Lets try that again: Kimchi

Posted by on 02/07/2012

I finally found one!!! A Pickling crock, and for cheap too!

This baby was waiting for me at B&J Restaurant Equipment Supplies ltd in Calgary, Alberta. It’s on the corner of centre ave street nw and 10thave. They have a really nice collection of anything you would need in the kitchen, at prices much lower than anywhere else I’ve been. They do specialize in Chinese and Asian cooking equipment so I’ll be going back there when I need a new wok.

It even has the Harsch type groove around the lid! Woo! no more dealing with Air-locks and messy mason jars for me! This pickling crock was DEFINITELY a great find for me. Lucky for me, Cabbage was on sale so I was able to start up a kimchi right away.

I had two large Napa cabbages, a bag of carrots, some leftover rutabaga, and a bunch of bok choy to add into this. The Carrot was sliced with a peeler, the rutabaga into sticks, and the Cabbages were all washed and torn into sections. We decided to use the crock when we brined the vegetables, adding in a small layer at a time followed by a sprinkling of salt. This was punched down to release the liquids in the cabbage so that I do not have to add water to the brine. Once it’s all in there and it has been punched thoroughly, there should be enough liquid to cover the cabbage- If there is not by that point wait about an hour and see if liquid has been pulled out of the vegetables by the salt. You may need to add in some strong brine to cover the vegetables, but I have never needed to do that.

Four hours later everything was soft and rubbery – exactly what we need to get started. I drained this out through a colander and reserved the liquid. The vegetables were rinsed to get rid of excess surface salt- trust me, there is enough salt to go around as it is.

First I chop up green and white onions, garlic, and ginger. These are mixed in with the brined vegetables.

Then chili powders, paprika, chipotle, salt, and various other spices are mixed up. I add water to this to turn it into a paste. Then it’s time to get messy, rubbing the chilli mixture into the salted vegetables by hand. You have to be thorough- you want to get chilli on every vegetable and in every crevice. I also add in some liquid from one of my previous kimchi’s to give it a shot of bacteria. This speeds up the fermentation process and makes it more reliable. You don’t have to, but if you are not going to innoculate make sure you have some napa cabbage in there. It is a natural host for lactobacillus kimchii, the little bacteria that helps us get this thing tasty.

The chilli-coated vegetables are then layered back into the crock with liberal sprinklings of kosher salt. Did I mention that your salt needs to be kosher? Sea salt works too. Iodized table salt has anti-caking things in it that will discolour the kimchi. This gets pressed down flat. If there is not enough liquid in the crock to cover the vegetables, add some of the reserved brine from earlier.

I did not have a stone to press down the vegetables, and I do not have a plate that will fit in the crock. Therefore, I had to get fancy. Two large ziplock freezer bags, one in the other. I filled the inside one with the reserved brine from earlier, though you could mix up some new brine if you needed to (I did have to do that to top it off). It’s important that you use brine in the bag, so that if there is any leaking you don’t dilute the liquid in the kimchi itself- you need to have high salinity to ensure that you don’t get any other bacteria working in the ferment.

Ziplock bags of brine go in the crock on top of the vegetables to hold them down. Visually inspect the edges, it should press up some liquid from beneath. Vegetables exposed to air may end up rotting instead of fermenting as the bacteria we are using is anaerobic (much like botulism, but botulism does not tolerate salt… hence why we brined everything). Crock gets closed up, water is put in the rim, and it gets left to sit.

Every day I opened the crock, and tasted the liquid. It took much longer to get to the level of sourness we wanted this time, when I did this in mason jars it would take about 3-4 days. I left the kimchi in the crock for much longer, taking it out on the seventh day.

Delicious spicy vegetables with a strong sour flavour, exactly what I wanted when I set out. I’m really happy with how this crock is doing, and expect to start pickling more items soon. It could fit whole cabbage heads, cucumbers… the list goes on.

For now I’m going to be happy with the five litres of lacto-fermented vegetables I ended up with. The carrots are crunchy, sour, and very spicy. The pieces of ginger are still crisp and full of flavour, yet have been penetrated by the sour liquid. By having various sizes and textures in here, every bite is a bit different, surprising, and delicious. I’m glad I’ve ended up with so much, as now I can not only give some away, but start blending them to make fermented hot sauces!

That’s all I have for this week, Canada day was quite the party for us so it did cause my update to be later than it normally would have been. Hopefully this new look at making kimchi will help some of you guys decide on trying to make something new!


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