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Kicking it Making Kimchi

Kimchi can have many, many versions of itself…its origin is known to be Korea, and I personally liken it to a spicy, hot, glorified sauerkraut...scrumptious for those who like some pizazz!

To get some of that great flavor, you can do very simple recipes that don’t require months of fermenting buried in the ground…just a few days on your counter! Know that it’s always “better” to ferment and age things longer – the flavors intensify and change over time, and it’s just fantastic.

Set up your station and let’s get going!

kitchen counter with kimchi making supplies

Your kimchi may include: ginger, garlic, green onions, radishes, Napa cabbage (I’ve done regular cabbage when Napa is not available), and red pepper flakes/powder or the Korean version: gochugaru.  

green onions on a chopping board

Chop and shred whatever you’ve chosen – generally recipes call for 2# of cabbage, ½ to a whole head of garlic, a bunch of green onions, a radish or two, a 1-2” piece of ginger (you’ll grate that), 1-5 Tablespoons of the pepper, and finally salt: 3-4 Tablespoons all the way up to 1 cup. I’ve seen some recipes calling for fish sauce and the like, but most of us don’t have that on hand. Go simple at first!

I find it super helpful to let nature take its course and allow the cabbage to generate its own liquid a few times in the process. Once I’ve got all my ingredients prepped and in a huge bowl (mine is about 16” in diameter), I massage it a few minutes so that the salt can draw out the liquid. I use a fine celtic sea salt, so I find that just ¼ cup salt is fine for my ferment. I also get a little aggression and calorie burning out by pounding a few minutes with a tool like this.

wooden tampener next to other fermentation supplies

I’ll walk away for 10 minutes to half an hour so it can do its magic. Then I’ll pound again and massage a few more minutes, walk away for another half hour, and come back to find more liquid, and that the veggies have appeared to shrink a bit.

You can also NOT do this, and just pound your heart out for 20-30 minutes. Whatever you do, just make sure at the end you’ve got enough liquid in your jar, even if you have to add more salt brine.

After your final pounding, start packing it in, pushing the veggies down so that the liquid rises to the top.

tampering down veggies in mason jar

You’ll want a fermentation airlock.

These are great because they fit on standard wide mouth mason jars!

Easy directions for use…

label for fermentation airlock

It will look like this!

fermenting cabbage in a mason jar with an airlock

Now you can also do this without an airlock. Just make sure your canning jar seal is brand new or in great shape. And when it bulges from the gas buildup, you’ll carefully release the pressure by unscrewing the ring just a tiny bit to hear the “pfffft” sound. Then screw it back on so it’s snug.

The airlock eliminates the daily babysitting of burping your ferment because the gases are released through the water in the airlock, but it won’t allow oxygen back in…win win!

Just 18 hours later, this kimchi is kicking it already…bulge!

Top of mason jar with kimchi inside, lid bulging from gas in the jar

You can’t see how crazy my airlock system is going, but there are actually bubbles going up into the airlock! But you can see that I may have filled it a tiny bit too full – the brine is working its way up into the airlock, but that’s ok. It’ll be fine.

sauerkraut in mason jar with fermentation liquid in airlock on lid

Notice the bowls under each one – you’ll want insurance, trust me.

Now I wait a week. My kitchen is about 67º right now, which is great since I don’t want these to ferment any more than 69º. Once you hit 70º and above, it can be a recipe for mush and mold. It’s just too warm.

Here we are just 2 days in, and my kimchi is super happy!

kimchi brine bubbling up and out of fermenting airlock

It’s a good thing I utilized bowls!

My most favorite picture is next – look at the beautiful golden color of the salt brine that dried after escaping the jar.

golden salt dried to mason jar lid with airlock

After a week, it was time to refrigerate. I decided to label one as “airlock” and “no airlock” to see if there was a difference in taste since I did have to open and close the “no airlock” jar at least once a day.

As luck would have it, my folks were up for a visit, and my mama is a kimchi expert (I was too chicken to taste it because I am a baby when it comes to spicy foods). My mama learned how to make kimchi from a Korean woman when she was young. I had her compare the two jars, and one jar DID taste “better” than the other. My mama said that the airlock one had more bite to it! She said the other one was good, and could be used as a substitute…but the airlock one was definitely tastier.

There we have it, EASY-to-make kimchi! She said it was delicious with some quinoa I made with honey water…that quart jar was gone in a few days! She did leave part of the other jar for my hubby -  but he’ll want some hefty meat protein…where are those brats and sausages?

Get Fermented!