When most people hear ‘Kimchi’, they tend to think of the most common variety made with Napa Cabbage. In truth, though, many things are pickled to make Kimchi and, even with the cabbage variety, there are thousands of versions, from the simple to highly complex. Beyond the cabbage, and, of course, chilli, there can be other vegetables added (scallions, for example), and the umami quotient is often enhanced with some sort of sea product. This can be in the form of Korean Salted Shrimp, oysters, anchovy essence, whole dried anchovies, or even fish guts.
Today, I am preparing a very simple cabbage version using just chilli and scallion. I am departing from the most common method of adding chilli, which is usually done by making a paste from powdered chilli, water, and generally rice powder, or even, in some cases, wheat flour. Instead, I am doing what some recipes do, and using Gochujang, or Korean Chili paste, which carries its own umami punch. I will be adding this to my cabbage a bit later than is common for a couple of reasons. First, while I am fairly confident, having regard to the ingredients list, that there are no preservatives in my commercially made paste that will inhibit fermentation, I am not taking chances. Also, the paste is already fermented and the chilli and rice flour don’t need further fermentation to develop their flavors….
- 1 medium head of Napa Cabbage;
- 2 or 3 Scallions, cut into 3 inch sections;
- 1/8 cup of coarse Salt (non-iodized preferred);
- Gochujang (as much or as little as you like).
First, quarter your cabbage and cut each quarter into 2 inch sections (more or less);
Next, toss the cabbage and scallions together with the salt and massage the mix a little to work in the salt. Set this aside for at least a few hours.
Once the cabbage is wilted and nicely softened, you will see that the mix has thrown off a lot of liquid. You can pour this off.
Now you can pack the mix into a suitable container for fermentation. During this process, more liquid will accumulate and you will want to stir things around at least once a day to keep the top layer moist. As you can see, even after the initial wilting, the volume has reduced quite a bit.
The length of the primary fermentation will vary depending on the temperature (a cool room temperature is fine), and how sour you want the final product to be. I let this batch work for three full days. After the first day, there were definite changes but the aroma was more sweet than sour. A little sourness was detectable the second day, and, by the third, it was clearly apparent that lactic acid was being produced.
Once the cabbage is soured to your taste, it is time to add the Gochujang. Now, astute readers may notice that the amount of Kimchi shown here is quite a bit less than the amount I started with. The reason for this is that I ‘siphoned’ off half the start amount to try a little experiment (if it works, I’ll post about it later). Anyway, I used about 2 tablespoons of Gochujang in the remaining amount. Use however much you like, but it is a good idea to taste it first as some brands are very salty, others less so. You will want to factor that into your decision as to how much to use.
You can pretty much use the Kimchi right away at this point, but even a few days in the fridge will improve it by allowing the flavors to meld. Fermentation can continue in the fridge (although much more slowly) and a good bit of ‘aging’ will improve things quite a bit. That is, of course, if you can hold back from eating it quickly…