Homestyle Red Kimchi
Fermentation is basically food magic. It is an ancient method of food preservation and transformation that creates foods we all love, such as yogurt, beer, and one of our favorites: kimchi. The term “kimchi” encompasses a variety of fermented vegetables and described as uniquely pungent, salty, spicy, bitter, and sweet. Let’s get into it!
In Japan and Korea, each person consumes an average of ten to fifteen kilograms of kimchi a year. In South Korea alone, there are about four hundred tons of kimchi consumed annually more than any other vegetable! This is just an example of the love that this prized dish garners.
In about 2030 B.C. the inhabitants of northern India brought seeds of the cabbage to Mongolia, and over time, the preservation of these hearty leafy greens with other vegetables became common throughout the region. Fermentation was used as a way of preserving food for the Korean winters when there was little to harvest. Regional variants and additions made the kimchi unique depending on the region and gave way for lots of delicious interpretations.
The main component of the kimchi we eat today is Napa Cabbage, a crunchy and watery leafy green. Techniques vary but the leaves are soaked in salt or salted water to inhibit bacteria growth and provide flavor and seasoning. The cabbage is sometimes kept whole, divided into quarters, or the leaves are chopped into pieces whale salting, depending on the producer’s preferences.
The distinct red color of the kimchi comes from the gochugaru, or Korean red chili flake. The gochugaru brings a welcomed mild heat and peppery flavor that balances the other elements of the dish. It is a staple ingredient in modern kimchi, although its use was not documented until the 18th century, as it is a new world ingredient.
Big flavor comes from the addition of fresh ginger and garlic ground into a paste to balance the sourness of the kimchi. Chopped scallions help bring a sweet-savory fresh flavor, along with some delicious pungency. Sugar can be added as food for the fermentation process, and balance out the intensity of the other flavors. Kimchi should never be ‘sweet’.
Seafood ingredients are common in kimchi since Korea and Japan are both surrounded by water on most sides. Ingredients like fish sauce, flaked dried fish, or fish heads can be used depending on regional variants. The fish brings more savoriness and umami to the dish! It is important to note before serving for those who are vegan/vegetarian or allergic to fish.
Other vegetables can be used in kimchi depending on what is available, including radishes, carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, squash, mushrooms, fennel, and much more! The technique of fermentation is meant to preserve vegetables for a long time, so almost everything is fair game when crafting your own kimchi.
The most involved technique in the kimchi preparation is the salting of the cabbage. As we mentioned, the salt helps draw moisture out and help control the fermentation process. Natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the vegetables which create lactic acid and some light bubbles.
The lactic acid formation cuts off the life supply from any harmful bacteria growth, leaving only the happy bacteria! This process preserves the kimchi at room temperature and creates various strains of probiotics, beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Pretty amazing for some microscopic life forms!
Fermentation and kimchi have seen a lot of traction as people discover the health benefits as well as intense flavors through the fermentation process. The kimchi will taste different at the beginning of fermentation compared to 3 weeks into the fermentation process.
Kimchi is a side dish but is capable of being so much more. We have used kimchi in a few recipes already, such as our Kimchi Pancakes and Kimchi Jjigae! Kimchi has rightfully exploded in American restaurants in the ever-popular Korean soul-food movement. Try making some homestyle kimchi now!
Homestyle Red Kimchi
A dish with a long history and a longer list of delicious uses! Try as an amazing snack, part of a salad, or alongside a main course. The kimchi is ready to eat once it is mixed together, but letting it ferment over time unlocks more flavor!
Recipe by Sam Burgess
Forge To Table
Prep Time: 80 minutes
Cook Time: 0
Makes: 2 quarts Kimchi
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 medium head Napa Cabbage
6 each cloves garlic, peeled
1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled
2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional--but recommended)
1 daikon radish, peeled, julienne (red radish as a substitute)
2 medium carrots, peeled, julienned
1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1-inch lengths
¼ cup gochugaru (Korean chili powder), or more, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
(SALT CABBAGE) Using your favorite Forge To Table Knife, prepare Napa cabbage by dividing it into quarters lengthwise, and then into two-inch wedges. Place in a colander and add ½ cup kosher salt, tossing well to coat the cabbage. Let the cabbage drain for about 1 hour. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water so no salt remains, squeezing as much water as possible from the leaves.
(BLEND AROMATICS) Meanwhile, combine garlic, ginger, and fish sauce in a food processor or blender until finely minced. Place in a small bowl and mix in gochugaru (Korean chili flake). Prepare remaining vegetables.
(TOSS TOGETHER) In a large bowl, combine drained cabbage, julienned daikon radish, julienned carrot, sliced green onion, chili-garlic mixture, and sugar. Toss well to coat everything in spice mixture.
(BOTTLE KIMCHI) Place young kimchi into 2, 1-quart glass jars or 1, 2-quart glass jar. Press down firmly to remove any air bubbles.
(FERMENT) Let kimchi sit for 2 to 3 days in a cool place to ferment. Alternatively, you can place it in the refrigerator and it will ferment in 5 to 7 days. Refrigerate after opening the jar. Enjoy!
Kimchi will be good to eat straight for about 3 weeks. After 4 weeks, the kimchi will get very fermented but can be used in our recipe for Kimchi Pancakes, Kimchi Jjigae, hotpots, dumplings, fried rice, and much more.
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