Garden to Table: How To Make Traditional Korean Kimchi

While fermented foods are becoming ever more popular, they’re nothing new, having been around for thousands of years. Kimchi is a traditional food of Korea touted for its health benefits.  Like most fermented foods, it’s simple to make and well worth the wait for it to fully develop because the matured flavour is just outstanding.

There are nearly 200 versions of kimchi, but the most common use this method: salt cabbage then add a paste of red pepper powder, fish sauce, garlic, onions, and ginger to scallions and radishes (I also add in carrots)– that’s practically it in a single sentence. These nutritious foods are mixed and allowed to ferment until, voila, kimchi is created.

kimchi 1

Gather ingredients (this makes quite a bit so maybe halve it):

  • 12 lbs napa cabbage
  • 4 cups each matchstick cut carrots and daikon radish
  • 1 good handful scallions
  • 4 cups water mixed with ¼ tablespoons rice flour (plain flour is fine), heated just to a boil
  • ¼ cup brown sugar added into water and flour mixture, bring to simmer, turn off heat
  • 1 cup garlic
  • 4 teaspoons ginger, or more
  • 2 cups onion (puree is added to flour mix)
  • 1 cup fish sauce (optional, I’ve made without but it adds nice flavour)
  • 2 cups hot red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup fine chopped fresh hot red pepper, including seeds

All kimchi ingredients can be purchased at your local Asian market.  Some even sell premixed paste.

Let’s begin…

Starting at the stem, cut cabbages in half lengthwise. Rinse to dampen then rub salt between each layer of leaves and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop green onion and matchstick daikon radish and carrots.

kimchi 3

Puree garlic, ginger, and onions until smooth.  In a medium saucepan, combine water with rice flour (plain flour is fine) and heat just to a boil. Add brown sugar into water and flour mixture, bring to a simmer, turn off heat. Pour sugar, water, flour mixture into garlic, ginger, onion puree and combine well.

kimchi 2Add fish sauce and hot red peppers to the wet mixture; mix well.  Pour sauce over green onion, daikon radish, carrot mix and stir to coat thoroughly. Pour the excess water released from the salted cabbage away and rinse the cabbage well. It’s lost its crispness and will be very pliable now. Slice at the stem and split each half lengthwise again.  Gently squeeze out any excess water and fold in half neatly. The cabbage is now ready for the veg/puree paste.

kimchi4

Evenly fill each layer of cabbage with the veg mixture. Fold cabbage in half or thirds and coat the outer cabbage layer with mix then place tightly in an airtight container. At just one week old sitting in 55° F/13° C or thereabouts, it has reached perfection– beautifully sharp, tangy, hot, and sour. I always try some on the day I make it; sure it’s not fermented yet, but it’s delicious just the same.

See the bubbles expressed with a bit of pressure on it? That’s the gas produced from the lactic acid fermentation and is a sure sign things are going well. The other sure sign is the odor. The nose knows if a ferment is going well or not.  And look at all the extra juice that’s been released from the vegetables; perfect for drizzling a bit over a side of accompanying rice.

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Click on the infographic below to read in depth about kimchi.

kimchi facts

Thanks for reading and happy, healthy eating,

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One year ago today this blog started with the intention of it being a place for my sewing school tutorials to be accessible for students. Funny thing is, it was many posts in before I wrote anything at all about sewing. That’s just how it happened. And that’s how it has continued. I really appreciate everyone who has read my ramblings.

Coincidentally, my first post was about fermenting as is this, my anniversary post.

With love and gratitude, Melissa Xx

29 Comments

    • No, I think that is what some cultures did. It was nice and cool in the earth, the original ‘fridge’. Fermenting is how our forefathers preserved food before refrigeration and heat processing. There are different methods used in different countries, Korea, Russia, Poland, much of eastern Europe and Asia. It has a very interesting history. I would love to listen to your friend talk a bit about his experience… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Hey Melissa,
    You made your kimchi…..wahooo! I remember you mentioning how much you love it. Is that your daikon in the picture….I thought I was the only one who couldn’t get it to grow straight 🙂
    Congrats on your blog anniversary!
    Stan

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    • Stan, Hiya! You ran through my head as I was working on this post, funny enough–I don’t communicate with many other fermenters.. I made it a couple of other times but used modern recipes. Decided to do the traditional paste this time and it is surprisingly similar tasting but I do prefer this way, the larger bites of cabbage rather than shredded, and how they are wrapped parcels that cut up into such prettiness. The heat is more intense also, nom, nom!!

      Did you grow daikons this year? Yes indeed, these are mine. This is my second year growing my own and it does love to curl about. I’m thinking it needs a VERY deep bed to grow straight, problem becomes rotating them in the garden year after year. I rather like the alien look of them though they are a challenge to slice sometimes.. I don’t grow massive amounts as a little goes a long way, you know what I mean. It was pushing off the stones below and rising several inches above the soil in the end, growing upwards! I have also enjoyed sauteeing it with cabbage and onions. It’s so crisp and clean tasting.

      Hope you and Becky are well. How was your summer? Stay in touch, miss you, Melissa Xx

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  2. Pingback: Garden to Table: How To Make Traditional Korean Kimchi | sondasmcschatter

  3. Yum! One year while I was working as a painter with a good friend of mine….two women house painters, can’t beat that!……we ate bread ( homemade sourdough, mine) with homemade Kimchi ( her’s) everyday. I will always remember how much we would look forward to our fermented lunch . She is a friend of Sandor Katz, and this of course inspired her Kimchi making efforts. Still some cabbage waiting on the sidelines..I better get started, this post helped to remind me Melissa….thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ferments each day keeps the doctor away, but really the taste is what keeps us coming back for more isn’t it?! So darn good. Kimchi is one of my favourite veg ferments followed by salsa. I do love hot and spicy the most. 🙂

      I can just imagine the fun you had working outdoors house painting with a good friend sharing a wonderful meal each day. Work should always be something to look forward to such as that! Hope you are well. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Fermenting Magic | The Aran Artisan

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