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Making Kimchi at Home

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I have to chime in here.  It's really easy!  All the soaking, brining, etc are silly.  What you have to do is get the proportion of vegetable to salt close to optimal.  David Leibovitz's recipe - is a good one - but I have a slightly different slant.  I have fermented cucumbers and sauerkraut since I was a kid.  Kimchi, I've adapted to use similar methods - though I've known people who make kimchi and incorporate their methods too.  


Here's the drill.  


You want about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons salt (non-iodized) per quart in the final ferment.  I don't use coarse salt here but if you do, use a bit more. This is the key to making it ferment correctly and having it last.  Everything else is not as important. Methods that make a brine and then soak are not very precise because of the variability of the veges - the brine is accurate, but the veges weaken it when added.  The veges are quite variable.  So I make sure that so much salt is in each fermenting jar - so the proportion is always correct (but there is quite a bit of leeway here so don't worry too much).


So, chop a bunch of Chinese Cabbage up - about 1 inch slices is nice. Use one large cabbage - about 2-4 lbs. You can add some mustard greens, daikon (I like it cubed not grated), and other cruciferous veges here, but if you are just starting out - make it mostly Chinese Cabbage first.  Add a couple tablespoons salt and put in a large non-reactive container.  A large food-safe bag will even work.  Cover and leave overnight. Lots of water should come out.


Next day, add garlic, green onion, ginger, and hot pepper flakes or powder (I like it sort of in-between a powder and flake) to taste. Julienned Carrots can be added here too.  You can add shrimp (little salted ones), dried fish, squid, oysters, etc. if you like.  I also like fish sauce in it too (it's sort of a substitute for the other fish) - a couple tablespoons per cabbage.  But you don't need these and you can make it completely vegetable.


Another ingredient you sometimes see is rice powder, and sometimes sugar.  These also are not necessary. They seem more useful in other kimchis based on other ingredients besides Chinese cabbage.  For a basic one,  leave it out.


So then mix all these things up, and pack into jars - tight as possible with some liquid at the top. You need to nearly fill each jar without any air space.  A partially filled jar will NOT work - and the kimchi will mold or rot.  So you will likely have some salted veges leftover - and you can use this for another dish.  If there is not enough liquid top off with good water. If your tap water is 'off tasting', filter it or use bottled water. luckily I have great tap water here.  But normally I get more than enough liquid from my Chinese cabbage.


See how many jars you fill, and add more salt so that each jar totals about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons per quart. I think you can do the math here.  You don't have to be exact - just close.


Put a lid on the jar/s (I like the plastic lids you can buy now for canning jars), and tighten, then loosened about 1/8 turn or so.  You can put a piece of plastic bag (from a freezer bag) on the jar first, then the screw-top lid, but I find that for kimchi this is not that necessary - it is for cucumber pickles however. You don't want it too tight.


Then Put these in a cool place, where some leakage can occur (set in a large rubbermaid container for instance).  Not in the fridge, but in the basement, garage (unless it's hotter there), pantry, etc.  In the middle of the summer this is sometimes hard to find this sort of place!


Leave for a few days to a few weeks, really depending on how fermented you like it. Then If the jars are really filled to the brim, take a little out.  Tighten the lids, though still not 'really' tight and put in fridge.  Some people like this really old, but I prefer it fairly young.  Old is good as an ingredient though (in Korean soups, stews, pancakes, etc.).


That is it!


Note - some people said you can start kimchi with an already fermenting one.  Well, I've done that.  It usually results in a mushy texture.  I think it exposed the ingredients to enzymes and acids too soon - and the ferment gets out-of-wack.  I don't do this any more.  I get much better results just using fresh, raw ingredients.  The correct bugs are there and in the right proportions.

Edited by loki (log)
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