How to Make Kimchi
Total time: 30 minutes active time
- 1 large head of Napa cabbage, about 3 lbs.
- 1 large daikon radish
- 1 bunch scallions, about 7 stalks
- 1/2 cup salt
- 3 tbsp. gochugaru (Add less or more, according to taste; standard hot chili flakes can be substituted in a pinch, but reduce quantity by half.)
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce (optional, or substitute 1 tbsp. soy sauce)
- 1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
- 9 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
- large mixing bowl
- latex or rubber gloves
- large sterilized glass jar
Start by cutting the cabbage into inch-wide strips. Cut the scallions into segments just slightly larger than an inch. Peel the daikon and cut into batons that are about 2" long and 1/3" thick.
Put on your gloves and place the chopped veggies into a very large bowl. Pour about half the salt on top of the veggies, then use your hands to thoroughly work all of the salt into all the folds and leaves. After about 30 seconds of mixing, add the rest of the salt and continue to work it in to the mixture. Add half a cup of water, and give the salted veggies another 30 seconds of hand turning.
Let the salted veggies sit for about two hours, optionally mixing them every 30 minutes.
After the two-hour brining period, fill the bowl with cold water, give everything a quick mix with your hands, then drain the vegetables in a colander. Return the veggies to the bowl, and rinse and drain then again. Taste the vegetables. Their saltiness should resemble that of a good pickle – salty but not too salty. If the vegetables are still too briny, give them another rinse and re-taste. Repeat until the saltiness is just right, then return drained veggies to the mixing bowl.
Add in the gochugaru, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Using gloves, mix everything together to incorporate. Adding about 1/3 cup of water and give everything a final mix.
Transfer the kimchi into the jar, packing it down tightly to remove any air pockets. Top the jar off with remaining liquid from the bowl and press the veggies again, so they are all submerged in the liquid. Place a small plate on top of the jar; it's not necessary to seal it.
You can enjoy the kimchi right away, or let it ferment in the jar for two to six days. I recommend tasting it every day or two until the degree of fermentation and sourness suits your pallet. Be ready for the kimchi to go through an awkward, teenage moment around days 3-4, before finding renewed balance in the final day or two of maturation. After the room temperature fermentation is done, the kimchi will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and continue to ferment, though at a slower pace.