This is the recipe for kimchi that I suggest you start with. You can add and subtract vegetables as you see fit, and as vegetables become available through the seasons. Just be aware that summertime kimchi will ferment rapidly, while cold winter kimchi will take more time to get just right. And remember, too, that refrigeration slows fermentation to a crawl, putting the microbes into a kind of suspended animation. This recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how many hungry kimchi recipients are waiting. Of course, all ingredients should be organic. Vegetables or other ingredients dosed with pesticides or preservatives will kill off or set back the beneficial fermentation microbes.
Makes 3 to 4 pints
1/2 cup sea salt
2 quarts filtered or spring water
1 large head napa cabbage
3 medium carrots
1 daikon radish
3 serrano chilies, or to taste
5-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup fish sauce (without preservatives)
TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, place the salt and water in a ceramic crock or glass container and stir until dissolved. Remove the outer leaves from the napa cabbage and slice the remainder crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Place these in the crock with the brine. Slice the carrots, daikon radish, and scallions into very thin rounds and mix them into the cabbage and brine. Place a plate on the vegetables to hold them under the brine. Weigh down the plate with a closed jar of liquid, bottle of wine, or gallon-size, closed zip-top freezer bag with at least a quart of water in it for 6 hours, either during the day or overnight. After the soak, drain the vegetables in a colander and place them in a bowl. Reserve the liquid brine. To make the paste, stem the chilies and slice them in half lengthwise. Use as is if you want a hot and spicy kimchi, or for less heat, remove the seeds and membrane and discard. Mince the chilies and place them in a bowl. Add the ginger, garlic, and fish sauce to the bowl with the chilies. Transfer to thebowl of a food processor or blender and whiz to a thick paste. Put half the vegetables and half the paste back into the original crock or jar and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining vegetables and paste and mix thoroughly again. Crush the vegetables with your hands, as if performing deep-tissue massage, squeezing and crushing, for about 5 minutes, until all of the vegetables are thoroughly crunched.
PUT A PLATE ON the vegetables in the crock to push them slightly under the juices. If the top seems dry, add a little of the reserved brine to make sure everything is wet. Put a weight, such as a closed quart jar of water, on top of the plate to keep the vegetables under the surface. Cover the crock containing the submerged ingredients with a cloth to keep out insects. Punch down the kimchi every day for a week to release carbon dioxide gases and to mix the ingredients. When it tastes right, about a week or two later, spoon the kimchi into canning jars, add a little of the brining liquid so everything stays wet, screw on the lids with metal bands, and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. When you open the jars to use some of the kimchi, you’ll allow any buildup of CO2 to escape. Be sure to share with family and friends.