Kimchi Forever

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While Korean cuisine may be the new “it” food in America, we’re obsessed with it for the same reason that Koreans are: It fucking rules. Seriously what’s not to love? Hot chilies, fried eggs everywhere, and loads upon loads of various fermented vegetables, namely the über pre-choucroute: Kimchi.
This recipe is for a fairly large amount of Kimchi. When it’s done, you’ll find yourself working the funky spicy crunchy wunderkind into just about everything you make. Its great in stews, its great pulsed into sauces (particularly amazing with veganaise), sandwiches, and you can make vinaigrette from the extra juice and stock base from the leftover brine.
This will take you a full 7-8 days to complete: 24 hours brining, and 7 days fermenting. Plan for this one dudes: making Kimchi makes for a great Sunday afternoon task, and you can make a really ripping stock from all the vegetable trimmings for a post pre-Kimchi soup.
You’ll need a large vessel to fit all these veggies into. We’ve both scored giant ceramic crocks for fermentation and while they are perfect, you can ferment in non-reactive food grade plastic containers as well. You’ll also need a plate that will fit inside your primary fermentation vessel to press the veggies under the brine (or use a clean plastic bag filled with brine), and a large jar to cram everything in after the initial brining. Figure out all these elements before you start chopping.

Adapted For You from Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz. You need this book.

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Kimchi
1 large Chinese (Napa) cabbage (2-3 lbs.)
4 baby bok choy
4 carrots
1 medium daikon
2 bunches of scallions
1. Peel the daikon and carrots, reserving their peels if you’re gonna make soup stock. Slice the carrots in half lengthwise and slice 1/8″ think on a bias. Keep the daikon whole but slice similarly thin.
2. Remove 2-3 outer layers of the Napa cabbage (reserving for stock), and slice the cabbage in half lengthwise. Inspect for critters and/or mold. Cut out and discard any suspicious looking blemishes. Then roughly chop the whole cabbage.
3. Peel off all the leaves of each of the baby bok choy and wash them thoroughly. Trim the ends that attached to the stem.
4. Trim the scallions; you only want the part that’s white — so when the greens start that’s where you want to cut.
5. Toss all of these veggies into your aging vessel. Toss all of the scraps into a pot full of room temp water and set on high to boil.
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Brine
3 quarts water
1 cup salt (NOT iodized)
1. Blend the salt with the water until salt dissolves. (It’s REALLY important to not use iodized salt or salt that has any anti-caking ingredients. Kosher salt is always safe, but some brands of sea salt put weird chemicals in to keep the grains separate: avoid that shit at all costs. Not only is it totally lame to contaminate the simplest, purest element of cooking, it could possible prevent all the good bacteria from forming inside the anaerobic environment you are about to create.)
2. Dump the salt brine all over the veggies and mix around with your (clean) hands. The brine level doesn’t need to be completely submerging your veggies, but your vessel should be at least 3/4 full of liquid.
3. Place your (clean) plate, or brine filled bag, on top of the whole mess and weight it with a boiled rock, or a jar filled with water (that is also clean). Press down a little and soon the pressure of the weighted plate will cause the veggies to release some of their liquids, which will co-mingle with the brine and immerse your pre-chi.
4. Cover the crock, or whatever, with a towel and let ferment for 24 hours.
Flavor Paste
1/2 lbs ginger
6-15 Thai chilies (as desired)
6-15 garlic cloves
4-6 medium sized shallots
1 Tbs. Ground Gochutgaru Pepper (Aleppo works fine)
1. Peel the ginger with a spoon. Toss all the scraps into the boiling water.
2. Grate the ginger over a box grater on the smallest size hole and set aside. Throw the fibrous leftovers in your pot.
3. Roughly chop the chilies, shallots, and garlic and set aside — throw whatever trimmings into the pot.
4. Puree all the set aside goodies in a food processor or blender as well as you can. Add a little brine or water if you need. Place the paste in a sealed jar and mix in Gochutgaru or Aleppo pepper, seal the jar and let ferment on your counter overnight.
That Soup
3 Tbs. Soy sauce
Zest of 1 lemon
1 medium daikon
Noodles of your choice
1. Cook all the Kimchi production scraps for 2-6 hours. Fish out all the limp veggies, and whisk in soy sauce and zest.
2. Reserve stock for later or use to braise any extra daikon. Cube daikon and cook until tender. Boil noodles in the stock and enjoy.
The Next Day
1. Drain the brine off of the veggies and reserve in the refrigerator indefinitely. Use it for your next batch of Kimchi, splash it on sautéing veggies to steam (and pan blanche), or sip it as a digestive tonic.
2. Taste the veggies. They should be salty but not unpleasantly so. If they seem too salty, rinse them in cold water and drain. Taste again and if necessary, rinse again.
3. Mix the flavor paste and the veggies and cram into a jar. Seriously cram it: by pressing the veggies down and compacting them, they will release the brine that they need to preserve themselves properly.
4. Jam a jar in the other jar, until brine is basically spilling over the sides of the big jar. Cover and ferment for 7 days. Taste the veggies every day from day 5 on; the pickles are ready when they taste almost effervescent; spicy, funky, forever.
Beverage: Oscar Blues’ Gubna Imperial IPA
Soundtrack: Talisman ‘Initiate into the Mysteries’

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One Response to Kimchi Forever

  1. quarrygirl says:

    this looks really good, and not too difficult. i just need to figure out where to get an aging vessel.

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