It's a simple enough recipe. One head of napa cabbage...
+ the last of the leeks from my garden
= 1 jar of kimchee.
One of the foods that lil' sis requested I make for her to bring to school was a jar of kimchee, or rather specifically baechu kimchee (Korean napa cabbage kimchee). While most people automatically think of napa cabbage kimchee when the word is mentioned, kimchee is actually seasoned and fermented vegetables. So you can have kimchee made of radish or cucumber or Gaenip (Korean Shiso/Perilla Leaves). It doesn't even have to include chili peppers. And you can keep it vegetarian by only using salt.
After several batches and variations, my favorite version of kimchee includes chili peppers and mam ruoc (Vietnamese shrimp paste). As southern and coastal Koreans use brined fish and shrimp in their kimchee, I think my version stays true to the principle. It's also pretty darn good. I prefer to brine my cabbage overnight and then make the seasoning mixture the next day. Most people think kimchee is ideal for eating between 3 to 10 days after it's made. But as you can see in the picture below, a fresh batch of kimchee can be mighty tasty too. If the kimchee has fermented too long and becomes sour, you can cook with it. But I'll save those recipes for another time.
Baechu Kimchi/Kimchee (Korean Pickled Napa Cabbage)
For 1 gigantic jar, or 2 24-oz jars, you'll need:
1 2-lb head of napa cabbage
2 tblsp salt
For seasoning: A bunch of leeks from your garden if you're lucky, or scallions, or chives or whatever alliums you wish
Any other greens or veggies you'd like to add. My youngest aunt adds daikon, strips of collard greens, and shredded carrots to hers.
1 large knob of ginger, grated or minced finely
6 or more cloves of garlic, minced
1 tblsp Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste) or fish sauce
1 tblsp or more of gochujang (Korean chili flakes and paste)
2 tsp sugar
The night before, cut your napa cabbage into 2-inch wide strips. Wash thoroughly. In a big bowl massage about 1 tblsp of salt per pound of cabbage. Then fill up the bowl with water until the cabbage is covered. Put a plate over the cabbage and something heavy to weigh it down. I use my mortar. Leave overnight at room temperature.
The next day, drain the brined cabbage into a colander and rinse. With your hands, squeeze out excess moisture.
Now it's time to make your seasoning mixture. Take a knob of ginger and half a dozen or more garlic cloves and mince it in the food processor. Dump it into a big bowl and add 1 tblsp or so of shrimp paste, a tblsp or more of Korean chili flakes and paste (Actually, I use a whole lot more, but my spicy level is pretty high.), and 2 tsp sugar. It must be the bright red Korean chili flakes and/or paste. Other chilis won't taste the same. To me, Korean gochujang has a slight sweetness and isn't as spicy. Mix thoroughly and taste. Make adjustments if necessary. Add any additional chopped veggies or greens, then the drained cabbage. Use gloves if you don't want your hands to get smelly. Mix thoroughly.
Then pack the kimchee into jars about 75% full. You don't want to fill it to the brim as the kimchee will actually bubble as it ferments and may pop the top if it's too full. But do pack the kimchee into the jar tightly so that it can ferment better.
Try eating some fresh if you like, or set the jars at room temperature for a few days to ferment, then refrigerate. I get impatient and pretty much just keep eating and eating until my jar is gone. Yes, straight out of the jar. Sometimes with rice. Sometimes I get around to making Kalbi and Bulgogi (Korean Marinated Short Ribs and Beef), or Bibimbap (Korean Mixed Rice). But really, sometimes I just dig into my jar of kimchee with a pair of chopsticks.
Who made my recipe for kimchee?
Hedgehog of Diary of a Novice Cook said, "The kimchi turns out to be more than beautiful. The juice is so yummy I can drink it straight."
Who else made kimchee? Guilty Carnivore has a scrumptious-looking version.