Korean Kimchi with Daikon, Cabbage and Hot Red Pepper Flakes
Unless your grandmother was Korean, you probably didn’t grow up with spicy cabbage fermenting in your home. And that’s a shame, really. The sweat-inducing, digestion-aiding ferment is served with almost every Korean meal. In fact, the Korean Food Research Institute estimates that the average adult Korean consumes more than 91 pounds of kimchi per year, about a quarter pound per day. That’s like a hamburger's worth of fermentation!
2 lbs Chinese cabbage
1 whole daikon radish or 10 small red radishes
1 or 2 carrots
1 large onion and/or leek (white part only) or 1 bunch green onions or 5 shallots
8 cups water
60 mg (~1/2 cup) non-iodized salt
6 cloves garlic
6 tbsp ginger
1 cup Korean red pepper flakes
¼ cup vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
Chop the cabbage into 1" slices crossways. Chop the daikon into rectangular slices about ¼” thick (you want pieces thin enough to ferment well, but that won’t disappear into the dish). Cut carrots into matchsticks and slice the onions (if using green onions or scallions, don't add them yet). Stir the salt into the water in a very large mixing bowl. Add all the chopped vegetables. Leave for 1-2 hours.
In a medium bowl, grate the ginger (you don't have to peel it unless it's really old and knobby), grate or mince the garlic, and slice the green onions or scallions (see above). Add the pepper flakes and soy sauce or vegan fish sauce. Drain the vegetables and taste. They should taste salty, but not so salty that you wouldn't want to eat it. If they’re too salty, rinse well.
Wearing kitchen gloves, mix the vegetables with the ginger-chili paste for 5 minutes, until the cabbage softens. Stuff into clean jars. Push down so there’s liquid on top of the cabbage. Remove air bubbles from the kimchi with a chopstick as needed. Press parchment paper or a sealed plastic bag of brine on top so the bag touches as much of the surface of the liquid as possible. Set on a tray to catch any overflowing juice.
Store in a cool place, smelling and tasting daily for 3-7 days. Don’t seal the jar or it could explode! In a hotter room, the fermentation will happen faster. The more salt, the slower the fermentation (it’s a preservative). If stored in a cool basement or any cold place, kimchi will ferment more slowly, the vegetables will stay firmer and will develop more complex flavours. There’s also less chance of oxidation (undesirable sparkly kimchi). If kimchi appears dry, press down on cabbage to force juices to cover all ingredients. If mould develops on top of the kimchi, scrape it off. The rest of the kimchi will still be safe to eat. But if white mould grows beneath the top layer, discard the kimchi.
When fermented to your taste, discard parchment paper or brine bag, cover jars with lids and transfer to fridge.
Kimchi keeps for about 6 months to a year.