About a week ago, I got a box full of napa cabbages from my aunt’s farm and was thinking of ways to use them up. Many were given away to friends and family, but a good number of them, I decided to set aside and 5 of them and make some homemade kimchi. It’s actually much easier than I thought and doesn’t take too long either. Here’s the “recipe” that we used, based on Evelyn’s grandmother’s recipe.
- 5 napa cabbages – halved
- 2 cups Korean hot red pepper powder
- 1 cup Korean fish sauce
- 5 heads garlic
- 2 bunches green onions
- 1 large bunch chives
- 1 lb ginger
- 3/4 cups salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
As a side note, these are all estimates as we just started chopping and mixing and tasting the mix as we went. You want a good balance of salty and spicy to go along with the flavours of the other ingredients. Think about kimchi that you eat at various Korean restaurants – what does it taste like? Do you prefer it saltier? Spicier? Use that as a general gauge of how the sauce tastes.
- Slice cabbages in half and soak in a large container/pot/bowl for several hours or overnight. The leaves will start to soften and wilt from the salt. The water should be salty, and mine was almost like sea water salty.
- Chop veggies and combine with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. A few tips – cut veggies “diagonally”, so you get long thin slices of the green onions and chives. I used a food processor for the garlic and ginger.
- Using your hands (get gloves if you don’t want your hands to smell and turn red from the sauce), mix the ingredients together.
- Drain cabbage and carefully start rubbing the sauce all over the cabbage halves and in between each of the leaves. You want the sauce to try to coat all surfaces of the cabbage. Squeeze cabbage together and pack tightly in a jar. I used 2 large pickle jars for the cabbages.
- Place any leaves that fall off at the top of the jar once all the heads are packed tightly in the jar.
- Seal and leave the jar at room temperature overnight, then in a cool refrigerated area.
- I found local Ontario garlic at the Korean grocery store, and the napa cabbages were locally grown from my aunt’s farm just north of the city. I can also grow the chives and green onions and chili peppers for a more locally sourced dish – though the fish sauce, salt and sugar I’m not so sure about…..
- I also threw in a few of my backyard grown and dried cayenne peppers.
- I think the Korean red pepper flakes use cayenne peppers judging from the picture on the packaging ,but I’m not sure. This, along with the fish sauce (the ingredients were listed as anchovies and salt) are the secret sauce that give kimchi and a lot of Korean food their distinctive flavour.
- Feel free to taste and eat the cabbage as you go to get a sense of how the sauce tastes.
- Go to a Korean grocery store for the ingredients – especially the red pepper flakes and fish sauce. I found a whole shelf devoted to fish sauce and soy sauce at mine.
- Enjoy – the kimchi should last for several months in the fridge or cool place – I plan on keeping mine in our unheated cold room
- When jamming the sauce in between each of the cabbage layers, start from the middle outward. It is much easier than working from the outside in.
And now for some pictures for your viewing pleasure:
mise-en-place (of the raw ingredients at least)
a food processor makes for a great time saver in the kitchen
diagonal cut chives and green onions
round one of the sauce (we ended up making it in 2 batches)
shoving the sauce into all parts of the leaves
hard at work in the kitchen
rubbing that oh-so-delicious kimchi sauce into the cabbage leaves
the final product – two large pickle jars worth with a clementine in the foreground for perspective