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Napa Cabbage Kimchi
Napa Cabbage Kimchi
Have you tried making your own fermented foods yet? The health benefits of fermented foods are hard to argue with and the process of fermenting all kinds of fun things on your kitchen counter is slightly addictive! I love making water kefir and homemade yogurt and I’m ready to take the plunge into trying out some other fermented foods. Cabbage kimchi is a Korean staple and the absolutely gorgeous heads of Napa cabbage are calling my name. Cabbage is packed with Vitamins K and C, as well as fiber. and Today, we’re going to make this signature dish! I researched a ton of recipes and read A LOT of tips before jumping into my own kimchi adventure. Recipes vary with a couple very important constants throughout!
First off, using Napa cabbage is key to keep this recipe aligned with traditional kimchi. The salt used for brining and the seasoning is not table salt – use a large granule sea salt or Kosher salt. Using enough salt in the process will allow for proper fermentation. If your kimchi is too salty when it is done fermenting, you can add a root vegetable (like an Asian radish) to the jar to pull some of the extra saltiness out of the kimchi. You must also use a special Korean chili powder (Gochugaru) – I found my jar in the asian section of my local Whole Foods market. Garlic and ginger are necessary as well, though you can really adjust the amounts of these for your desired taste. Finally, making kimchi is almost an art form. It will turn out a little differently each time and you can add all kinds of different vegetables to adjust the flavor or use something growing in your garden! Let’s jump in!
Start with 2 big, beautiful heads of Napa cabbage.
Slice each head of cabbage in half and then in half again.
Look at those gorgeous green textured leaves! You can cut off the core at this point – since it’s not great for eating- but I prefer to leave the quarter cabbage intact to make it easier to season it and stuff it into the jars later! Just cut around the core when it’s time to eat!
Next let’s make our brine solution. In a large saucepan, add 1 cup of sea salt to 1/2 gallon of filtered water and heat over the stovetop to dissolve the salt.
Add the quartered cabbages to the brine solution and press them down under the water. Leave cabbages to soak in the brine for 3 hours.
If you wish, add shredded carrots to the brine solution.
While waiting for the cabbages to soak, let’s make the seasoning. Peel and roughly chop the fresh ginger. Peel garlic cloves. Add the ginger, garlic, and fish sauce to a blender or food processor and pulse until you’ve made a paste. Add a bit of water if necessary to produce enough contents that everything blends smoothly.
Now let’s make the rest of the seasoning. Chop 1 bunch of green onions into 1-inch sections. I used the greens, but I also used some of the colorful bulb of these beautiful spring onions I found in the market. After researching MANY kimchi recipes, I deduced that you can add just about anything you’d like into your kimchi recipe! Mix the green onions, ginger/garlic paste mixture, 1 teaspoon sea salt, sugar, and the Korean chili powder. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients around and set aside.
When the cabbages have softened and are done soaking in the brine solution, rinse them WELL. Rinse several times under cold water. Set in a colander to drain completely.
Squeeze the excess moisture out of the cabbages after they have been rinsed and drained.
Now it’s time for some fun! WEAR RUBBER GLOVES for this part. You do not want your skin burning from the spices and you definitely don’t want to accidentally touch your face or eyes with bare hands that have been soaking in chilis, so wear the gloves! Starting with the biggest leaf first, lift each leaf and spread the seasoning paste, working up to the top leaf on each bundle. This was a lot of fun. The cabbages held up well and it was so satisfying to season each individual bit! This is also where leaving the cores intact came in handy – everything stayed together.
Now tuck your seasoned cabbage down into two quart size glass jars. Press everything down into the jar and cover with lids. Set your kimchi in a dark, room temperature place to ferment. I tuck all the things that I ferment into a back corner of my kitchen counter.
Allow your kimchi to ferment at room temperature for several days. Check on the kimchi daily and press it further down into the liquids in the jar. Some bubbling and air escaping the jars when you remove the lids is a good sign – that means all those healthy bacteria are doing their part!
Once the kimchi is fermented to your liking, it should be stored in the refrigerator. This will slow down the fermentation process. Serve alone or with any number of other dishes. There are a million and one recipes all over the internet for ways to incorporate kimchi into your meals, from fried rice to fish tacos! You can also eat the kimchi fresh before it has even fermented – eat the fresh kimchi with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Remember though that the fermentation process is what gives your all those healthy probiotics!
- 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon coarse seal salt or kosher salt
- filtered water
- 2 heads of Napa cabbage
- 1-2 bulbs of garlic, depending on desired level of garlic flavor
- 2-inch section of fresh ginger root
- 1/4 cup fish sauce (optional)
- 2 medium carrots, outer skin removed, and grated
- bunch of green onions or spring onions
- 1/2 cup Korean chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- sesame oil (optional)
- sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
- Dissolve 1 cup of salt in 1/2 gallon of water.
- Cut cabbages into quarter sections and soak in salt water solution for 3 hours.
- Combine 4+ garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped ginger root, and fish sauce in blender until a smooth paste forms. (add 1/4-1/2 cup water if needed to help blend).
- In a separate bowl, combine green onions, ginger/garlic mixture, chili powder, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and sugar. Stir gently and set aside.
- Remove cabbages from brine solution and rinse throughly. Drain.
- Use a towel to remove excess water from cabbages.
- Using rubber gloves, spread the seasoning mixture throughout all the leaves of the cabbages.
- Stuff seasoned cabbages into two quart-size mason jars and pack firmly.
- Place lids gently onto jars and set in a cool, dark place for 2-3 days to ferment.
- Eat fresh with sesame seeds and sesame oil.
- Store in the refrigerator after desired level of fermentation has been achieved.