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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kimchi

If you've never had Kimchi, it is sort of a spicy Korean version of sauerkraut, and is a fantastic way to get your probiotics and vitamins without pills.  Oh, and the flavor is out of this world.  I crave it!

Kimchi is fermented and eaten raw.  I have never seen it for sale, and since it is eaten raw, I doubt if proper Kimchi is for sale anywhere, so I make it myself, and keep a couple jars in the fridge most of the time.  It is very easy, just a matter of planning ahead.

Both kraut and Kimchi are fermented using the natural yeasts that are on the cabbage.  No heat is applied, so the yeasts aren't killed.  What regulates the kind of organisms that are allowed to grow is salt in proper proportions.  In making kraut, you shred the cabbage then mix in the right amount of salt which draws liquid out of the cabbage.  But Kimchi is brined overnight in a solution of salt and water, so it is a little different, and produces a different result.  Also, Kimchi has other vegetables added for flavor.

2 pounds cabbage chopped into 2 inch squares.
6 cups water (I use distilled)
3 Tablespoons noniodized salt

Soak the cabbage overnight in the brine.  Drain well, reserve the brine, then mix 1 teaspoon more of salt in with the cabbage.

6 scallions slivered
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger
1 cup Daikon radish shredded
3 tablespoons shrimp sauce or anchovy fish sauce
1/4 cup mild dried pepper ground or flaked.

Mix in all these ingredients, then put the mixture in a glass or crock container.  cover with the reserved brine, and allow to ferment on the counter top for 5- 10 days until it stops producing bubbles.  The probiotics in Kimchi are very powerful, and will attack plastic or metals, so only glass or crockery containers should be used.  Also, after it starts fermenting, only handle it with wooden utensils.  The best containers I have found for it are the 1/2 gallon glass canning jars, but a gallon pickle jar would be great.  Don't fill the jars all the way to the top as the kimchi will bubble up while fermenting.  You will need to push a wooden spoon down into it every day to release the bubbles so the Kimchi doesn't overflow onto the countertop.  Since I use the canning jars, I do use the metal lids, just being careful not to let the fermenting Kimchi get so high as to touch the lid.  Screw the lids on loosely so the gas can escape, but tight enough that fruit flies don't discover it.  When fermentation is finished, put the jars in the fridge and enjoy!  The Kimchi will keep indefinitely, and though edible right away, like kraut, the older it gets, the better it is.

The ingredients list for Kimchi is flexible.  Oriental folks usually use Napa cabbage, but any cabbage will work.  Instead of the scallions, I use regular onions.  Shredded carrots work fine instead of the Daikon radish which is rather expensive, but if you aren't using organic carrots, be sure to peel them before shredding.  The fish sauce is optional, but nice, and not expensive.  It also wouldn't be right without some hot pepper flakes or powder.  The critical parts of this recipe are the amount of salt in the brine, and the presence of garlic and ginger in about these amounts.  If you want to make a larger batch, just scale this recipe up.  Korean folks make large batches in earthenware pots called Onggi and keep it outside all winter.

Eat Kimchi as a condiment, maybe 1/2 cup for a serving.  It goes well with many foods; meats,  fish, vegetables, etc., but my favorite way to eat it is with fried eggs and beans for breakfast.