Korea Festival Kimchi

There is a word in Korean 'Kimjang' that we hold as an ideal at The Fermentary with our workshops, events and get-togethers. Kimjang describes communities coming together to make and share large amounts of kimchi, getting together not just so each family can take away enough to sustain them through the winter ahead, but  also to share ideas, stories and the passing on of heritage, recipes and tradition - each of those as important as the kimchi. The kimchi as the conduit for all of that. Somehow - passing on ferments always feels like that to us. 

Traditionally, Kimjang preparations follow the seasons; spring is for fermenting fish,  summer is for drying salt, late summer is when the Gochugaru chilli is dried and ground into powder,  all in readiness for wombok harvest and Kimjang in late autumn. Kimjang holds the ideal of community - friends and families gathering in the spirit of doing together, sharing in food and tradition, living in harmony with each other, the season, and nature. 

Our main driver at The Fermentary is to share knowledge with our larger community, making sure these food traditions are celebrated and remembered -   I can't count how many times we've brought together a group to make kimchi and Tei from Dimibang working with the Korean consulate saw this in The Fermentary and asked me to speak and demonstrate this at Korea Week last November. At Fed Square and on the big screen. 

Actually - this beautiful kimchi recipe came from a collaboration with Tei.  Annoyingly, Melbourne put on it's best dress, (pouring rain and driving winds)... but I was honoured to be there for the festival-goers who braved the storm, standing umbrella in hand to watch and learn.  

As you may know, there are as many kimchi recipes as there are kimchi makers, the flavour of 'the hand' playing a huge part in the flavour. This one is quite different to The Fermentary's usual recipe, it requires an element of cooking as well. Some of these ingredients can be tricky to find in Australia, so a quick trip to an Asian supermarket might need to be on the cards. 

You might notice that this recipe makes quite a lot of kimchi, in fact, it will easily fill 6 of our fermenting jars  or one of our beautiful hand-made kimchi crocks. We've kept the recipe this size because making kimchi is best done with friends. In Korea it has long been a treasured collective community practice, called Kimjang.

Makes about 6 litres

Ingredients

  • 3 Wombok cabbages
  • 15% brine (2L water and 300g salt)

Kimchi Marinade

  • 2 white radishes
  • 1 bunch of garlic chives
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 bunch of spring onions

Kimchi paste

  • 30g ginger
  • 150g garlic
  • 200ml Korean fish sauce
  • 70ml Korean shrimp sauce
  • 220g Gochugaru
  • 100ml plum extract
  • 100g white sugar

Porridge

  • 50g Glutinous rice flour
  • 30g Sweet potato flour

Method

Brining the wombok cabbage

  1. In a large container, combine 2L of cold water and 300g of sea salt to make a 15% brine. (Make sure the salt has fully dissolved).
  2. Trim off the tough and dirty outside cabbage leaves and cut the cabbage into bite-size pieces. Place the pieces into the cold brine for 5 hours, with a good mix after 2 hours.
  3. Remove the cabbages from the brine, they should feel soft and spongy. Rinse them thoroughly under running water several times and place them in a colander to drain.

Making the rice flour porridge

  1. While the cabbage is brining, put a small pot over a medium heat, continually whisk the glutinous rice flour and sweet potato starch with 1 cup of water until it reaches a rolling boil.
  2. Keep whisking for 2 minutes until the paste looks like porridge. Remove from heat, transfer to a container and refrigerate until it cools.

Making the kimchi marinade

  1. Cut the white radish, carrot, spring onion, garlic chieves into small pieces (ideally, you want to julienne these). Mix them with the gochugaru.
  2. Blend all the Kimchi paste ingredients in the food processor until you get a smooth paste.
  3. Combine both the paste and the julienned vegetables with the cold kelp rice porridge. Mix well.

Place the brined cabbage into a big bowl, pour over half the kimchi marinade and mix well. Have a taste and, if you want a stronger flavour, keep adding the marinade until you have the flavour your want.

You can keep it fermenting in the bowl, or you can jar it. Press the vegetables down quite firmly with your fist or a pounder. You should easily have enough juice to cover all of the vegetables, so you don't need to weigh the kimchi down. Seal with your chosen lid and leave it on your bench for a few days. Pop into the fridge after 5 normal days or 3 hot days. Or ferment in the fridge from day 1 - this takes about 3 weeks.