One of the most important dishes in Korean cuisine, Kimchi comes in a huge number of varieties. This recipe, taken from Kylee Newton’s book ‘The Modern Preserver’s Kitchen’ is hugely adaptable and will elevate everything from rice dishes to soups and stews
KIMCHI FROM ‘THE MODERN PRESERVER’S KITCHEN’ BY KYLEE NEWTON. IMAGE: LAURA EDWARDS
Kimchi is much like sauerkraut, only using a salt-water brine rather than an extracted brine, and the ingredients and spices are influenced by a different part of the world: Korea. Kimchi is not only a staple food in Korea, it is a way of life and a large part of the everyday culture, being individual not only to different regions but to each family. There are a lot of different kimchi recipes to experiment with.
This recipe is a starter recipe if you are new to fermentation, but it is worth exploring the depths of this fantastic dish and discovering its importance to the Korean community. I recommend reading the book Kimchi: Essential recipes of the Korean Kitchen by Byung-Hi Lim and Byung-Soon Lim to discover more. Lacto-ferments tend to work best with a 2–5% brine solution (some vegetables needing stronger brine than others). Traditionally, kimchi brines are around 15%, but they tend to taste very salty. So, for this recipe, I like to use a 4% brine – not too salty, but enough to aid the fermentation process.
- 1 litre (4 cups) filtered water
- 40 g (8 tsp) sea salt
- 750 g (1lb 10oz) Napa cabbage/ Chinese lettuce
- 250 g (9oz) mooli/daikon radish (about 1 medium)
- 500 g (1lb 2oz) carrots (about 3 large)
- 1 banana shallot or 2 round shallots, finely diced
- spice paste
- 1 small onion (90–100g/3–3 ½ oz), chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves (15–18g/ ½ oz), peeled
- 5 cm (2in) piece of fresh ginger (40–50g/1 ½ –2oz), peeled
- 3 tsp gochugaru powder/paste (Korean dried red chilli powder/ paste) or cayenne pepper
- Make up your 4% salt-water brine by combining the filtered water and sea salt.
- Cut the Napa into chunky slices about 5–6cm (2in) wide for the thinner top part and thinner slices about 1–2cm ( ½ – ¾ in) wide for the denser base part. It is up to you how you chop, but keep in mind how you want to present/eat it as a finished ferment. Ribbon the mooli and carrots into long, thin, wide strips using a potato peeler, turning the vegetables as you work to get the widest strips you can. Alternatively, you can use a mandolin to create ribbons or cut into very thin discs.
- In a large container, mix the cabbage, mooli and carrots with your hands. Pour over the brine so that it completely covers the vegetables (make up more brine if you need to). Weight the vegetables down under the salt brine with a plate or weights, cover and leave at room temperature for up to 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain off the brine, reserving 600ml (2 ½ cups). Mix through the diced shallot into the strained vegetables. To make the spice paste, add 100ml (generous ⅓ cup) of the reserved brine to a food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and gochugaru, and blend until completely smooth.
- With gloved hands, and using a clean 1 litre (34fl oz) jar with a wide neck tightly pack in handfuls of the cabbage mixture, firmly compressing each handful with your fist. Pour over any excess liquid from the bowl and continue to compress with your fist until you have extracted enough brine for all of the vegetables to be generously submerged. Leave enough of a gap at the top of the jar to force in an outer cabbage leaf without it overflowing or weight it down with something that ensures the brine completely covers the ferment.
- To keep the vegetables submerged, ceramic or sterilized glass weights can be used or try a plate with a sterilized rock on top, or baking stones in a muslin (cheesecloth) bag. I’ve even used a bit of parchment or a cabbage leaf pushed and wedged firmly down into the jar. You just need to ensure that the vegetables aren’t floating and are under the brine. Clean down the sides of the jar and cover the top with a piece of muslin secured with an elastic band. Leave in a dark cupboard at room temperature (ideally 18–22 C/64–72 F) for at least 3 days and up to 4 weeks.
- Taste test it along the way until it’s agreeable to your palate. Fermentation produces gases and sometimes fizz or bubbles. Some vessels may need “burping” to release these gases, if they are sealed too tight or don’t have a valve to allow the gases to be released automatically. Instead of a lid, I like to cover mine with muslin squares secured with an elastic band – this enables them to breathe without having to burp the jar. I then seal the jar when it’s ready for refrigeration and I can slow down the fermentation process.
- Fermentation times vary. The longer you leave them, the more sour and sometimes bubbly the ferments will become. Where you leave them and at what temperature will also affect the readiness. Lactobacilli generally thrive at 18–24 C (64–75 F). At cooler temperatures they’ll take longer; higher and they’ll be quicker. Check every 2–3 days by removing the weights, scraping off any mould and tasting the vegetable. It’s ready when it tastes good to you. This can take anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks.
- Once fermented, remove the weight, clean the sides of the jar of any mould and keep sealed in the fridge. Eat within 6 weeks.
The Modern Preserver’s Kitchen by Kylee Newton (Quadrille, £22) Photography ©Laura Edwards
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