Kimchi! Fourth attempt at making Kimchi, everytime there are differences in how to make it, subtle changes in ingredients, an preparation. The first batch was way to spicy, almost inedible. Too much chillipowder. Second batch was not sufficiently spiced, colour was off. Third batch ok, discovered the ‘pul biber’ dried pepper flakes at the local mediterranean store. So now some more changes. The recipe was adapted after the Maangchi site, which has a nice how-to video

Its easy to start, instead of salting the cabbage, I prefer soaking it in a brine solution. The process of fermenting Kimchi is complex once you start to read about it. In this blog, it is explained that a 15% brine (1:5) solution takes out excess moisture. Harold ‘On Food and
Cooking’ McGee
says that the brining draws liquid out of the cabbage, and the endproduct should have a salinity of about 2.25%.>

Then the right temperature makes the right bacteria grow. To kickstart this fermentation process, giving preferred Lactic Acid Bacteria a chance to grow in favor of, well, other bacteria, the first days the batch can be stored in a not to cool, dark place. This will increase acidity, giving the Kimchi its distinct sour taste, and subsequently reduce the pH. This prevents mold and wrong bacteria from growing.
Ginger and garlic have antibacterial properties, preventing growth of the wrong type of bacteria too. So dont hold back on them! The starch, or rice flour, and sugar act as food for the good bacteria.
Quote from the Science of Kimchi site: “After the first fermentation, the flavor profile is at its peak, with a target pH level of 4.2-4.5 and an acidity level of 0.6-0.8%”
Well I do not have the equipment to sort this out, but some of the batches did turn out to have a distinct sour flavour, whereas other batches didn’t.
My own twist, is adding some of the ‘liquid’ from a container of yoghurt, since yoghurt is also made though fermentation with lactic acid bacteria, but these may be completely different lacobacilli, or might kickstart the right ones. Still wondering if that works though. And I also wonder about the raw oysters and squid that original Korean recipes add to the Kimchi. Why is that? Itn’t adding pungent fish sauce sufficient to make it smell?
So the process is complex, but making it is fairly easy, and if you enjoy Kimchi, it is certainly worth a try!
Ingredients for about 2-3 large jars of Kimchi

One medium size napa cabbage

15% brine, 225g salt dissolved in 1.5 l water (150g in 1l, or about a 1:5 solution)

1 onion

10 cloves of garlic

About the same amount of ginger

8 tbsp fish sauce

8 tbsp sweet rice flour

2 tbsp sugar

250ml water

‘Juice’ from yoghurt

6 tbsp hot pepper flakes

2 carrots

6 spring onions

Cut cabbage lengthwise in half, and then twice again so you have 8 parts. Mix salt with some hot water to dissolve, then add rest of cold water. Mix brine with cabbage and leave for 2-4 hours.

Prepare the rice flour porridge, add 250ml of water to a saucepan with 4-8tbsp of rice flour. Gently boil for a few minutes and add sugar. Porridge should be runny, and it is quite tasty. In other batches, I did not use this porridge, and other recipes use a mashed apple instead. Leave porridge to cool down, or place saucepan in cold water to cool.
Meanwhile peel cloves of garlic, ginger and onion. Cut carrot and spring onions in bitesize pieces.

Puree onion, garlic and ginger with fish sauce. At this stage, I’ve added the almost colourless liquid, which forms on top of some yoghurts. It does not state this in any other recipe, so feel free to leave out.

Mix porridge with pureed ginger, garlic, onion, fish sauce mixture. Mix in chilli flakes to taste.
Drain brined cabbage and rinse three times in fresh water. Cut in bitesize pieces and mix with the carrot and spring onions. I did not have any radish, I can recommend adding them to the veggies as well.

Finally, mix the porridge mixture with the veggies. Easiest is to use household gloves, or plastic throwaway gloves. Massage the mixture so all veggies get evenly covered in the mixture. I did add a bit of salt and water in the final mixture, as I assumed it should at least taste a bit salty, and have sufficient liquid to cover all the veggies.

Place in a cool place for up to three days before transferring to jars and store in refrigerator. If it starts fermenting well, you should get a slight soury flavour to it. Do not keep in tightly closed jars, as Kimchi will remain to ferment and produce *smelly* gas.

I don’t know if it is a rumour, but apparently people in Korea have a separate refrigerator for storing fermented veggies like Kimchi. Once you’ve made your batch you’ll appreciate why.

I’ve started this batch and kept it at room temperature for three days, then tiny bubbles started to appear, and it was time to transfer to smaller jars, and store them in the refrigerator. Taste! Does it get a slightly acidic flavour to it? No? Try another day outside the fridge. Now at day 4, a clear liquid with bubbles emerge, definite fermentation going on.

Kimchi is yummie to eat by itself, as a side dish, or make something, e.g. Kimchi-fried rice *hmmmmm*