Basic Cabbage Kimchi
Basic Cabbage Kimchi

As Basic Cabbage Kimchi recipes go, this one can rightfully be called the Simplest and the Most Basic version for a couple of reasons. First, it requires you to have on hand only four ingredients; Cabbage, Green Onion, Salt, and Korean Chili Paste. Secondly, the fermentation process uses the traditional Korean method for salt-pickling, which is dead easy to follow.


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….

A Basic Overview…

Cutting the Cabbage into Sections
Cutting the Cabbage into Sections

The variety of cabbage know in the west as ‘Napa Cabbage’ is probably the most widely used and the most widely recognized outside Korea. In truth of course,’’ Kimchi’ is just generic term for a wide range of pickled things., both plant and animal.

Even with the plain cabbage variety, there are thousands of versions, from the simple to highly complex. In addition to the cabbage, and, of course, chilli, there can be other vegetables or fruit added, 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.

NOTE: For a different Cabbage Kimchi recipe that *does* use seafood, and a home-made chili-paste rather than Gochujang, Take a look at my Kimchi with Conpoy and Dried Shrimp

For the current recipe, I am quartering my cabbage and cutting the quarters into sections. Some recipes ferment the cabbage whole after packing other ingredients (oysters, fresh chili etc.) down inside the leaves. The present method is much simpler.

Salting the Kimchi Ingredients
Salting the Kimchi Ingredients

Many methods for making Kimchi involve immersing the main ingredients in brine during the fermentation process. However, for very small amounts of primary product, adding loose salt and massaging in to the vegetables will achieve the same result.

Make sure that you use a non-iodized salt, if possible. The iodized sort won’t harm the pickle, or prevent fermentation, but it can sometimes lend unpleasant dark colors.

As for the amount of pickling, the 1/8 of cup (approximately 2 Tablespoons) of salt I used for a medium Napa Cabbage head represents a pretty good ratio.

The macerated Cabbage and Scallion
The macerated Cabbage and Scallion

Once the cabbage has been dully rubbed and massaged with the salt it will wilt and nicely soften. You will see that the mix has thrown off a quite a bit of liquid of liquid. You can simply discard this

Fermentation under way
Fermentation under way

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.

Three days of Fermentation
Three days of Fermentation

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 (the by-product of this type of fermentation) was being produced.

Adding Gochujang
Adding Gochujang

Once the cabbage is soured to your taste, it is time to add the Gochujang. 

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 for another use.

 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.

Basic Cabbage Kimchi ready to be eaten.
Basic Cabbage Kimchi ready to be eaten.

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 flavours 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…

Your Recipe Card

A Basic Cabbage Kimchi

This Basic Cabbage Kimchi couldn’t be simpler. It requires just four ingredients, and just a little time to produce a lovely tangy and fiery condiment
Course: Appetizer, Banchan, Side Dish
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: Cabbage, Chili Paste, Fermented, Pickle
Author: John Thompson

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of Napa Cabbage;
  • 2 or 3 Scallions cut into 3-inch sections;
  • 1/8 cup of coarse Salt non-iodized preferred;
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp Gochujang as much or as little as you like.

Instructions

  • First, quarter your cabbage and cut each quarter into 2, or 3-inch sections (more or less);
  • 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.
  • Pack the mix into a suitable container for fermentation. During this process, the volume of the cabbage and scallions will appear to diminish and more liquid will accumulate. Stir and press down as necessary to keep the top layer moist.
  • Let the Kimchi sit in a cool room for about two to three days until the product begins to emit the characteristic sour aromas of fermentation. You may also ferment for a longer period for a much sharper result.
  • Add the Gochujang to your ferment and stir well. You may wish to adjust the amount based on the saltiness of your Gochujang, and your fermented cabbage.
  • You may eat the Kimchi virtually immediately at this point, or you can store in the fridge where it will keep for an extended time and may often improve with a little ageing.

Comments, questions or suggestions most welcome!