Kimchi Making #1
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.
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…
Select the ones that are heavy and dense. Greener outside and yellower inside.
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.
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.
The cabbage baptism by immersion
They will be used to wrap Kimchee later or make wonderful cabbage soup.
Cut a slit on the stem about 2″ deep all the way down.
Open up and reveal their inner beauties to the world.
Give another slit on the top end part about 1 1/2″ and rinse each cabbage half.
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.
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…?
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
Don’t panic if the water doesn’t cover the cabbage completely. It is okay!
Sprinkle a little more salt on top of the stem part of cabbage.
Cover them with the reserved outer leaves.
Getting ready for holy ceremony…
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.
After my 8 hrs of sleep, this is what my cabbage look like in the morning.
Somewhat submissive but not quite there yet.
You need to turn them to the other side and continue to soak for another 4 hours or so.
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!
Break the the cabbage half into another half. That will make cabbage quarters, right?
Rinse them 3 times.
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!
I am ready to be your apprentice… Starting my kimchee journey soon… Thank u for sharing your talents
You are very welcome, Poh peng. Let me know if you have any questions.
I’ve not made kimchi for a while and needed a reminder. This is the best tutorial I’ve ever found, wish I’d found it years ago! I cannot imagine doing 200 cabbages at once though. Gosh how times change.
I like your humour too. I’m off to baptism some cabbages now 😉
Thank you so much!
I have been searching all over the Internet for an authentic Korean kimchee recipe. Every one I found only took two or so hours to prepare and usually said things like (quick) (easy) or(unique ) and all I wanted was triditional old fashioned kimchee.
I finally came across your recipe and have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your childhood memories of it being prepared and I love the wonderful step by step layout or your recipe.
I am so excited to make it , thank you so much for putting up such an easy to follow nicely photographed recipe.
Thanks for the kids words, Bethany.
Authentic kimchi takes time and effort to make but the outcome is so worth it. Hope you can try this recipe and let me know if you have any question.
Thanks for this recipe! I have made kimchi three times now and I will keep your recipe and use it when I can!
Thank you so much for your Kim chee class. God bless you.
Thanks a lot for the recipe, I love your website, the recipes and your sense of humor. Wishing your and your family a wonderful year ahead.
Can you soak the cabbage in the salt water longer than 12 hours? Also i bought the korean chili powder yesterday and just realizes it is not flakes, will the powder would work same as the flakes?
Yes, you can. I would reduce the amount of salt just a little bit. The fine chili powder is for making chili paste and not so suitable to make kimchi. Do you think the store will exchange to the flakes for you?
The chili powder that i bought is not as fine as a regular powder. It says coarse red pepper powder. I can still see some flakes but really tiny. It also has a label that says for kimchi. Maybe this would work.
I started soaking the cabbage at 8am. I should have followed what you said to do it at night.
PS… I am also going to make the spinach side dish tomorrow n
That’s it! I guess some package says it as powder even though it is slightly flaky. Yes, use that powder(flakes) to make kimchi.
Have fun making kimchi. I would love to hear how it turns out. Please, keep me posted.
My kimchi is done. Fermenting it for a day or 2 and ready to eat. I have a big container left of
Kimchi paste from the recipe and i used 2 cabbages. I will buy 2 more cabbages to use the remaining paste. I think your recipe cam make upto 4 cabbages.
I tased my cabbage and find that it’s salty. On my next batch i will adjust the salt to make it just taste right. Thanks for sharing your delicious recipes.
My cabbage were big, 5 lb each. However I still had a little bit of filling left though. It will last long time in the fridge.
Freshly made kimchi will taste a little salty but as it ferments the saltiness will mellow down. But it sounds like your cabbages were smaller than mine, so the chances are, your kimchi might have salted more than they needed. Taste after a day and if it is still too salty, add a few 1″ slices of raw radishes with kimchi in the container. The radishes will soak up some salt from kimchi.
very well detailed instructions. I love kimchee, so much so that I even add some on top of sloppy joe sandwiches!
Thank you so much for putting this tutorial blog in details, I really enjoy reading your blog, and I cant wait to start making some kimchee (spelled it right :)) next time when i go to the korean supermarket!
I introduced my boyfriend to kimchi when we first started dating, and now he is totally hooked. So we are going to try your recipe together 🙂 Thank you once again.
Unni~~!! I received your card today!! thank you thank you~ When did you guys come back to the States?? This blog is, WOW @@~it's amazing!!! This kimchee looks awsome!! Wish we lived close by so that we can make kimjang kimchee together. Eating hot white rice with kimchee on top.. ?? ang~~~ It's like HEAVEN!!!!!! ummm~~ you are making me hungry!!!~~keep in touch. (wanna talk to you….call me or leave me your new # plz..)
Hi! You did reply to my email and I thank you for that. However, you were in the thick of preparations for your trip to Europe with your kids and I understand how stressful that can be.
Your blog is one of my favorites and I visit it every day.
Looking forward to the final chapter of your Kimchee post. My husband loves kimchee. He must have eaten a ton when we were in Korea:)
wow, kimchee!!! cannot wait for your other posts and then attempt it! =)