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To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Making Kimchi Cockeyed Style

I love my kimchi. In case you didn't know, kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish. Except unlike sauerkraut that uses green or red cabbage, it's base is an oriental cabbage called Napa. It's loaded with spices and vegetables like daikon radishes, green onions, and carrots. It's seasoned with gochugaru peppers (a hot, sweet and smoky flavored pepper), ginger root, and lots of garlic.

It's my favorite year around food. During the summer months. this hot dish raises your internal temperature so the outside air feels cooler. In the winter, anything that makes you feel warmer is a good thing. I'll eat it especially when I feel like I'm getting a cold. It knocks the cold right out. The capsaicin, garlic, and ginger will chase away a cold faster than anything I know. Being a fermented food, it promotes good  gut health too. To add extra heat to mine, I add cayenne pepper to mine or siracha to mine. In a pinch, you can use only cayenne peppers to make kimchi (I have), but it's not the same.

All summer long, I've harvested, dried, and ground my gochugaru and cayenne peppers. The cayenne I use in a number of dishes, but the gochugaru peppers I save for this. I make kimchi on average of twice a year, in the spring and fall.

I harvested my ginger and a couple heads of garlic last week and left them on the porch to dry and age a bit. When I dug up some of the ginger root. I noticed nodules on the fingers where the root was starting to sprout. I cut these off leaving 1/2 an inch of the root. I plan on planting these in pots for even more ginger next year. I should have left an 1" or 2", but that would have been more than 90% of the root I broke off. I needed 2"-3" of the root for kimchi. I imagine there are more nodes on the ginger roots I left in the pot so next spring I'll have even more if these don't grow. Which reminds me, I've got to put my ginger, turmeric, and baby trees into my portable greenhouse soon so they don't freeze.

I harvested my Napa cabbages yesterday. It's been a crazy fall with temperatures in the 80s. I was afraid they would bolt. I harvested all six heads. It took Hurricane Michael's rains as it side swiped us for it to cool down into normal fall weather. They've been in the vegetable compartment of my refrigerator just chillin' and waiting for today. So I bring them out and let them come to room temperature.

Next, I chop the Napa into bite sized pieces keeping in mind that the cabbage will shrink so about 3" pieces. I layer it in my cleaned kitchen sink with 1/4 cup of sea salt between each 2" layer. Yes, it's a lot of salt, but most will be rinsed off. It's roughly 10 lbs of cabbage so it will fill one of side of my kitchen dual sinks by the time I finish chopping it all up. The salt will draw the water out of the cabbage.

I leave the drain plugged. Every twenty minutes or so I'll give them a good toss to distribute the salt more for the next hour.  It's amazing how much water that's in cabbage. I'll have 1/4 of my sink full of cabbage water by the time an hour has passed.

Next I julienne a two carrots, and two 5" daikon roots. I use a mandolin, because being a one-handed chef, it's easier. I still haven't bought a food processor yet. I don't bother peeling these. I just give them a good scrubbing. I believe there are more vitamins and minerals in the peel than in the whole vegetable. I might be wrong so don't quote me. My Momma used to say that the peels make you pretty. It didn't work for me, I'm just saying. I'll cut these julienned vegetables into 2" pieces. As I chop them, I'll toss them onto the cabbage in the sink. They'll get the brining too. I'll chop the green onions into 2" pieces as well, and toss them into the sink.

Some people will add sugar to their kimchi pepper mix, but I don't. I prefer a natural sweetener. One small apple grated with a TBS of lemon juice to keep it white does the trick. I'll mix the apple with a cup of gochugaru peppers, and 1/3 cup of cayenne peppers. I like it hot, but not burn the roof of your mouth hot. A few tears is okay. Clearing my sinuses is a plus. I'll mince my garlic cloves (2 heads) and my ginger root in my electric mini chopper, and add it to the pepper mixture. Again, I use the mini chopper to mince these roots rather than a knife because it's faster and easier.

Other people add squid, shrimp, and/or fish sauce to their sauce mix, but I do not. I like to keep my options open and keep mine vegetarian. I also do not add any thickener like rice flour to mine. I prefer the clean fresh taste of the juice.

I'll open the drain of the sink and let the cabbage water drain. It's done it's job distributing and dissolving the salt throughout the vegetables after an hour. You know the cabbage is ready by bending a thick piece. It should bend rather than snap and crack. I'll rinsed the cabbage in cold water three times. In biting a piece of cabbage, there should be a slight salt flavor and not seriously salty.

Next, I'll drain the vegetable mixture. Some liquid is okay, but you don't need a whole lot. The cabbage will continue leaching water as it ferments. I'll massage the pieces of vegetables with the pepper mixture a layer at a time to make sure every piece is covered.

Not me, obliviously.
Notice the gloves. It is strongly advised that you wear them. Your hands will burn for hours without them. Also, cover the work surface with plastic wrap or parchment. The capsaicin is very strong. Even in cleaning the surfaces afterwards will burn you. I personally use a vinyl tablecloth that I cut into fours to cover my surface. I just take it outside and hose it off well, and then toss it in the washer by itself to clean it. I also use vinegar in the final rinse to neutralize any capsaicin. Lord help you if you touch the sensitive tissue near your eyes and other places while the capsaicin is active.

I'll put the whole mixture into a small, Rubbermaid tote to ferment on my back porch. I'll leave one corner of the lid not strapped down to let the gasses escape. Otherwise, it will blow the lid off. Or, for smaller batches, I'll use my German fermenting pot. I'll stir it once a day to distribute the vegetables into the liquid for a week at around 70 degrees. If it's cooler, the fermenting may take longer. In serious colder climates it can take months. In Korea, they bury their kimchi pots in the ground all winter long.I taste it. If it's to my liking, I'll jar it up.

I'll put one quart jar into my refrigerator. The rest, I'll water bath for 30 minutes. Sterilized hot jars and hot lids. I'll loosely leave the rings on these jars after they cool and seal. These is still a fermenting product. I leave the rings on them to hold the mess down in storage. A loose fitted ring to me is fingertip tight and backing off a full turn. It will rattle, but if the lid pops, it is contained.

I've tried canning this in pint jars before, but I can eat a pint in one sitting with rice and a lovely piece of fish. So now, I only do quarts. It's approximately three, conservative servings for me. Yes. I love me some kimchi!

Y'all have a blessed day!


  1. This is the first year I've grown Daikons and they are ready to harvest! I've been researching kimchi recipes and it seems anything goes, or at least to taste. So your post is timely.

  2. Leigh, thanks for stopping by again. Kimchi can really be made with any vegetable but napa is the one you usually see. Save those green tops for salads or if you have rabbits or chickens, they love them.


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