Mama picked the last of the bok choy from her garden at work and thought it would be a good time to make a batch of kimchi. She had always been a little intimidated by it because it’s often so spicy, and traditional kimchi is buried right in the jar and left to basically rot (or rather, ferment). But then she took a class on how to make it from a nice lady named Robyn who was traveling the country promoting her book, Home Sweet Homegrown.
Kimchi is a spicy/sour Korean dish, made of vegetables (often cabbage). It’s eaten as both a side dish and a component of main dishes such as soups, scallion pancakes, fish tacos, or even eggs. Mama says that what makes it extra special is that, as a fermented food, it actually has certain health benefits, particularly in your belly. I don’t know about all that, but Mama seems to know what she’s talking about sometimes, so I’m going to go with her on this one. But you’ll forgive me for not reporting on my like or dislike of it because I don’t plan on getting anywhere near the stuff. No, thank you! (Mama thought I would eat the kimchi pancakes, but I would not.)
P.S., Happy Christmas!
1 head bok choy, chopped into 1” pieces
1 daikon radish (about 4 ounces), sliced [Mama used watermelon radishes because that’s what was in the garden]
3 cloves garlic
One 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
1/2 cup Korean red pepper powder (kochukaru/gochugaru*)
2 tablespoons sugar
Behold the beautiful bok choy:
Place bok choy leaves and daikon in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons kosher salt. Toss to combine, cover, then let sit at room temperature until cabbage is wilted, at least 1 hour and up to 12. It should release about 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquid.
Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, and red pepper powder in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a rough paste is formed, about 30 seconds total, scraping down sides as necessary.
Once the bok choy is wilted, add the chili mixture and turn to coat.
Add 1 cup purified water to the mixture. Taste the liquid and add more salt as necessary (it should have the saltiness of sea water).
Pack kimchi into a quart-size sterilized mason jar, pressing down firmly to pack tightly and using a wooden spoon to release any air bubbles trapped in the bottom of the jar. This is important as your kimchi will be releasing its own amount of air bubbles as it ferments, so try to get as much excess air out as possible beforehand. Cover the kimchi entirely with its liquid, as the liquid is what protects the vegetables from succumbing to bad bacteria.
If there’s not enough liquid to completely cover the veggies, lay a clean leaf of lettuce or cabbage on top of them to help push them down.
Seal the jars tightly and allow them to sit at cool room temperature for 24 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to ferment at least 1 week before eating. Kimchi will last for up to 1 month after opening. Alternatively, place directly in fridge after packing and taste daily starting after the first week until it’s as sour as you like it. (At this point, you can drain excess brine from your kimchi. A little liquid is good, but no one wants soggy kimchi.)
*Note: Korean red pepper powder is easily found in Asian markets. It comes in a bag larger than you think you’ll ever use, but it doesn’t cost a lot. Any errors in this recipe are Mama’s and not the nice lady’s who gave the workshop.