[Recipe] Gardens in Jars

I took a break from writing today and preserved some of my garden in the form of Kimchi. I had several cabbage plants that weren’t looking so great in the heat and at this point weren’t going to form cabbage heads but there were still plenty of good and delicious leaves left! I cut them off at the ground and composted all the leaves that had rotten parts. I removed the rest from the stalk and washed each thoroughly. Inside, I filled each of my sink basins with water and further soaked the leaves.

Since this was my first time making Kimchi I roughly followed this tutorial upon the suggestion of a wise friend. The process is pretty simple, but time-consuming. From harvest to jar it took about 2.5 hours to process 4–5 pounds of cabbage leaves into 4 quarts of Kimchi. It wouldn’t have taken much longer to process more, once I was all setup. Next time I will probably do even more at once.

Per the Maangchi tutorial, I took the soaked leaves and chopped them into bite-sized pieces, removing most of the stems.

The soundtrack to the chopping was about half of Kanye’s “Dark Twisted Fantasy”. It has a suitable cadence for such exercises.

Once all the leaves had been chopped, I coated them all with 1/2 cup of kosher salt and let them rest, turning them every 30 minutes or so. 2 hours of salting seems to be the right amount—a sufficient amount of water had been sucked from the leaves at that point, leaving them much softer and ready for the kimchi paste.

The rest of the process was completed to the sounds of a daily mix playlist from Spotify which mostly included indie-rock tunes. A suitable cadence for fermentation, to be sure.

During that time, there was plenty more to do. First, the porridge—rice flour and water and brown sugar brought to a simmer until thickened and then allowed to cool. Next, I chopped Daikon radishes and a large Leek into matchsticks. With a food processor, I minced about a 1/4 cup of garlic cloves, half a yellow onion, and 2 tablespoons or so of ginger. I also diced garlic chives and green onions harvested from the garden.

I poured the porridge and contents of the food processor into a large mixing bowl and added 1/2 cup of fish sauce and a 1/4 cup of salted shrimp, drained into the bowl and diced, as well as 1.5 cups of course Korean chili powder.

Note: the rice flour, fish sauce, salted shrimp, and chili powder were all sourced from Jay’s International on S. Grand.

Once this paste was well mixed, I added the chopped veggies and mixed it all up. With the kimchi paste ready to go, I washed all the cabbage leaves off and drained them before mixing them all into the same bowl with the paste. The final step was filling 4 quart jars with the mix and lightly closing the lids.

Now the fermentation begins. I’ll let them sit for a few days, checking on them each day until putting them in the fridge to be consumed happily. There was a bit of fresh kimchi leftover that didn’t fit into the jars, which I ate. It was pretty yummy. I’m saying not bad for my first time, and it wasn’t difficult to do at all. Fermentation often seems mysterious and intimidating but really, like most unknowns, it’s not a big deal once you begin.

Happy fermenting!