It's taken me 35 years to make my first batch of kimchee, for shame. Twenty of those years I wasn't interested enough to put in the effort but that's no excuse for the 15 years of buying kimchee laced with MSG, for shame, for reals. Especially now that my mother rants how I need to learn how to make kimchee for the family before she passes (morbid, I know, but oh-so-Asian).
Throughout my childhood making kimchee always seemed like a huge ordeal; newspapers lined the kitchen floor, big silver bowls full of salted cabbage, rice flour paste in another, 12 quart glass jars ready to be filled. It would make sense that the process intimidated me. My favorite moments on those days were the taste tests, when my mom would call me and my brother over to taste and make sure the flavors and seasonings were correct. She would say, "I've tasted it too many times, I don't know what's what." Of course, my brother and I would go back for seconds, then thirds, then get a big spoonful of rice to eat with the fresh batch.
Kimchee goes through several levels of taste from start to fermentation to super duper fermentation. Initially, right when its being made, it tastes FAN-TAST-TIC, then not so much for day or 2. It hits it peak point about a week after its been packed and perfection for stews and soups when its extra fermented, about a 3 weeks. You know that its gone bad when you can sense "effervescence" on your tongue. The con to having and making kimchee is that it will stink up your house, fridge, and your mouth. On the other hand, the health benefits of kimchee make it worth it (right?? I keep telling myself that, not so sure if my husband and house guests agree). Kimchee is a probiotic in addition to being a antioxidant and being rich in Vitamin A and C.
This recipe is my mom's, its the perfect amount to make with one head of Napa cabbage and fill a 8 quart jar. If that's still too much for you, split it with a friend. Oh and get yourself several boxes of baking soda for your fridge to zap up the odor.
1 head of Napa Cabbage (tightly bound), cut into quarters, length-wise
3/4 cup of Coarse Salt, divided in half
5 cups of warm water, plus 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Sweet (or glutinous) rice flour
2 tablespoons Salted, Fermented Shrimp (if you can't find this, you can just use fish sauce)
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 cup Gochugaru (Korean Red Pepper flakes)
1/2 tablespoon Sugar
1/4 of a small daikon radish, julienned
1/2 cup of roughly chopped Minari, including stems (also known as water dropwort or Japanese parsley, not mistuba)
1 cup of roughly chopped Red Mustard leaves, including stems
1 Daepa (also known as a Welsh Onion, its in between a leek and a scallion), chopped 1-inch long.
2 Scallions, chopped 1-inch long
Begin with salting the cabbage to extract the water from the leaves. Dissolve 6 tablespoons of salt in the warm water. Take the quartered cabbage and wet in the water, then squeeze out the excess water, saving the salt water. In a large bowl, salt between each cabbage leaf with the remainder of the salt. Cover the salted cabbage with the salt water and soak with a weighted object. Leave for 4-6 hours, rotating the cabbage every 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the sweet rice flour paste. Bring a 1/4 cup of water to a boil and slowly add the sweet rice flour while whisking to prevent clumping, it should be the consistency of pudding. Once cooled, add the shrimp, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and gochugaru until combined. In another medium sized bowl, combine the rice paste mixture with the rest of the ingredients and mix well (gloved hands work best for this) to make a relish. Set aside until the cabbage is ready.
After 4-6 hours of salting the cabbage, rinse it well under running water at least 3 times and squeeze out the excess water. Now you're ready to season with the relish. Spread relish mixture in between each leaf of cabbage, as equally as possible.
Pack the kimchee tightly into a 8 quart jar and let sit in room temperature for 1 day in a cool, dry place so that fermentation can begin. Transfer jar to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 days. It can be kept up to a month in the fridge.