Kimchi (or Chi-Kraut)
In just about every class I teach I talk about kimchi and what a staple it is in my home. Students
always ask for the recipe and many end up making it regularly in their own homes. Kimchi is a
traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, the most common of which are napa cabbage
and daikon radish. In addition to being served as banchan, Korean side dishes presented as part
of a meal, it can also be used in a variety of cooked dishes. We eat it just about every night with
There are all kinds of ways to make kimchi. This recipe is one I came up with because I was
looking for something without spicy pepper or onions or garlic (something easy on the breath!).
The beauty of fermenting vegetables is that you can experiment--and it generally will taste good.
You can really vary the proportions as much as you want (with the exception of the salt). If you
like ginger, add more. You can add onions, garlic, and/or hot peppers. If you just want more of a
typical sour kraut, omit the ginger altogether--use cabbage only. Or use just carrots and ginger.
- 1 head cabbage (green or purple), shredded or finely chopped
- 5-6 large carrots shredded or finely chopped
- 1/4 cup-1/2 cup minced ginger
- 1-2 Tbs Tbs sea salt (depends on how big your head of cabbage is) I tend to use closer to 2 Tbs.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl (or bowls--you may need 2 to fit it all in) and mash with a wooden spoon or something similar until juices start to come out.
- Place kimchi in ball jars (I use 2 half gallon jars) and pack down hard using the spoon or your hand until juices cover the veggies.
- Top with a small amount of water so there is a small amount of extra liquid at the top (about a half inch). Be sure to leave at least 1 inch of space at the top of each jar (contents will expand during fermentation).
- Cover the jars (not too tightly--so that air can escape during fermentation--I unscrew about a half turn).
- Store for between 7-14 days at room temperature.*
*The length of fermentation depends on the temperature. Warmer temperatures require less
fermentation time. Also, adding some liquid from a prior batch will give your kim chi a head
start and require less time. If you’re unsure about whether your kim chi is ready, one way to tell
is to watch for it to change color. It will go from the vibrant colors of the vegetables as they
looked when they started to a more muted, duller color when fermentation has taken place. I
sometimes leave the kim chi right on the counter as it ferments, so I can watch for this color
change. You can taste test if you like and re-lid the container if it needs more time. You want the
kim chi to have a little “zing” to it (like a sour pickle). If it has little or no zing, it probably
needs a little more time.
Optional: You can weigh down the veggies with flat rocks or other flat heavy object(s) so they
stay below the level of the water. I use smooth, flat stones from the beach, which we have in
abundance here in New Hampshire. You can also use special containers made specifically for
fermenting, which include weights and/or a special lid that allows gas to escape, but it’s not
necessary. I made this for years using ball jars with no weights and it turned out fine. I prefer to
have everything pushed below water level. Vegetables that aren’t covered completely will turn
brown, taste “off,” and will need to be discarded.