.
mason jar/ fermenting crock/ fido jar/ something to ferment in
I start by chopping my cabbage up into bite sized pieces, making sure to pay attention to the stems to make sure they're not huge. Slice or chop carrots/ onions/ daikon. Make them bite sized and fairly thin, a couple millimeters thick.
Place it all in a large bowl and sprinkle with a generous sprinkling of salt, cover with water and let sit for an hour or so. This will wilt the cabbage.
After an hour, rinse the cabbage and veggies really well, and let rest in the bowl.
Then move on to the sauce.
In a blender mix the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and peeled and cored pear or sugar. Blend into a paste, add water to make it go. Add your fish sauce, this adds that umami flavour that we like, it doesn't taste fishy to me. More traditional Korean receipes call for shrimp jut or even whole fresh shrimp, oysters or squid. I'm not there. Plus I like the subtle flavour of the fish sauce, not the fish flavour the others impart.
Blend it all together, add your whey or salt, this helps to preserve it.
Once the sauce is blended pour it over your bowl of veggies and mix well with your hands (wear the gloves!)
Then pack it into your fermenting vessel, make sure there is a layer of liquid over your veggies, if not add a little water, close the lid and let ferment on your counter until you see bubbles rise. This will vary by the temperature in your house and by how much tang you like your kimchi to have.
Other variations you can make is to adjust the amount of everything. More pepper flakes, more garlic etc. Vary your veggies. Mostly this is a technique, there are so many options.
I've come close to making the same kind twice, but each batch does vary. Kitchen chemistry at it's finest.
It is important to get Korean chili flakes, they're less potent than regular chili flakes and they really impart that lovely red hue that makes kimchi, well, kimchi.