Kimchi, also known as kimchee, is a traditional Korean dish that was developed in ancient times. It uses a fermentation process to preserve and pickle fresh vegetables. Initially, this process was developed for the purpose of storing vegetables year-round. However, it’s gaining popularity beyond its country of origin.
There are over 200 varieties of this Asian delicacy, but the most prominent ingredient in kimchi is always cabbage. While this crunchy, spicy dish has a texture similar to sauerkraut, it has a much bolder flavor. That’s because of the addition of seasonings and garlic.
Since kimchi is rich in probiotics, it helps restore the good bacterial balance in your gut and improves the immune system. Fermentation also increases the nutritional attributes of food. Additional health benefits include anti-obesity properties and improved cardiovascular health.
You’ll only need a few common items to make your kimchi. For preparation purposes, use a wooden spoon, large bowl, knife, cutting board and a food processor. If you don’t have one of the latter, a blender will do. Of course, a traditional mortar and pestle will get the job done as well. You will also need sterilized mason jars for storage vessels, preferably the quart-sized variety.
Besides cabbage, kimchi consists of five extra components: salt, garlic, a sweet element, ginger, and a hot element. Ideally, you should use green or Napa cabbage, but bok choy will work as well. Traditionally, you’ll want to use gochujang chili paste, but you can substitute Aleppo pepper or sriracha. Optional ingredients include vegetables, onions or green onions.
For one head of cabbage (1.5 to 2 pounds), you’ll need two tablespoons of salt, two or three large garlic cloves, one teaspoon of ginger, one teaspoon of sugar and three tablespoons of chili flakes or paste. You can substitute one thinly sliced pear or apple for the sugar.
Reserve a few cabbage leaves, set them aside and cut the head into small pieces. Place the cut-up cabbage into the bowl and sprinkle with salt. Cover the bowl, and let it sit at room temperature until the content has wilted and liquid has gathered on the bottom. This can take up to 12 hours.
Combine the other ingredients and work them into a rough paste. Drain the wilted cabbage and reserve the liquid. Mix the paste with the cabbage and fill your mason jars with the kimchi, but leave an inch of space at the top.
Divide the reserved liquid up equally among the jars. If you don’t have enough cabbage liquid, you can add water to ensure coverage during the fermentation process. Use the wooden spoon and compress the mixture until the brine covers the kimchi. Place the reserved cabbage leaves on top. Close the jars and leave them at room temperature for up to five days. Then remove the leaves and place the jars in the fridge.
While kimchi is readily available, making your own allows you to control the spice level. You can also add ingredients such as radishes, carrots and fish sauce to customize this dish.