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Today I'm making kimchi for the first time. As a first timer, I decided to make a tiny amount in case of an epic fail. While many kimchi recipes call for enormous amounts of cabbage, I thought a smaller, more manageable amount would be preferable. Accordingly, I am only working with 1 napa cabbage, and a relatively puny one at that (thanks, Stop n Shop). I've read a lot of conflicting directions, and to make matters more complicated, I can't bring myself to use fish sauce ("accidentally" eating it in a restaurant is one thing, but knowingly adding it at home is another). As a result, I'm not exactly sure how this is going to turn out. Here is the process I am following, to be revised in future iterations.

Kimchi Paste

  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 slice of ginger, about 1/4" thick
  • 1/4 cup Korean red pepper powder
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • dash of soy sauce, added while cringing, to try to make up for the lack of fish sauce.

I added all these to a food processor and ground up into a paste.

Salting the Cabbage

  1. I cut off the bottom and peeled the outer leaves of one napa cabbage. I quartered it lengthwise and then cut across into 3" wide hunks.
  2. I washed these in water.
  3. I heavily salted the washed cabbage and left it to do its thing.

It's been about 3 hours and I'm looking online to see what other people have done. Be back later!


Ok. Back to report. The cabbage salted for about 4 hours, but this length of time had more to do with the flow of my day than any intentionality on my part. Two hours might be enough. The cabbage had released some water and was much softer, but the white parts retained some crispiness.

I rinsed the cabbage in water a few times to purge the extra salt. On taste it was a bit sweet and not overly salty, but very much permeated with a mild salty taste. After the final washing, I gently squeezed the cabbage in bunches to remove even more water.

I thought I would not need to use all of the kimchi paste I made (eyeballing it, it looked about 1/3 cup), but I ended up using it all. It was also a bit lacking; I added more salt, sugar (about 1.5 T), and Korean red pepper powder (about 2 T). Not adding the fish sauce was most likely the major deficit, and I found the heat level very unimpressive, even with the fresh serrano. (Korean red pepper powder isn't inherently very spicy, so you have to add a lot.) Sadly, I think I went overboard with the sugar remedy. Next time, only 1/2 T at a time! I added all 3 of the chopped scallions.

I don't think my kimchi will be spicy enough, but it sure does look impressive. It's a deep red hue. I used a tall, narrow plastic container with a snapping lid for storing the kimchi. I added the kimchi in handfuls, and each time packed it down to release any trapped air. As I went along, a thin layer of kimchi juice emerged at the top. This is the stuff that protects the cabbage from growing moldy; all of the kimchi should be submerged in it.

Now it's sitting on the counter. Theoretically a person leaves it out a few days to ferment, but on my first time I predict it will very likely find itself in the fridge before I go to bed.

I'll report back in a few days!

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