Kimchi. You like it or you don't. You might not even know what it is. But if you know what it is and you dig it, you can make it yourself. And if you get a fellow foodie to help, it will take no time at all.
It was Christina's idea and it was inspired. I probably wouldn't have taken up this adventure on my own, in spite of being a first-rate condiment-aholic.
Christina suggested we use the recipe from In Praise of Leftovers our guide. It was a good suggestion.
Take a few hours on a rainy day and make kimchi. You will be so happy. You will have a big jar of spicy, crunchy, aromatic Korean goodness and you won't want to share. And that's OK.
First, salt the cabbage. You will need:
1 (2-lb.) napa cabbage, trimmed, and cut into 2- to 3-inch rectangular pieces (about 15 cups)
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
This is kind of like making lasagna but the cabbage is the noodles and the salt is the tomato sauce. A layer of cabbage, a sprinkle of salt, a layer of cabbage, a sprinkle of salt, you get the idea. Put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cabbage and then weigh down with anything heavy. We used a container of flour. Let the cabbage rest at room temperature for 3 hours.While the cabbage is salting, have coffee and talk for a while. Then make the paste.
This paste is fabulous and I've been using it on just about everything. You will have to get your hands on some gochu garu - Korean red pepper flakes. A Korean market will have them. Perhaps any Asian market might have them. I picked up a bag at Uwajimaya's. By the way, you can get a giant tub of gochu garu paste there too. But we needed a specific paste for our kimchi. So here is what we used:
1 cup gochu garu (coarse Korean red pepper flakes)
3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. salt
1 medium apple, unpeeled, cored and quartered
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
6 to 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 oz. (about 1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and thickly slicedTo make the paste, combine the gochu garu with 1/2 cup water. Add the sugar and salt and mix well. Set this aside.
In a food processor, purée the apple, onion, anchovies, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the purée to the red pepper paste and mix thoroughly. The recipe we followed instructed us to refrigerate the paste and use it the next day. In the spirit of wanting kimchi sooner than later, we used the paste roughly three hours after we made it.
This paste is fabulous. Sweet, hot, salty - the trifecta of the perfect condiment. I will be making this again just for the heck of it so I can eat it with everything. The paste will keep in the refrigerate for up to 3 months.
Now have some lunch.
About fifteen minutes before your three-hour cabbage salting stint is over, prepare the daikon radish.
For the daikon mix:
3/4 lb. daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp. granulated sugar
8 to 10 scallions, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or chopped (depends on how big of a chunk of garlic you want to bite into later)
2 oz. (about 2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
In a medium bowl, combine the daikon, 2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp sugar the sugar. Let rest for 15 minutes.
With your hands, rub the daikon strips until they’re soft and pliable. Drain the daikon in a colander. Wipe out the bowl. Gather the daikon into a ball and squeeze out any liquid; return to the bowl.
Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger to the daikon and toss to distribute. Add the daikon mixture to the cabbage and toss again.
After your cabbage has been salting for three hours, transfer it to a colander, rinse briefly, and let drain. Take handfuls of the cabbage, squeeze out any excess liquid, and put the squeezed cabbage in the bowl. Wearing disposable plastic gloves, use your hands to mix 3/4 - 1 cup of the kimchi paste with the cabbage mixture. Be sure the cabbage mixture is thoroughly coated with the kimchi paste. At this point taste it because you might want more salt or you might not.
Put the cabbage in a gallon-sized plastic freezer bag. Seal the bag almost all the way. Starting from the bottom of the bag, roll the bag forward to expel air. Try to prevent liquid from seeping out of the bag. When you have almost reached the top, seal the bag completely. Let the kimchi ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.
The next day, transfer the kimchi and its liquid to a sterile wide-mouth glass jar big enough to allow for extra space and refrigerate. You can eat this immediately or wait 24 hours or longer, depends on how fermented a flavor you like. Kimchi will last in the refrigerator for at least 4 weeks.