Making Kimchi From Scratch: Tips & Tricks!

Seeing how my blog is titled "Kimchi Kristy", I should probably do more things involving Kimchi, huh?  A couple weeks ago I finally had the chance, and ingredients, to make Kimchi myself! The beauty of making your own Kimchi is that you can make it spicy or mild, very fermented or just a little, and can manipulate the flavor and ingredients any way that you want! I made three kinds of Kimchi, and each one tastes a little different, though they all smell similar. I did not make the recipes myself, so I will reference the books and websites that I used for the recipes, that way you can make them too if you want! So get your apron and let's get started!

The kinds that I made were (from left to right) Green Onion, Classic Cabbage, and Daikon (Radish)! For the canning I just used mason jars and empty containers from around the house. You can buy jars pretty much anywhere, and they have so many uses that I think they are worth the purchase. You can also use empty peanut containers, I used an old cherry jar for the cabbage one, as long as they are glass or plastic. Do not use metal for storing Kimchi! That's Bad! ANDWAE! 안돼요

The hardest part of making the Kimchi is finding the ingredients! I finally found that Ground Red Pepper that I needed to make, well, every Korean dish ever! Finding Gochujang (red pepper paste), Doenjang (fermented soybean paste, slightly different than Japanese Miso Paste), Gochugaru (ground rep pepper), and Saeujeot (fermented shrimp), can be very difficult! You can find things like Fish Sauce (not the same as Oyster Sauce at all!), Ginger, Garlic, and Sesame Oil is fairly easy though.

I found that you cannot just look in a general "Asian Market" to find Korean ingredients! You can find Chinese, Japanese, Polynesian, and Indian fairly easy, but Korean is a whole other category! I had to look up a specifically Korean market to find the things that I needed. And when you do find them, buy in bulk! You need about 8 or more Tablespoons of each ingredient in each dish you make, because Korean food is anything but bland!

You can buy the Soybean Paste seasoned or unseasoned, I got the unseasoned myself. You can also buy different kinds of Red Pepper Powder, course or fine, I got fine because that's all I could really find. Once you have the different base ingredients you can pretty much make any Korean dish you want! Sadly, without them, you can't really make anything!

If you are making Kimchi remember that the vegetables will loose their water and shrink down to half their original size, so buy twice as much as you think you need! I made the mistake of buying one cabbage head and radish, and three bunches of green onions, when I should have bought twice as much of everything!

One more thing, I did not bury them in the ground for a week! They sat on the counter overnight, and that was all they needed. Kimchi is like a mix of pickling and fermenting, which is why the taste is so unique and recognizable! The only reason that Koreans would bury the Kimchi is because the winters there are so frigid that it would freeze, not ferment, if it just sat out like normal. The warmed it is, the less time it needs to be out of the fridge. Speaking of fridges! If you are serious about your Kimchi you should have a "Kimchi Fridge", like they do in Korea! I have a mini fridge in my room that I keep mine in. That way the smell wont get into your other foods, stink up your kitchen (though I think it's a delicious smell!), and your Kimchi wont absorb other flavors either~!

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to the recipes!

The first one is "Green Onion Kimchi"!! I got the recipe from a website, someone made kimchi with greens and I took that one and used it with green onions instead, like this blog recommended! Great success!! This is one of the lesser known Kimchi types, but me and my friends really love it!

I used this recipe, "Here", to make them! I changed it up a little bit, but it still tasted pretty good! Instead of using pepper flakes, I used the finely ground red pepper that I had purchased already for the other kimchi. I also sliced some chilies very thin and mixed those in as well! (I has seen them done that way before and wanted to try that instead) It came out pretty good! I also cut them in half, instead of leaving them whole, so I could have some different textures inside of it. I didn't use as many onions as I should have, and ended up transferring them into a different jar later, so if I do this again I will use a lot. Even though you don't brine them they still shrink in size after a day!

This one has a refreshing taste to it, and isn't really as strong as other Kimchi is! You can cut it up more before serving, with kitchen scissors or a knife, to make it easier to eat. 

The next one is the "Daikon Radish Kimchi"! This one I got from the book "Authentic Recipes from Korea", which you an buy for fairly cheep on Amazon ($10-$15), it has tons of great recipes by Hotel Chefs in Korea, and a lot of cultural background on the food. So I highly recommend this book! 

