Recipe: Basic Homemade Kimchi
A recipe for basic kimchi that can be the base for creative uses in other recipes.
1 small head napa cabbage, about 1 pound
1 daikon radish
1 bunch scallions (or garlic chives if you can find them)
4 to 6 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt
¼ cup ground red pepper flakes (either the traditional gochugaru or chiles de arbol)
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1. Cut the cabbage in half crosswise to separate the leafiest tops from the bottom. Cut the base from the cabbage bottom and separate all the leaves. Rinse everything in cool water and set in a colander to drain.
2. Peel the daikon and carrots and cut into julienne pieces, about ¼-inch by ¼-inch and 2 to 3 inches long. Cut the onions into 1-inch lengths
3. In a large bowl, toss the carrots and daikon with about a tablespoon of salt, or enough to coat them well.
4. Cut the stem-ends of the cabbage leaves into 1-inch-wide slices. Toss them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt, or enough to coat them well, and put them on top of the carrots.
5. Toss the leafy tops and the scallions with another tablespoon or so of salt until coated and lay them on top.
6. Weigh everything down with a plate and leave it on the counter for four to six hours.
7. Stir the vegetables well, and then start packing the mixture into a very large glass jar (or multiple smaller jars). As you place the vegetables in the jar, sprinkle a tablespoon or so of ground red pepper (or less if you want it less spicy) and minced garlic and ginger over each layer.
8. Repeat this layering, and as you go, use a wooden spoon to pack down the mixture. Once it’s all in, sprinkle another tablespoon or so of salt all over the top and put the lid on tight.
9. Leave it on the counter for 24 hours, giving it a shake whenever you walk by. After 24 hours it will have shrunk considerably and there will be almost enough liquid in the jar to cover the vegetables. Use your wooden spoon again to press the vegetables down into the liquid. Store in the refrigerator, and it will keep for several months.
Notes: One of the keys to making kimchi at home is adjusting the quantities of salt, red pepper and aromatics for a number of variables, including which vegetables you use in the first place (cabbage, carrots, daikon radish and green onion are the most common), the water content in those vegetables and your own preferences for heat, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. Many kimchi makers add sugar to help feed the bacteria and balance the salt, but it can also be made sugar-free (and Paleo-friendly) sweetened with puréed banana or Asian pear. Please note that if you are using nonorganic produce, it will take longer for the kimchi to ferment because the produce was likely grown with chemicals that specifically inhibit bacteria growth.
Adapted by the Austin American-Statesman from Hilah Johnson of Hilah Cooking (hilahcooking.com/how-to-make-kimchi).