Here's a guide to how we make kimchi, adapted from 12kg batches to something that will fit in your fridge.
- Take 1 Napa cabbage and cut into 1/4s lengthways. You can then chop these quarters into 1.5inch strips if you like, or keep them as big wedges.
- Make a 10% brine solution by weighing out 1kg/1L of water and adding 100g salt- stir it thoroughly to dissolve.
- Put the cabbage in the brine for 1.5hours.
- Coarsely grate 2 carrots and 2 mooli (or 4 regular radishes)
- Toast some kelp in the oven. Once it’s dry, simmer it with a handful of seasonal mushrooms in 350ml of water for 20 mins, reducing the liquid down to a thick stock. Drain and reserve the liquid.
- Blend 3 cloves garlic, 1 thumb ginger (optional), 1-2 tsp dried chillies and a tsp miso, adding the stock, until you have a thick paste
- Add the carrot and mooli to the paste and mix it all up. You can also chop up 5 spring onions or a white onion and incorporate into the mix if you like.
- Drain the cabbage thoroughly.
- When the cabbage etc has drained, coat it with the paste in a bowl
- Pack all this into a sterilised, clean Kilner jar (or bowl, or jam jars- whatever, as long as it’s not metal) , cover with cling film and weigh down with a plate or a zip-lock bag filled with water. Cover with cling film/clamp the lid shut.
- Leave at room temp for 3 days and then check flavour. You may need to burp the gas out every once in a while. Have a taste, leave for another 2-4 days, have another taste. Fridge it when you think it's at a good level of acidity. The time at room temp will control the ferment and produce the tangy flavour- less time=less tang, more time=more tang.
- Avoid letting the mix have contact with oxygen while it ferments!
You can change lots of these factors, especially the ingredients! All you really need is cabbage! Keep the salt consistent, both in terms of quantity and time. If the result is not salty enough or too salty, try adjusting the amount you drain the ingredients- drain less thoroughly to retain salt, or really thoroughly to ensure it’s all gone!
Fermenting is a little bit like shining light through a prism- the flavours you put in will come out in recognisable but altered ways! Sugar gets fermented into lactic acid by the Healthy Bacteria™️ so you’ll notice more tang and umami from things that would ordinarily taste sweet. The flavours will be more complex than in their raw state and you might find something interesting emerge from the mix! Successes we’ve had have been lacto-fermented parsnips with coriander and mustard seeds and lacto-celeriac with pastrami spices. Just opened up a kimchi made with savoy cabbage which seems to have worked nicely as well.
I’ve deliberately changed aspects of our kimchi batches each time we’ve made them as I think it’s nice to respond to what’s available rather than what’s ‘standard’. We’ve used different types of cabbage and different additional flavours. In general we try to make 'British' kimchi using locally sourced ingredients, so we don't use ginger. All the trials have worked nicely- even the really simple ones- except the chard batch, which I think I forgot to brine. Whoops. I would certainly offer the disclaimer that we're not experts at this! We've learned to ferment things with some confidence but even now there's the occasional abject failure. The joy of it is that it's a platform for curiosity and an adventure that unfolds more and more as you run towards it!