Daikon Kimchi is just salted in a bowl, to take out the water, then drained. You don't brine it like the cabbage. Then you mix on the paste and let it set overnight! Simple! I made mine a bit watery by not cooking the paste, by accident really but I liked the results anyways, since I like it more watery anyways.

You pretty much use the same paste in this one as the "Classic Kimchi", the process is just slightly different. I changed this one slightly as well, by just using the paste without any extra vegetable slivers, except the chives. I wanted it to just be pure Radish, not a mixture of several vegetables. You can make the cubes as big or small as you like, or a mixture of the two! 


Last, and certainly not least, we have the "Classic Cabbage Kimchi"!!! This is the Kimchi most people know about, and picture in their head when they hear the word! This one take much more work that the last two, but is also way more fun! (Speaking of the "fun" part, you will need gloves to make this one!) I also got this recipe from the "Authentic Recipes from Korea" cookbook!

The first thing you do is quarter the Cabbage, salt every leaf, and set them in a brine for 3-5 hours! You need to put a weight on them so that they stay submerged, and since I didn't have a brick, stone, or fancy "Cabbage Weight" (if that even exists, probably does though), I used a bowl filled with pebbles. 

As you press it down, the water level will rise! So I put a towel under the bowl, just in case, and took the water out over time. (You know that you walk through the kitchen all day anyways, at least I do, so you might as well check on the water level every now and then.) You cold also just put a little bit of water in it, either way!
This is where personal preference comes into play! You can let it sit for a little while, and still be a little crunchy, or let it set for a long time for maximum Kimchi-ness! The main thing is you want to be able to bend the white part without it breaking. Mine sat for about three hours before then.
Once again, do not use metal for this!! (why do we even make metal bowls, really?) So use plastic or glass for this part.

The Cabbage with shrink to half it's size after the brining process, since you press it, rinse it, and squeeze out all of the water, so don't worry too much about it "being too big to go into the jar", it'll probably have excess space! Let them sit in a strainer to drain a bit while you make the paste.

The one in the book seemed a bit different from others, since it used Glutinous Rice Flour (Somewhat difficult to find, but not as much as the red pepper!) to thicken up the mixture. It was like making your own Gochujang, so it was pretty fun! I found that you can do it in a pan, or cheat and use a microwave like I did! Just be very careful if you do it that way, or you could have a big problem! I changed this one up a bit by putting in some carrot slivers, since I like carrots in my Kimchi!

Once the paste is made, put down some plastic or something (especially if you have white counters and floors!!) , and make a little "Kimchi Station". I found that this made it a lot easier to do, so I recommend doing this! (You will need those gloves at this point!)

I put the cabbage in one bowl, the paste bowl next to that, and another bowl to put the finished Kimchi in next to that! Spread the paste on every leaf, base to tip, and make sure to leave off a couple leaves to put on top when you put it into a jar. It's pretty easy to do, just fold the leaves down one at a time, largest to smallest, and smear each one! Once you get the rhythm of it you can get it down pretty fast!

After you have the paste all over your cabbage, transfer it into a jar! Place the wedges against each other and place the two spare leaves on the top! I think it looks super pretty!!
Seal it up tight and let it sit over night, and in the morning it will taste and smell like Kimchi!

You could leave them in wedges like that, but I didn't because it makes it harder to get out. So me and my friend cut it up into smaller, but not tiny, pieces and re-canned it! It will not smell or taste too much like Kimchi at this point, but it will in the morning! 

This also gave us a chance to taste it! I used... well... a hearty amount of Pepper in my Kimchi, so it was not for the faint of heart! You can make it any way you like, but I wanted mine to have a kick to it! At first you don't think it's too spicy, but then it hits you like a train! Oh yeah! 

I had so much fun making Kimchi, and listening to K-Pop as I did, and I now want to always make it myself in the future! The first time you make Kimchi you should take notes on how you did it! This way you can improve the taste to your liking the next time you make it!  If you want it spicier, more mild, sweeter, saltier, or crunchier! It's the little things that make the difference, and after a while you can have a "Family Kimchi Recipe" that you can truly call your own! How exciting is that??

Good luck in your Kimchi making adventures! Fighting! 

Enjoying the noms of their labor, 
-C.A.M. (aka ~Kimchi Kristy~)