This method for making kim chi starts with soaking the napa cabbage in a salt water brine, then massaging the vegetables, mixing with a chili garlic paste, and packing the vegetables into jars to ferment. I was inspired by the book Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christoper Schokey for this method, then put my own twist on it to taste. This essentially combines the dry salt method in making sauerkraut with the brine method used for making pickled vegetables, in that you do make and use a brine, but most of it is drained off before massaging the cabbage and packing it into jars. This is certainly not the most authentic kim chi recipe out there, but it is super delicious, still full of probiotics, and is easy to both obtain ingredients for and to put together, especially for beginners to fermentation or specifically to kim chi.
The bright red color for kim chi is known comes from a special type of Korean chili flake called gochugaru. You can find these in specialty stores, Korean markets, health food stores or online, but do try to use this if you can both for color and flavor. They aren't as hot as crushed red pepper flakes, and they add a bright, fruity flavor as well. You can increase the heat here to taste by adding fresh or dried hot peppers if you like. Be sure to massage and pack using food safe gloves to prevent burning your hands if you can find some.
I use fish sauce, usually Red Boat brand, in my recipe, but feel free to omit it or substitute shrimp paste instead.
Adjust the fermentation time to your taste preference. I suggest 2 weeks here, but if you like a milder flavor, let it sit for less time. Once fermented to your liking, transfer to the fridge, where it will keep for up to a year.
Kim Chi with Napa Cabbage
Makes 2 1/2 quarts
1 large head napa cabbage, cleaned and halved
Brine: 1 cup salt to 1 gallon filtered water; will need about ½ gallon here
2 medium daikon, thinly-sliced
4 medium carrots, thinly-sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced
4" ginger, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 hot pepper, sliced
1 Tbs Korean chili powder (gochugaru) or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp fish sauce
Dissolve salt in warm water to make brine. Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl. Completely cover with the prepared brine and place a plate on top to keep the cabbage fully submerged. Let this sit at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the brine at room temperature. The cabbage will begin soaking up the brine during this time, which is why no more salt is added to the recipe for fermenting.
Remove cabbage from the brine, draining in a colander. Save the brine aside for later.
Chop cabbage as coarsely or finely as you like (I prefer bigger chunks, but either way is fine) and add to a large mixing bowl. Mix in sliced daikon, carrots and scallions. Massage well to begin softening the vegetables, about 5 minutes.
In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger, hot peppers, chili flakes/powder and 1 cup reserved brine. Puree until well-mixed, creating a thick paste. Mix into vegetables with gloved hands.
Pack the vegetable mixture into jars or a ceramic crock, pressing vegetables down until all air is remove and the brine rises above them in a solid layer.
Place a weight on top of the vegetables to keep submerged during fermentation. Cover with a lid, screwed on not too tightly if using jars, and let sit at room temperature for 5 days, up to 2 weeks.
Transfer to the fridge when fermentation is complete, where this will keep for up to 1 year.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.