Just Make It Yourself: Kimchi

Kimchi loves to be a part of all your Korean meals and you love it to be a part of yours which means you’ll need to have a goodly amount on hand.   Especially if you have lots of people joining you at said meals (or even if it’s just you––I don’t judge because I feel you).

The trouble, then, is that to purchase goodly amounts of kimchi at your local grocery, you will need a goodly amount of  pesos, euros,  drachmas…you get my point. Or what if you don’t even have a store nearby that carries kimchi? Then it’s best to just make it yourself.

Yes, that’s what I said, “Just make it yourself.”  And you can do it because you’ll adjust this recipe to your taste, time constraints, finances and pantry.

Start by looking in your cupboards and fridge and then get the stuff that’s not there.

For the spicy hot marinade: 

  • vinegar (apple cider, white wine, white)
  • salt (kosher or sea)
  • bottled or canned anchovies (5 or more filets mashed) /fermented fish sauce (salted fermented shrimp would be prime, but no sweat it if you don’t have it)
  • sesame oil
  • honey or sugar
  • hot pepper paste (I like to use paste rather than red pepper powder so I make my own quick faux version, but if you’d rather use powder, go ahead)
  • fresh ginger juice (a lot if you’re a fan or a little if you’re not)
  • garlic (crushed with crusher or minced with a knife)
  • sesame seeds (optional, but nice sprinkled on the kimchi right before jarring)

The kimchi vehicle: 

  • napa,  a 2-3 lb specimen
  • a bunch of scallions, chopped

Actually, the cabbage is your call, you could go for bok choy even if that’s what you have in the fridge or it called out to you in the market.   Also, if you want an ultra quick kimchi, go ahead and rub this on chopped romaine lettuce and eat it the same day.

The fermenting receptacle: 

I recommend using glass jars.   You can use jars you’ve already washed out and dried, at least 1 1/2 liter or  approximately 6 cups capacity for smallish cabbages.  I invested in a Bormioli Rocco Fido Glass Canning Jar and glad I did (actually I spent less than 10 bucks so it turned out being a good investment at a good value).

The steps: 

1. Wash and then quarter the cabbage, keeping the wedge intact.  Put the quarters in a colander and sprinkle with salt making sure to get the salt in between leaves.  At this point the cabbage would sit  for 4-8 hours depending on the size of your cabbage and then you’d rinse out and drain your cabbage.  I will confess that sometimes I will let the cabbage sit for 20 minutes because I have a rare disorder where I can’t wait for cabbage to sit for 8 hours, but try it both ways and see what works for you.

2. Make the spicy rub in the meantime:   The trick to making the spicy sauce is to combine all the ingredients in the proportion that makes sense to your personal sensibilities, so if you are a fan of garlic, put in a lot or if you’re a ginger fiend, get a big chunk and juice* it (*a note about ginger juicing without an electric gadget: I grate the ginger, washed and unpeeled, with a box cheese grater, grab up the flakes and squeeze out the juice with my hand or press the flakes against a wire strainer).  I don’t use measuring spoons/cups, so the following is an approximate breakdown for a 2-3 lb cabbage:
  • 3 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon honey/sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoon red pepper paste (if you are a pepper junkie and lone consumer of this kimchi, then use what you think is best)
  • 5 mashed anchovies
  • 7-10 garlic clove, pressed through a press

3. PLEASE PUT ON RUBBER GLOVES FIRST. Rub the sauce into the cabbage.  It’s important to get the rub in between each leaf, so go ahead and lift up each leaf and massage.  It’s an intimate process, but since you’re on a first name basis with your cabbage, it’s okay.  After you’ve finished with the rub down, go ahead and sprinkle the chopped scallion over the cabbage.

4. Have your jar ready. Go ahead and put your well-rubbed cabbage quarters in the jar.  Don’t be shy, get them all cozy and snug in there!

5. Go ahead and let it hang out in a dark, cool place for about five days or more before sticking it in  your fridge.  It will continue to ferment but this way you can keep it fresh for as long as possible.  Feel free to eat as soon as you’d like if fresh is your speed or wait a bit longer if you like it real ripe.


14 thoughts on “Just Make It Yourself: Kimchi

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  4. I love kimchi, but the stuff they sell in Denmark doesn’t taste like the real thing I had when I was in Seoul. Your recipe looks much more promising, so I’ll try to make my own kimchi after my exam. Thanks for sharing.

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      • I made it with Gochujang and fish sauce. I also added a jalapeño for a kick. I also used a lot of ginger juice and garlic. This was by far the best tasting result I have ever had. Thank you so much for sharing your formula. Half a jar is gone in two days!

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