Thursday, June 21, 2012


I think of kimchi as a kind of spicy Korean pickled salad.  I'd been meaning to try this recipe for some time, but never got around to it...until a colleague brought it to a potluck and the hubster raved over it.

2.5 gallon jar stuffed with chopped veggies

Like all fermented vegetables, this was super easy to make and required no cooking.  The recipe came from Sandor Katz' book, Wild Fermentation.  I used two heads of bok choy (napa cabbage works, too), two onions, some radishes from the garden, four thinly sliced carrots.  Almost any other vegetable could be added and it would still be delicious.  Traditionally, big, white daikon radishes are used, but I had these red ones from the garden and I love the color they add.

I chopped all the veggies and put them in a stainless steel pot with a lid for brining overnight.  I covered them with water and sea salt, about 2 Tbsp of salt per gallon of water.  Then I added more salt, just because.

In the morning I drained the brine, reserving it, and tasted the veggies for saltiness.  Lightly salty, I added a bit of salt, maybe two teaspoons, to the following paste:

The instructions say to then make a paste of garlic (used a whole head) and fresh ginger (used previously minced, peeled ginger from the freezer, maybe 1/3 cup or more) and hot chili peppers, two per head of cabbage.  I don't like things too hot, so I used one super hot pepper from last years garden for this double batch, seeding it first.

The recipe also calls for making a paste of the garlic, onion (I added the sliced onion in with the veggies), ginger, and hot peppers.  My dried pepper was rather flexible and wouldn't pulverize with the mortar and pestle, so I ended up throwing everything (ginger, garlic, pepper) into the VitaMix with a cup of the brine and giving it a good whir on high.  VitaMixes did not exist when kimchi was invented, but I bet the ancients would have loved to use one! 

After thoroughly mixing all the ingredients, I stuffed it into a clean, large, glass jar and pressed them all down as best I could with my hands. 

Now the veggies need to sit at room temp for a few days to ferment before going into the fridge.  There are a number of ways to do this....Sandor advocates using clean hands and pressing them under every day if you are the type to remember to do this.  I'm not.  In season, I use grape leaves weighted down with a clean rock.  If your container is the right size, you can use a clean plate with a canning jar on top filled with water.  Another method is to fill a Ziploc freezer bag with brine (not water, because if it leaks, it will water down your brine) and place that on top.  I've used this method, too, but I avoid using plastic with food as much as possible because of the estrogen-like compounds that will leach into the food.

Grape leaves from our vines, wild ones work well, too.

This jar will sit on my counter for 2-5 days.  Since we are getting temperatures into triple digits today and tomorrow, it will likely be only two days.  In cooler weather, five days would be more appropriate.  Then it goes into the fridge for some additional aging, although it can be eaten right away.  I will likely taste it tomorrow and the next day, to see if it is getting the lovely sour fermented taste.  Then I can decide, with the extreme weather, if it is ready or not.

Weighted down with a scrubbed and sterilized beach rock

Doesn't it look lovely?  Can't wait to try it and share it with the family!  A little bit of fermented food with each meal adds valuable probiotics to aid in digestion.  More powerful than anything that can be made into a pill, it is very much worth the effort.  Interestingly, in some ferments, the vitamin C content shoots up with fermentation.  Since this happens with sauerkraut, made with cabbage, I suspect kimchi is like this too, since the main ingredient is from the cabbage family.

Grape leaves and rock in place, holding veggies under the brine

Have you tried fermenting anything yet?   Be brave, be bold, the risk is small and the benefits are enormous!  Nervous?  Get one of Sandor's books and read up on the safety of home fermented veggies....or just dive in and start chopping! 


  1. I am on my last jar of kimchi from last year. Need to start a new batch!

  2. I'll be trying it today....actually, right now!

  3. I did try fermenting things, but had not great results (mold) and was afraid to try them. I made dill pickles, but did not like them.

    I love Real Pickles Kimchi and red cabbage and garlic kraut, but could never get mine to taste like those.

    I used grape leaves for the dills, so they would be crisp. They were, but I didn't like the flavor.

    Your kimchi is so pretty in the jar. I bet it tastes wonderful, when done!

  4. do you have any pickles? recipes?

  5. You can use this method to pickle anything! Just add any flavorings you'd like. I'll do a post on this when the cucumbers are coming in. But for now, for example, you can put peeled garlic in a jar and cover with brine as per the instructions above, and you have pickled garlic. You can put cukes in a jar with a spponful of whole mustard seed, some fresh dill flowers, and a clove of garlic if you like. Easy-peasy. I get a kick out of making two quarts of pickles during a commercial break at the end of the day when I'm watching tv.

    By the way, the kimchi is delicious! I'm officially hooked. I also hear from others that you can use a regular head of cabbage, which is often much cheaper on sale in season. Really, you can add almost anything you think you will like, as the spices will make it all taste the same anyways. So use kimchi to use up any fresh veggies you have on hand.

  6. Don't give up too quickly, Pam. I've had some mold, especially during those times when it rains and rains and rains. I've also learned to shorten the room temp time period when it is hot. And if the mold is white, I just scoop it off and the contents beneath are just fine.

    Many fermented things taste very different with some aging. If you don't like something, put it in the back of the fridge and taste it in a month or two. It can be completely different!