Ahh, yes. Kimchi. I love the simple beauty of a few ingredients turned into something that is truly unique. I've overheard many arguments in the kitchen about what kimchi should be made of, what kind of ingredients to use, and even what kind of pot to ferment it in. I have respect for all of these arguments, because they are all right in their own way. If you look up the definition of Kimchi, it is "a vegetable pickle seasoned with garlic, red pepper and ginger." It is also the national dish of Korea. (Korean astronauts actually brought some with them to the international space station) I have heard from a few sources that when some people smile for the camera in Korea, they don't say "cheese" they actually say "kimchi!"
I wanted to play around with a "non-traditional" version with a few different vegetables that we grew this year. I am personally a huge fan of the "original" fermented version made with the aromatic & unmistakeable dried gochugaru chile powder. I also love the depth of flavor you get by adding the traditional fermented fish of your choice. (fish sauce, dried shrimp, salted oysters, etc) so I added a touch of them to this version as a background flavor. I sourced some really special heirloom chiles this year from the farm. A couple of the varieties we used were: Reza Macedonian & Fish peppers. We dried some of them out to preserve them and save them for the winter.
After drying them out, we lightly pounded them in a mortar & pestile to loosen the seeds and release the oils. We removed as many of the seeds as possible to lower the spice level a bit. (these suckers are HOT enough as it is!!) This is also important for when you grind them into chile powder. You can save the seeds for another use like sausages or infused oils, etc.
We harvest these beauties throughout the season. I try to plant the seeds in stages so the we can always have some on hand. Out of all the things that we grow, Napa cabbage is definitely one of our staple/go to veggies. It's delicious raw, cooked, steamed, fermented, stuffed, you name it! Its always ready to back me up in a pinch. For this kimchi recipe, we like to cut the heads of cabbage into 2 inch by 2 inch pieces.
You can ferment the whole head, or cut in half, etc. If you want smaller pieces, you can feel free to do so. Once it is cleaned and chopped to your liking, you can mix together with onions or leeks and toss with salt & a touch of unrefined sugar. (sugar is optional)
These white carrots that we grew this year were so damn delicious! We had to put them in some sort of ferment, so that we can enjoy them later in the year. The next step is to shred the rest of your radishes and then add the grated ginger & garlic.
Combine all of the ingredients together and check the salt/seasoning. Adjust to your liking, but be sure to pack it down into clean containers and add some of the brine (see recipe) if necessary, to make sure the kimchi is fully submerged in the brine. (we weighed ours down with a clean, large, smooth surfaced river rock.) You should let the kimchi ferment for a least 8 to 10 days before refrigerating. The picture below was fermented for 3 weeks. It is tangy, floral and spicy, with the perfect crunch!
Full recipe below!
White Carrot & Watermelon Radish Kimchi
with heirloom chiles & leeks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sea salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 heads Napa cabbage, cut into quarters or 2-inch wedges, depending on size of cabbage
2 cloves of garlic separated and peeled
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 cup watermelon radish, peeled and grated
2 cups white carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium leek (whites part only)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup Gochugaru Chile Powder
2 Tbsp of dried chiles (ground into powder) We used two heirloom varieties called Rezah Macedonia & Fish Peppers.
1.Dissolve 1 cup salt in 1/2 gallon water.
2. In large bowl, combine the cabbage, shredded carrots, watermelon radish, leek, gochugaru, dried chili powder, 1 tablespoon of sea salt, fish sauce and sugar. Toss gently but thoroughly.
(Gloves are recommended due to the spicy chiles!) Let the mix sit for about 10 minutes until it starts to break down in its own delicious juices. .
3. Divide the mixture between 4 (1-quart) jars or 1-gallon jar, pressing down firmly to remove any air bubbles. (this is key)
4. Let the kimchi sit for 4 to 5 days in a cool place before serving.
You can refrigerate after you get some good fermentation on it to slow down the process. It will get stronger and more sour (better in our opinion) over time!