Breakfast For Dinner
Breakfast for dinner is great when you make it an omelet! Add veggies and reduced fat cheese and serve with whole grain toast (or baked potato wedges) for a nutritiously balanced, protein rich meal in minutes.…
My mom learned to make kimchi from a friend from Korea she met in Alaska 30+ years ago... and she’s been making it regularly ever since. I put my mom’s notes throughout -- she’s pretty practical when it comes to cooking, so some of them were answers to my less practical questions and some are tips for getting the best results. Here are a few things she stressed from the start.
Mom’s kimchi tips:
1. Work with what you have! This is more about the process and less about the specific veggies, so think of kimchi as a super awesome way to use up a mixture of veggies in your fridge. Or to change up your kimchi as the seasons change.
2. Fresh veggies work best. This may seem counterintuitive to #1 with regard to using what’s in your fridge, but it’s actually not. Kimchi is a great way to use veggies you might have acquired an abundance of (For example, if carrots were on sale and you bought twice as many as usual.) or veggies that you fear might end up sitting around waiting to be used for so long they turn to mush in your produce drawer. Once the veggies turn to mush in your produce drawer... not so great for kimchi. And frozen veggies or dried veggies are a no-go for kimchi.
3. Firm veggies work best. My mom didn’t have any daikon radishes when we did this batch, but she said any radishes rock in kimchi. The carrots also come out fantastic. For softer things, like bok choy, you’ll want to cut the pieces a bit thicker so they don’t disappear when the kimchi gets super juicy. Or for things with a firm outside but softer seeds, like cucumber, remove the seeds first.
4. Veggies with layers (onions, scallions, etc.) should be cut into pretty big chunks because the layers will separate when the kimchi get stirred.
5. Once you get the process down, experiment with flavors. The woman who taught my mom to make kimchi would sometimes put slices of apple or Asian pear in with the veggie mix, which she said helps with the fermentation process. I also think that would lend a delicious hint of sweetness to balance the spiciness.
6. Kimchi is pretty salty. Part of that saltiness is what allows the kimchi to ferment and not rot, so don’t try to reduce the salt TOO much. My mom recommends not using less than 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each layer. (You’ll see what I mean later on in the directions.) BUT, if you’re like me and you don’t love super-salty stuff (Admission: dill pickles are too salty for me!) then you can take half your finished kimchi and rinse it in water and then add it back to the rest of the batch. Apparently this works very well. Though, my mom uses 1 tsp of salt between layers and it’s not overwhelmingly salty, so I would guess that with 1/2 tsp between layers even a dill pickle-phobe like me would be totally OK.
7. This kimchi recipe is spicy -- we like our food pretty hot in my family. Just like reducing the saltiness via rinsing half the finished kimchi, you can also reduce the spiciness that way. You can also cut the cayenne pepper down to just a pinch between layers (or none at all... but I’d recommend using at least a little bit).
8. Freeze your leftover ginger roots -- you can grate them frozen for the next batch of kimchi or any of your other ginger needs. I realized I’d said not to use any frozen ingredients in #2, but ginger is the exception. If you’re like me (and apparently my mom, too), you’ll buy a large bulb of ginger and then half of it gets old and gross before you get a chance to use it. I’m pretty happy to learn you can freeze it with great results. Or should I say GRATE results....ohhhhhh, I love a food pun.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe and process to making my mom’s kimchi. She makes enough to fill a 1-quart jar and keeps it in the fridge all the time. Seriously. If you open my parents’ fridge 24-7, 365 days a year, there is a jar of incredible kimchi! The amounts you see below are enough for a 1-quart jar, so adjust to meet your personal kimchi needs. It will last for 3 months in the fridge. And according to my mom, that’s a conservative estimate! My kind of food! :)
What you need:
For the flavoring layers (This stays pretty standard):
- Uniodized salt (we used Kosher salt)
- Freshly grated ginger
- Freshly pressed/chopped garlic
- Cayenne pepper (or sliced jalapeno or Korean peppers)
Veggie layers (This can vary a whole lot):
- 1 head of bok choy, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (*note: Make the chunks 1-inch in the green part at the end of the bok choy)
- 6 scallions, cut in half width-wise and then cut in half length-wise
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced on a mandoline
- 1/4 head cabbage, thinly sliced on mandoline (*note: you can use purple cabbage, but the pickling process leaches the purple color out so don’t be disappointed when your kimchi lacks a purple hue)
- 1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced on a mandoline
- 1/2 a large cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced on a mandoline
- Mandoline* (totally optional, but they make thinly slicing veggies way easier and your slices will be a whole lot more uniform)
- Sharp knife (you’ll need this for the bok choy and anything else that can’t be cut in the mandoline...or if you don’t own a mandoline, the knife will be your sole chopping tool)
- Microplane (or any fine grater, for the ginger)
- Garlic press (or just smash the garlic with the flat part of your knife blade and chop it up super fine)
- Apple core-er (to take the seeds out of the cucumber...or just cut in half, lengthwise, and scoop out with a spoon)
- Ceramic or glass put with a lid (my mom uses the removable 6-quart ceramic insert from her Croc-pot)
- Plate with a diameter just slightly smaller than the inside of your pot
- Large rock, slightly smaller than plate (or use a glass jar of water or a can of beans wrapped in a plastic bag)
- Large spoon for stirring
- Large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
- Plastic shopping bag or garbage bag large enough to enclose your pot
- Patience (You have to wait for 4 days before you can reap the fruits of your labor.)
* I met a chef who told me that the mandoline of choice in restaurant kitchens is the Benriner. It’s super simple and much less expensive than most. I bought one for my mom, after she had trouble using a super fancy one she’d gotten, and she loves it. You can check them out here.
- Fill the bottom of the pot with veggies until the layer is about 1-inch thick.
- Top this layer with: a scant tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, a heaping tbsp garlic, and 1/2 tbsp ginger.
- Top with another 1-inch thick layer of veggies, followed by another layer of salt, cayenne, garlic, and ginger.
- Repeat the layering process until all veggies are used up. You’ll end with the spice layer on top of the final veggie layer.
- Place the plate on top of the veggie-spice mixture and set the rock (or other small, heavy object) on top. You want some good pressure on the veggie-spice mixture.
- Place the lid on the pot and stick the entire pot in a plastic bag. Tie the plastic bag so that it puts pressure on the top of the lid. This is to keep the lid sealed tightly so that no sneaky animals/bugs can get in.
- Set the whole bagged ensemble in a cool (but not cold) spot. You want temperatures around 65-75 degrees, but even 80 degrees will suffice. My mom puts hers in the basement.
- Wait 72 hours.
After you’ve waited 72 hours....
- Open up the bag, remove the lid from the pot and take out the rock and plate. Using the large spoon, stir the kimchi really well, making sure that all the veggies are mingling well and that you’ve gotten it all coated with lots of the juice that’s forming.
- Pile up the kimchi towards the center of the pot and place the plate back on top. Top the plate with the rock and then put the lid back on and seal everything back up in the plastic bag.
- Wait 24 hours.
After you’ve waited 24 hours...
- Remove the plastic bag, lid, rock, and plate and taste your kimchi!
- If your kimchi tastes exactly the way you want it, stir it up again and place the contents -- juice and all -- into a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- If you’d like your kimchi a little more on the sour side, pack it back up and let it sit another 24 hours. Continue this process until it tastes exactly how you like it. My mom always takes hers out after the first 24 hour period after the initial stir and it always tastes great, but it would be fun to play with the flavor changes that letting it sit a bit longer might create.
That’s all there is to it. Enjoy your kimchi. And you can check out the pictures that go along with these instructions in our Facebook album.
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