Kimchi

I looove sandwiches, but the ordinary slice of bread with cheese doesn’t always hit it for me. There’s a world of dips, spreads, salads and sauces out there that can transform every sad sandwich into a mouthwatering masterpiece. And burgers, which are basically just hot sandwiches, will immensely benefit from a little extra and turn out superb!

You can buy most of those spreads and deli salads, but it’s much cheaper and way more fun to make them yourself. You can control how big the portions get and you can play with the ingredients to work around dislikes, allergies or sensitivities. And you can be sure that no funky additives end up in there.

While my little blog has quite a few bread recipes now, there’s an obvious lack of things that go ON the bread, so it’s time to remedy that.
I chose to start with Kimchi, because I enjoy it nearly every day at the moment. My weekly grocery run a while ago unfortunately happened on an empty stomach. You might know how it is: you have a teeny tiny shopping list, but everything looks so good that you can’t resist. I was just happy that most of my impulse buys that morning were veggies and not just sweets. It was way too much for a week of lunches and dinners, so I had to turn some of them into something else.

While the koreans eat kimchi as a side dish, I like mine as a topping. Cheese sandwich with kimchi, burger with kimchi, fried chicken breast with kimchi… I’m sure you get it.

I used Joshua Weissman’s kimchi recipe on youtube as a guideline to start my own:

For a half gallon (2 liter jar) you need:

  • 1 head of napa cabbage (approx 1 kilo. the one is the photo is about 2 kilos, so I had to double everything else and ended up with nearly a gallon of kimchi)
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 4 carrots
  • bunch or two of radishes
  • 80g fresh ginger
  • 1 apple (I didn’t have a nashi pear)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 60g fish sauce
  • 60g mild, korean chilil flakes (gochugaru)
  • a lot of salt

Quarter the napa cabbage lengthwise and slice it into finger thick strips. Layer the cabbage into a bowl and salt it generously as you go. Give the whole mass a short knead, then place the bowl somewhere safe and let time do the work for you. It takes about an hour, hour and a half for the cabbage to completely collapse and release a lot of water.

In the meantime, roughly chop the spring onions into 5cm / 2 inch pieces and julienne the carrots and radishes. Put them aside.

Core the apple/pear and chop it roughly. Throw it into the blender with the fish sauce, garlic, chili flakes and ginger and turn everything into a paste.

When the cabbage is swimming in its own juices, give it another toss, then squeeze as much juice out as you can. Rinse it with water to get most of the salt out and squeeze it again. You want it as “dry” as possible.

Mix the cabbage with the chopped veggies and the paste. It’s easiest if you use your hands. Wear rubber gloves if you’re sensitive. We’re working with a very mild chili powder, but it still burns if it gets into your eyes or tiny wounds on your hands.

Once everything is mixed, stuff it into a big jar. Use your fist to press it down, you want it as compact as possible and liquid on top. Use a weight (a water filled freezer bag, a small Weck jar lid, a fermentation weight,…) to keep the veggies submerged and close the jar with a lid. I used fermentation lids that let the developing gases out, but you can just use the jar’s normal lid. Screw it shut and burp it several times a day, so the pressure doesn’t build up.

Place your jar in a baking pan or a shallow bowl and leave it at room temperature. There will most likely be spillage, so don’t think you won’t need something to catch the overflowing juices. Fermenation takes 4-7 days, my kimchi was perfect after 5 1/2.

And it made a huge mess in the process:

It even hissed at me!

You can start tasting the kimchi after about 4 days. When the taste is perfect for you, take out the weight, clean up the jar’s opening and exchange the fermentation top for a normal lid. Place your kimchi in the fridge, where it severely slows down or stops fermenting. It keeps for about 6 months if you work clean and stay away from taking the kimchi out of the jar with a licked spoon.

You can enjoy it as a side dish with meats, mix it into salads, top fried eggs, sandwiches or burgers with it, or use it as the middle layer in a grilled cheese or quesadilla. Be creative!

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