Kimchee Redux

Many colours in the kimchee rainbow!
Now that its officially summer, the variety of vegetables available in season at the local grocery (in my case, Rainbow Cooperative) has exploded.

I didn't make it far into the produce aisle before I started filling up my cart with vegetables - mostly because I have vowed to eat better for as long as I can take it, and to learn to love the stalk and leaf as much as I love grain and fat.

Almost immediately I was drawn to the large, beautiful Napa cabbages on display, and I remembered that I was nearly out of my home-made kimchee.

Well, said I, to myself, in my inside my head voice (over the din of other voices), this shall not stand!

I also remembered that Ruhlman mentioned recently on twitter that kimchee was "like sauerkraut only with more veg and chillis" [sic].

So I grabbed a bunch of different peppers and some beautiful pink radishes and tried to avoid the gravity well that is Gordon Edgar in the cheese department, where most of my money goes when I shop at Rainbow.

I failed. 

[ Aside: Gordon has some great new cheeses in. Check out the super runny gorgonzola, tell them Chowbacca! sent you. ]


  • 1 head of Napa cabbage, washed and cut into large pieces.
  • Vegetables of your choosing (suggestions: carrots, celeriac, kale, radishes, turnips, Daikon, endive)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 1 teaspoon of minced ginger. (Leave it out, it takes over everything.)
  • JalapeƱo, thinly sliced.
  • Bell pepper, thinly sliced.
  • Sea salt.
  • Nam-pla.
  • Dried chile flakes.
  • Kimchee starter - either kimchee and run-off from a previous batch or a small amount of store-bought kimchee (or if you're really clever, steal some from your favorite Korean restaurant). In a pinch, you can use raw sauerkraut or pickles, as long as they contain active bacteria.*
Salt cabbage generously and let rest overnight, uncovered. **

Add everything else, mix.

Let rest, uncovered, for at least 6 hours. 

Press vegetables into a mason jar, preserve run-off liquid in mixing bowl. ***

Lid jar, place in a pan or shallow dish and let rest for a week at room temperature. Bleed off any excess gas once or twice a day, drain off any fluid that may leak out of the jar (and save, that's microbial gold!).

When it seems "cooked" enough, rinse outside of the jar and refrigerate (this will retard the microbes, but it will continue to "cook" for months).


* No starters? No worries. Just let the whole works sit out for a week, covered in cheese cloth. The longer the better, up to two weeks. 

I mean, you can seal it in clay jars and bury the stuff in the bog like an actual Korean, but I'm not all that "authentic", and I don't have a bog... in Korea. 

When jarred/canned and gassy, you know the bacteria are alive and well. 

Do not discard the marination gold that is kimchee juice.

** Germ phobic? Get a copy of Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking", and buy Mark Kurlansky's "Salt: A World History." This should bely your fears about leaving vegetables in the open air, inviting any bacteria or fungus that comes by (salt kills most of the germs, and the bacteria that can survive in that environment also product high amounts of acid which kills anything else).


*** Do not even think about throwing out that run off, even if it's just from the initial pressing... It's perfect to brine short-ribs, tongue or cheeks, and then braise the same.

This week I'm doing beef cheeks (I added molasses and ginger to the brine).

I used the left-over marinade from the cheeks to marinate some chicken wings, which I cooked sous-vide.

The last little bit was mixed with molasses and used to marinate hanger steaks.


Post-script: Pickle backs. You've heard of them (if you are a hipster). You've tried them. I give you the kimchee pickle back.

Kimchee Pickle Back:


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