Archive | 12:06 pm

Home grown Kimchi

11 Jan

Mini wombok

Mini wombok cabbages are one of my favourite things to grow. They are quick to develop, taste delicious and store well in the fridge. Unfortunately they are also a magnet to slugs and other pests, so on Sunday I harvested the two I had growing, simply to save them from summer’s infestation.

I’m quite blessed to live amongst one of Sydney’s large Korean communities, because I love korean food. Recently I had a terrible craving for Japchae, which I satisfied by making several batches. I think my family eventually grew sick of it.

But my great korean-food love is kimchi. This is a spicy fermented cabbage mix, which usually also includes other vegetables like scallions/shallots/green onions and daikon radish. Sometimes it also includes carrot, seaweed or other vegetables.

You could say that Kimchi is to the koreans what Vegemite is to Australians, but that would be understating it. They say that the average South Korean eats 18 kilos per year. That’s about 50 grams per day. The Korean congregation of our church share a meal together every Sunday at lunchtime, and each week they haul in bags of the stuff, just for a single meal.

There is a real regional influence that affects kimchi recipes. I hear that if you travel over the country you will find wild variations, depending on regional influence and personal preference.

Korean people I have asked about making kimchi look daunted. They say it’s really difficult. I suspect that they have a very developed palate for the subtleties of kimchi flavour, and it isn’t actually that difficult to make something that comes close to the stuff I buy from the asian grocery, at least to my taste. I set out today to give it a go.

I followed the basic recipe for cabbage kimchi found in Sandor Ellix Katz’s fabulous book, Wild Fermentation. I cut up the cabbage coarsely and covered in a fairly strong brine solution, then covered and left it overnight.

The remaining ingredients were: A few cloves of garlic, chillis, onions, ginger and dried Korean red pepper powder. I bought the pepper powder and the ginger, but the rest was home-grown.

I sliced the onions, grated a few tablespoons of the ginger, chopped up the garlic, deseeded and chopped the chillis, then mixed them all together with a couple of tablespoons of the pepper powder and a splash of fish sauce.

I then drained the cabbage and tasted it, but concluded it was far too salty so I rinsed it thoroughly before adding it to the onion and chilli mix.

I stirred it all around thoroughly then packed it into a Fowlers #31 (850ml) jar. I should have used a #36, because the batch was a bit over a litre when well-packed.

Once pushed down, the juice covered the cabbage mix nicely. If it didn’t, then the recipe indicated to add some of the brine liquid back in to cover the mix. I leave it at room temperature for several days (probably up to a week).

Finished Kimchi - ready to ferment

I need to taste the batch and push down the cabbage every day until I’m satisfied with the level of fermentation. Then I’ll put it in the fridge.

Next time I hope to have learned a few lessons from this batch – primarily the level of spiciness to expect from the amount of chilli I add, and also how strong to make the brine solution. I also hope to have some daikon and green onions growing in the garden so the kimchi will be more authentic, and particularly so it will have some dark green bits throughout.

Have you tried kimchi? Do you love it as much as I do?

***Update*** Kimchi had good flavour, but was way too salty. Will try again with far less salt.