Kimchi is, quite definitely, a bit challenging for the novice taster. Although the flavor is a wonderful explosion of sour & sweet & salty carried by a succulent crunchy bite, the aroma is enough to clear the room. A Korean favorite for centuries (there were once over 60 varieties of kimchi), it is a mixture of cabbage and/or root vegetables fermented with flavorings and enjoyed as a side dish. I find it a perfect foil for a cold, hoppy beer. Traditionally, one form of kimchi was buried in the ground in a ceramic pot for weeks before being dug up and consumed. Now that the 21st century has arrived, of course, you can keep your hands clean by using this $1149 electronic kimchi maker. Somewhere in between is the following recipe that allows you to practice the magic of kimchi on your own kitchen counter. I’ve been tinkering with it for a couple of years now, and I think the results rival much of the commercially made kimchi I’ve tried. For you culinary history buffs, here’s a little kimchi background.
makes about 2 quarts
1 large head Napa cabbage, quartered, cored, & leaves chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 thumbs of ginger, peeled & minced
1 ripe D’anjou pear, peeled, cored & chopped
2 teaspoons nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1/2 cup Korean coarse red pepper powder
Dissolve salt in 2 cups water. Don’t worry if the salt doesn’t completely dissolve; just keep stirring until most of it is dissolved. Pour water (and any undissolved salt) over cabbage in large bowl. Toss to combine well. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, tossing every 30 minutes. Cabbage bulk will deplete by about half.
Drain cabbage in large colander and rinse well. Rinse large bowl and dry. Squeeze water from cabbage in double handfuls, then place back in large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and toss to combine. This works best if you use your hands, but NB if you have any cuts on your hands/fingers, they WILL sting. Use latex gloves if you’re a wuss.
Compress cabbage mixture into two 1-quart plastic takeout containers (like these) with one or two tiny holes poked in tops. Store at room temperature for one week, shaking once a day. Refrigerate for a day, then enjoy. Keeps, well, for a long time, I think, but I’ve never been able to stop eating it long enough to really test that. It does get a little more pungent with age. And by pungent, I mean quite stinky. Yummmm.