I am a Bohemian girl, through and through. My ancestors came from the Czech/Slovakia area and traveled to Ellis Island long before my time to sow their roots in the wonderful United States. They came from a place called “Paa Town”, so when they arrived here in the US and were asked a surname, they removed town and went with Paa. I sure do get a lot of questions about my last name….it is very unique. If I get married someday, my plan is to change my middle name to Paa so I am able to carry it with me forever. I grew up in New Ulm, a small, full fledged German town along the Minnesota River in southern Minnesota. It surely is a beautiful place that is packed with history – Hermann the German, The Glockenspiel, Faschin and Schell’s Brewery the second oldest family run brewery in the United States! As a little girl you could often find me wearing a drindl and requesting just a plate of sauerkraut for dinner, maybe a couple of my grandma’s pillowy soft potato dumplings as well. I am still in love with sauerkraut as an adult and recently made my own through lacto-fermentation for the first time. It is so yummy and full of probiotics! I even find myself eating it for breakfast some days.
My adventures in fermenting have not stopped there. With all the beautiful cabbages and asian vegetables overflowing at the farmer’s market, I decided I wanted to try and make kimchi. Kimchi is a the Korean version of sauerkraut, a very spicy condiment with a basic base of cabbage, garlic, salt, peppers. It is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, along with healthy bacteria (lactobacilli). I looked through several different versions online before I began, and even asked a few of the Asian vendors at the market for some tips. I found this website to have an excellent video on the process of making kimchi! Once I felt like I had enough knowledge to create my own kimchi, I gathered all the veggies and the madness began!
Here is the step-by-step homemade kimchi recipe:
1. I gathered about 6 1/2 lbs. of napa cabbage and one large daikon radish. Core the napa cabbage just like a regular cabbage. Cut in half lengthwise, then in half again so you have four quarters, then remove the core from the bottom of each quarter. This picture is the napa cabbage chopped into about 1 to 1 1/2 in pieces and the daikon radish julienned. As you can see, kimchi has a much chunkier texture compared to sauerkraut.
2. Place into large bowl that you will have enough room to cover with brine and submerge the mixture. Dissolve 4-5 tablespoons of sea salt into about 10 cups of filtered water to create your brine. Pour over
cabbage and daikon, then press down with plate that barely fits inside container so that brine rises above mixture. I used a heavy pot filled with water to keep the plate in place and the mixture fully covered.
3. Let this rest for about 8-12 hours. In the meantime, I julienned 5 carrots and 1 green pepper and thinly sliced 2 leeks including green parts.
4. To make the paste above I pureed the following in a food processor:
-4 cloves of garlic
-3/4 tablespoon of dried, ground alpeppo pepper
-1 1/2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger
-1 tablespoon sugar
-2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce or tamari (which is naturally gf)
-1/4 cup filtered water
5. Once I had let the cabbage/daikon mixture rest in brine for about 12 hours I drained all of the brine off into a separate container to keep in case I needed a little extra after packing the jars. Then I squeezed all of the brine out of the mixture. To this I added the additional veggies that I had chopped.
6. Then for the fun part – I poured the paste on top of the mixture and thoroughly worked it in, coating every inch of it! It is a good idea to wear rubber gloves for this part because of the strength of the peppers.
7. Finally tightly pack into a crock or glass jars (I like to use THESE) so the brine rises above the top of the kimchi and put cover on. If you are not getting enough brine from pressing the kimchi down, feel free to add some of the brine you drained off.
8. Let ferment on the counter for about 1-2 days, (if room temperature is around 70 degrees F), depending on how you like it to taste. Some people put it in the refrigerator right away because they like a milder version, however you will not get any of the probiotic components by doing this. I taste mine every 12 hours or so to make sure I like how it is coming along. Be careful when opening the jar though because the live bacteria will cause lots of bubbles and fizz!
9. Once the kimchi meets your taste standards, place in refrigerator, where it will last 4-6 months and continue to slowly ferment.
Kimchi is great as a small side dish or condiment on a tasty burger. Need other inspirations to how to use it? Check out this site, which has lots of recipes from kimchi pancakes to fried rice. The nice thing about this recipe is you can really adapt it to include whatever your favorite Asian veggies are and modify the spice level to your liking. The only things that are a must are having the right cabbage and at least one root vegetable in the mixture. Let your creative juices flow!
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