January 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm #256535ClarafloMember
I was tossing up where to put this. In the recipe or preserving forum? I chose here. I originally learnt to make Kim Chi from a Korean friend who showed me the basics but refused to show the secret family recipe that every Korean family has. I don’t really know how to categorize Kim Chi, it’s like many Asian pickles in preparation yet it’s pretty similar to sauerkraut too.
But here’s how you make it.
Fibrous leafy vegetables. Cabbage is traditionally used (Wom Bok) but I’ve made it with any of the Asian greens in the past as well.
Red pepper flakes, obtained from an Asian food store. This is not cayenne or paprika. It’s a completely different pepper that I don’t know the name of because the packets are always in Korean.
fine sea salt
As a cheat, you can buy in certain Asian food stores a pre-made Korean pepper paste and use that instead of the fresh spices. It’s a lot easier but then it does have some food additives in it you may not be too jazzed about. It’s the difference between using a jar curry mix and a dried spice mix instead.
Take the leaves off the cabbage, separate them, cut off any undesirable bits (throw away the white heart it gets very bitter in Kim Chi). Thoroughly wash them them layer them in a large tub, sprinkling a good handful of sea salt between each layer so that each leaf is properly salted. Fill with fresh clean water and leave to sit for 4-24hrs. The salted water breaks down the plant cells walls and starts the fermenting process. Drain off the salt water, fill the bucket again and let it sit for 20mins to leach the brine out of the vegetables. Drain off that water and squeeze the excess out of the vegetables.
Cut shallots into fine one inch pieces, grate a good knob of ginger and mix in with the wilted leaves. Add red pepper flakes and 1 tbp of seasame oil, mix with your hands until fully combined and well coated. Put into an airtight container and store in the fridge for at least 3-4 days before consuming. The vegetables will begin to ferment giving Kim Chi it’s characteristic sharp, spicy flavour. The longer it ferments the more flavour it gets. The Kim Chi will produce a juice from the breaking down vegetables that will eventually cover the vegetables and prevent it from spoiling.
Real Kim Chi in Korea is placed in heavy earthernware pots and buried in the garden for 6 months prior to eating. It’s buried in the winter and is a slow fermentation process. Kim Chi made here doesn’t last that long I’ve found. Although it’s good in the fridge for about a month. I have had Kim Chi spoil though when it gets about 6-8 weeks old. In any case the flavour is often too intense for me once it gets to about the 3 week mark.
I’ve also made variations which are by no means Korean at all but I found them tasty. Sweet and sour Kim Chi can be made by adding pineapple or oranges to the mix. The fruits are soaked in brine in the same stage as the cabbage and treated as normal. The acid fruits are fibrous enough to withstand the fermentation without turning into mush and are really good with the spices. Cucumber and capsicum also make good Kim Chi candidates.
Strongly flavoured Kim Chi can be used as a soup stock, add chicken or seafood, rice noodle and other vegetables and you’ve got a really tasty winter soup.
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