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The Original Kimchi

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I was going to wait until I made another batch but what the heck. So most of you are familiar with traditional kimchi, it's cabbage fermented with a myriad of vegetables and loads of the unmistakable red Korean pepper flakes. It's spicy, tangy, fizzy and rich with umami enough to whet the appetite. But not everyone is into spicy food, and others have dietary restriction regarding the seafood in the paste blend. So I introduce the not so popular sister white kimchi. This is more akin to the European Sauerkraut, but of course the flavor profile is much more complex than just caraway seeds.


A little history, before the introduction of chili peppers in Asia, kimchi was originally made this way. Come the16th century, trade routes from the Americas finally reached most of Asia and introduced the chili pepper, though Koreans and Chinese will dispute that according the the Imperial Material Medica of those times, chili peppers were already being used as medicine since 850 and Koreans by the early 1400's, but there were no proof of cultivation. These peppers produced immediate heat sensation upon ingestion and through the theory of oriental medicine was believed to have Yang properties. Kimchi which was already known to have cooling effect or Yin properties because of its sour taste and the type of vegetable used in it is primarily eaten during the cold winter months, people started adding chilies into their kimchi crocks to balance the properties of the food and give them internal warmth in the winter. Eastern cultures believe that food can also be medicine. One legend of how kimchi with chili pepper came about was, there was a king who had weak constitution, and usually of no appetite, and guess what, the only thing he'd peck on is the kimchi side dish. The imperial kitchen who monitors what the royal family eats are at wits end on what to do. A clever court attendant who was assigned in the imperial kitchen secretly added chili peppers in the crock knowing its medicinal properties. The king ate the new kimchi, took another bite, then another, the spiciness whetting his appetite, then a few more days later the king was eating his full meal. The queen, delighted, asked her own court attendants to find out who's been preparing the king's meal. When she found out it was, the queen summoned her and promoted her rank and was designated the sole person to handle the king's meal. The news of the healing properties of the new found kimchi spread across the lands and from then on that's how people started preparing their kimchi and the plain white kimchi was left in the shadows. 






Edited by Wild_Yeast (log)
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Nice story!  So how is the plain white kimchi made? Are you planning to document it as you go? I'm probably not the only one who would enjoy seeing it if you do.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I was going to wait to do a step by step, but decided I was gonna split it in a few parts instead. I just made this jar on the pic three days ago so it will be a few weeks til I make a new batch. 

But I'll share the recipe now for those who want to try them out.


White Kimchi

1 large Napa cabbage 4-6lbs

1/2 cup kosher or sea salt

1 small Korean radish 1/2-3/4 lb, peeled

1 small bunch Asian chives 

1 small carrot, peeled 

3 jujubes, pitted 

1 bunch Minari stems, save the fronds for other dishes (optional)

1 large Korean pear, peeled and cored

24 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled

1 small onion, peeled

2 tbsp sea salt 

4 cups water


- Remove the ugly outer leaves of the cabbage. Split cabbage in half. Then slit the halved cabbage just at the core, keeping the upper leaves intact. Rinse under cold water and try to get water between the layers drain thoroughly. Do not pat dry.


- Transfer your cabbage in a basin large enough to hold both halves. Pry the outer layer of leaves gently, just enough for you to sprinkle salt inside, repeat to all the other layers til you get to the core and repeat to the other half. First lay the cabbage halves cut side up, if you have remaining salt sprinkle it generously on areas that looks lacking. Set aside to wilt for an hour and a half to two hours. 


- Turn the halves every 30 min, in half an hour you'll have plenty of liquid collecting at the bottom. Every time you turn it, scoop some of the liquid at the bottom and douse the leaves.


- While waiting for the cabbage, cut the jujubes, radish and carrots into matchsticks. Cut the chives and Minari stems the same length as the radish and carrots.     Place everything in a bowl and toss to distribute evenly. Set aside.


- Cut the pear and onion in large chunks, add it to the food processor with the garlic and ginger. Process till it becomes a fine paste. Transfer to a cloth bag.


- Dissolve the salt in water. Take the bag with pear/onion paste and submerge in the salted water. Use a spoon to press on the pouch to extract the juices from the paste. When you feel it's extracted enough, remove the pouch and squeeze the liquid out and discard the pulp. The resulting milky liquid will be your brine solution.


- Bring the cabbage to the sink and discard liquid. Remember the slit we made to the core? Pull it apart to make the halves into quarters. Rinse under cold water twice, then squeeze gently to get rid of excess water. 


- Starting from the outermost leaves, stuff each layer with the daikon mixture. Repeat till all layers are dressed. Pack firmly into sterilized jars, take care not to pack them too tightly but don't have too much space gaps in between either.


- Pour the pear onion brine in the jar over the cabbage. If you have rocks for pickle weights, set it on top of the cabbage now. Clean the mouth of the jar and screw lid loosely. Let it sit on the counter for 3 days. 


- After the initial fermentation, place in the fridge for another 7 days. Then it's ready to eat after that. 


*if you don't have pickle weights, it's perfectly fine. Just use a clean ladle and push down gently on the cabbage to expel CO2 pockets from between the leaves    during the first three days. And at least once a week when it's already in the fridge. 







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