How to: Kimchi

As you can see, I’ve been on quite the roll making kimchi and other such brined goodness, so I thought I’d help de-mystify the process by describing step-by-step the process I used to make my latest batch of radish & root kimchi.

Radish & Root Kimchi

Ingredients

– Variety of radishes

– Daikon

– Green onion

– Garlic

– Ginger

– Hot peppers

– Sea salt (non-iodized)

– Water

– Ceramic bowl w/lid

– Glass jars

– Cheese cloth

– Rubber bands/string/metal jar rings

Day 1

1) Cut up all of the tougher vegetables you’re using; in this case, I sliced all of the radish and daikon. (It was so pretty–I got pink & purple radishes, pastel kimchi!)

2) Mix together a salt brine to marinate these vegetables in for approximately 4 – 12 hours. The salt brine should always be made in a ration of 1 c water : 1 tbsp sea salt. For this batch of kimchi, it took 5 cups water : 5 tbsp sea salt to sufficiently submerge the radishes in brine. Also, you should avoid fermenting, or even brining, food in metal. Ceramic bowls, crock pots and glass are ideal while plastic buckets or containers would work alright too.

3) Cover the bowl with something so critters don’t get into it at night. (If you use a metal lid like I have, just make sure it’s not touching the mixture inside.) Let it sit for 4 – 12 hours, this will soften the veggies and help them begin to expel their juices.

Day 2

4) Drain the brine from the vegetables that soaked over night, reserving the brine in another vessel for use later.

5) Chop up the rest of the things you’re going to add. I added green onions, garlic, ginger and thai hot peppers. Garlic, ginger and hot peppers are almost always a present characteristic of kimchi but the quantity you use depends on how potent and spice you like it. I mix it all in with my hands not only because it’s fun but also because I feel like it’s the best way to make sure that everything gets evenly distributed, just make sure your hands are super clean.

(I actually made two different kinds of kimchi from this point on. First I mixed in just the garlic and green onion and filled one mason jar with it, then I mixed in the hot pepper and ginger so I’ll wind up with one mild and one spicy jar.)

6) Next fill your glass jars with the mixture, again I think hands work best for this. Squish all of the vegetables into the jar and keep packing them down until there are no air pockets at which point a small amount of brine will have emerged on top of the veggies. You want to make sure that when all the veggies are packed in, they are covered sufficiently with brine, so you’ll probably need to add a bit more of the reserved salt water brine to the top.

7) Cut a square of cheese cloth big enough to fit over the top of the jar (Depending on the weave of the cheese cloth you’re using you may have to double or quadruple it to make sure that tiny fruit flies can’t penetrate the jar.) Secure the cheese cloth by using the metal canning rings if using canning jars, or if not simply securing with a rubber band, string or piece of wire.

8 ) Choose a place for it to sit out of direct sunlight. The temperature of the location will help determine how long it will take to ferment. Traditional kimchi is fermented in cool, dark places and takes months to ripen. I’ve been fermenting mine on my kitchen counter and as fall has begun to set in and my house is cooler I’ve realized that each back is starting to take a bit longer, closer to two weeks or so.

9) It’s important to keep the veggies submerged with the brine so they don’t rot. My favorite method for this to (washing my hands first) push the vegetables back under the brine with my fingers every other day. A benefit of this is you can then taste small amounts to see how far along it is in the fermentation process. If you’re going to be away for a few days or think that you’ll forget to push the veggies back under the brine, you can do this trick:

Before putting the cheese cloth over your jar and letting it sit, put a plastic bag into the jar so that it’s covering the brined veggies. Next, pour addition salt brine into the bag so that the weight of the liquid keeps the veggies submerged. (You want to make sure you use the same salt brine in case the bag springs a leak). Tie a loose knot at the top of the bag to try and contain the liquid, then put the cheese cloth over the top and seal.

10) When you think your kimchi’s done simply replace the cheese cloth with a cover and store in the refrigerator. It’s got a long shelf life in the fridge, so don’t worry about making huge batches. Enjoy!

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