I have a video recipe! Actually, it’s two recipes – I was asked to do a kimchi demonstration for a local language instruction group that’s doing a focus on the Korean hangul alphabet this weekend. Since I’m going to be at a friend’s birthday party and can’t make it, I put my pictures together with some explanation here:
If the embed doesn’t work, you can view it on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/pvYv8XLy0wU
Cabbage – Baechu – Kimchi is made with napa cabbage. It’s the most common kind of kimchi, usually prepared in bulk, since it lasts a long time and some form of kimchi is eaten with most Korean meals. It’s colorful and intensely flavorful – some might say “pungent” though my version won’t smell up your kitchen. I can’t guarantee your breath when you eat it, with all the different garlicky flavors in there.
Some versions call for chopped cabbage, but I was taught how to make it using whole napa cabbage cut into halves or quarters and I find it pretty simple to work with and more attractive. My cookbook also says it lasts longer and has better flavor!
When you select your cabbage, keep in mind the size of the jar you are going to store it in. If you can get a very large gallon jar this will be great for larger heads. Otherwise you will need to look for smaller cabbages. You can discard the wilted outer leaves and trim any brown part from the bottom of the stem, but be sure to leave enough stem there to hold the cabbage together.
Ingredient note: Korean Chili Flakes – 고추가루
(possible English spellings: koch’u karu or gochugaru)
- Korean chili flakes are sweeter and redder than Mexican chili flakes. I personally don’t think it’s worth making this kind of kimchi if you don’t have the right ingredients. They are also fresher, so store any leftovers in the fridge or they might mold (I didn’t realize this the first time I bought some and had to throw away most of a bag).
For salt & savory:
Possible Filling ingredients (try to include some greens and probably all of the garlic, but you definitely don’t have to use all of these)
Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise for smaller ones or into quarters for larger ones. You’ll need a large non-reactive bowl – so glass, plastic, or stainless steel is fine (aluminum is not). Set aside 1/4 cup of the salt, then mix the rest into the cabbage by holding the stem end, fan out the leaves loosely, then sprinkle the sea salt in between the leaves.
Mix the remaining 1/4 cup into 1 cup water and sprinkle over the salted cabbage. Leave it to sit for 3-4 hours or until it’s flexible but crunchy. As it sits in the salt, the salt will draw out the juice, so turn the cabbages a bit from time to time to be sure they’re all evenly brined.
Meanwhile, cook the flour in 1 cup water, stirring constantly to keep it smooth, until it thickens into a paste. Let it cool a bit. Mix in the chili flakes and sugar. Use fish sauce for a simpler recipe or the salted seafood for more authentic flavor. If you want to make this vegetarian you can leave those out but you may need to add more salt at the end to balance the flavors.
Take the brined cabbage out of the salt water and rinse away the salt, then set in a colander to drain. Chop up all the filling ingredients and stir into the chili paste. It is hard to adjust the balance once it is assembled, so this is the best time to taste test! Keep in mind it will become more sour as it matures.
For the assembly, it definitely helps to have rubber gloves. The chili flakes are not as likely to burn your skin as the fresh chilies, but they will definitely stain your skin! Take the drained cabbage and, holding it carefully at the stem end, smear a bit of the filling between each leave. Then smooth the cabbage back into a tight bundle and smear more filling around the outside. Pack the bundles into the clean jar until all you have left are loose leaves. Use the loose leaves to clean out the filling bowl and cover the bundles in the jar. Add a little water to clean out the bowl and pour it into the jar just to cover the kimchi.
Now you just need to let your kimchi mature (ferment) until it is ready to go into the fridge. I usually cover my jar with plastic wrap before I put the lid on to make an extra tight seal. I usually use a large rubber band to hold the plastic wrap in place as I put the lid on. You can leave the kimchi at room temperature for a few hours if you like it less sour, or up to 3 days if you like it more sour. If the room is hot, it will take less time to become sour. Taste it before you put it in the fridge to see if it seems good.
It can last in the fridge a very long time, though when you get down to the bottom and it is more soft and sour, it is best used in soups or jeon – small veggie pancakes.
If the slideshow below doesn’t work for you, find the photos on my flickr stream here.
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