Sliced cabbage kimchi in a serving dish.

I came to realize that the whole world is spelling Kimchi rather than Kimchee. Whatever people prefer to write, it is the one and only side dish that Koreans can’t live without. I finally took myself out of comfort zone and made some Kimchi the other day. I am very thrilled to introduce the “how to” of Kimchee but I can’t put all the detail in just one post. So I am going to split the post into sections.
Yes, there are many easy and fast version of cabbage Kimchee of course. But it is fall cabbage season now and this is the way we prepare Kimchi at this time of the year.

November through December is busy season for most Korean home cooks. It is the time we prepare endless batches of Kimchee (Kimchi) to last through the winter.  We call it “Kimjang(김장)“. We store them in a big stone earthenware jar and bury in the ground to keep them outside so they don’t go frozen in the below zero temperature.  However the arrival of Kimchee refrigerator has changed the life of most Koreans. It keeps the fermentation level of Kimchee in the most ideal temperature so that you can enjoy full flavor of Kimchee all year round.

Whole cabbage kimchi wrapped in cabbage leaves.

I remember my mother used to make 200 heads of cabbage into Kimchee every November. Yes, 200! We had a big family… It was a pure labor and of course, she had help from neighbors. It was beautiful culture in my home town, when I was growing up, that we look after each other. Whether it was delicious goodies, or needed a shoulder to cry on, we all shared as neighbors. Rain or shine…

The slices of radish flying out of the chopping board, the pounding sound of smashing garlic and ginger in a stone mortar, and Oh! the smell of fresh fish sauce my mother makes…  As kids my sisters and I squatting down next to the ladies pinching our nose to observe the wondrous moments in life.  I still remember the loud sounds of middle aged Korean Ajumma-s chatting and laughing. They made fun of their husbands (in a good way), gossiping about the celebrities (who got the nose job done recently), talking about their lost dreams and hopes in life, they mingled and shared their thoughts as a wife, a mother, and a woman. When the Kimchee making is over, it was boy’s job to dig the ground to bury those jars. And the feast of eating freshly made Kimchee with hot rice and yellow bean paste stew…  my, oh, my!
I wish I could have painted those scenes on the canvas to preserve the memory. How I miss those times!

So I am going to share with you how we make our Kimchee in authentic way. The ultimate cabbage Kimchee recipe you will ever find in the internet. Of course I am not going to make 200 cabbages, not in a million years! I am only going to use 2 cabbages. But this will last a few weeks in our home.

If you are looking for how to make easy and fast version, this is not the right tutorial for you. Kimchee making is a work but you will enjoy the fruit of your labor for a long time and it is not that difficult to master the skill as long as you learn some know-hows.
I will guide you step by step. Enjoy this online tutorial class for free. If you enjoyed it a lot, you can thank me by leaving some words for me. That will cheer me up.
So follow me, my apprentices…

Introducing the 3 important key ingredients;
A few heads of napa cabbage.
 The main ingredient, Cabbage!

Select the ones that are heavy and dense. Greener outside and yellower inside.

A package of Korean sea salt.Korean coarse sea salt.
Salt, perhaps the most important ingredients in Kimchee.

I highly recommend to get Korean coarse sea salt.
You can use Chinese product, which is common in Asian grocery market, but I often find the Kimchee made with Chinese salt yield bitter taste.
DO NOT substitute with TABLE SALT!
Your Kimchee will be beyond imagination salty and your kidney will hate you.

Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
Korean chili flakes. Look for coarse flakes (even thought the package says powder)
I always use chili flakes produced in Korea, not from China nor Mexico.
Check their origin in the back side of package.

Got the above ingredients right?
Now, you are about to enter the school of Korean Kimchee making.


Chapter 1

The cabbage baptism by immersion

Outer leaves of napa cabbage.
Tear off the rough outer leaves, about 2-3 leaves from each cabbage. Set aside.

They will be used to wrap Kimchee later or make wonderful cabbage soup.

Giving a slit to a whole napa cabbage.

 Cut a slit on the stem about 2″ deep all the way down.

Opening up the Napa cabbage to show inside.

Open up and reveal their inner beauties to the world.

Rinsing napa cabbage in water.

Give another slit on the top end part about 1 1/2″ and rinse each cabbage half.

Adding sea salt in a bucket of water.

Look for a large container to make salt water in.
The best ratio of salt to water is 1:10.
You will need to soak the cabbage for at least 12 hours. Yes, you heard me right, 12 hours!

I recommend to do this at night before you go to bed or in the morning before work.

Dissolving salt in water.

Dissolve salt in the water.
I use 3 cups of salt and 30 cups of water.
Hmmmmm, when was the last time I took my salt bath…?

Sprinkling salt to cabbage leaves.

Before you dunk the cabbages into the salt water, sprinkle some salt onto white stem part of each leaf of cabbage. The white stem part requires more time or salt than leaf to loose its moisture

Placing salted cabbage into brine.
Put cabbage halves in salted water, press down so the solution can sip through the layers.
Don’t panic if the water doesn’t cover the cabbage completely. It is okay!

Sprinkling more salt on top of cabbage.

Sprinkle a little more salt on top of the stem part of cabbage.

Covering with cabbage leaves.

Cover them with the reserved outer leaves.
Getting ready for holy ceremony…

Placing heavy rocks on top of cabbage in brine.

Cover with plastic and place something heavy on top to keep them immersed in the water.
Now you can go to bed. You need your 8 hrs of beauty sleep and cabbages need their rest.

Wilted napa cabbage.

After my 8 hrs of sleep, this is what my cabbage look like in the morning.
Somewhat submissive but not quite there yet.

Turning the cabbage to the other side.

You need to turn them to the other side and continue to soak for another 4 hours or so.

A hand bending cabbage leaf.
Bend their stem to see if they are willing to be submissive to you without breaking.
If they bend like that, your cabbage is reborn. If not, put it back for 2 or more hours.
My cabbage was baptized over the night and she was reborn. Hallelujah!

Rinsing cabbage in running water.

Break the the cabbage half into another half. That will make cabbage quarters, right?

Rinsing the cabbage with water.

Rinse them 3 times.

Draining cabbage in a colander.

Drain them thoroughly. You need to drain well. I let them rest on the colander for 2 hours.

Now the long soaking business is over.
The success of making good Kimchee depends on this soaking part.
If you master this step, your Kimchee is 80% done.
So, go out and celebrate your accomplishment! Cheers!

I am going to end the first section of Kimchee making class here today.
I can only write so much in one sitting because my buns are getting tired and my kiddos are nagging for some snack. Hope you understand…
I promise I will come back in a few days with the next step, the sidekicks of Kimchee!

Ingredients for kimchi filling.
Until then, Hasta la vista, baby!