Tra­di­tional Kim­chi

MAKES ABOUT 8 CUPS Ac­tive: 1 hr. • To­tal: 8 days

SAVEUR - - Contents -

This recipe, from chef Es­ther Choi’s grand­mother, calls for a few cru­cial in­gre­di­ents. It starts with sweet rice flour, which is cooked down into a kind of glue. This is used to thicken the chile paste—choi ad­vises never turn­ing your back on it while cook­ing be­cause it is prone to clump­ing and burn­ing. Her recipe also uses plum ex­tract, brined fer­mented Korean shrimp (sae­woo juht), a good amount of shred­ded Korean dried pol­lock (bu­geochae), and fresh scal­lions. The fer­men­ta­tion times listed here are the min­i­mums re­quired—you can let kim­chi fer­ment for longer at room tem­per­a­ture if you de­sire a more sour taste and bub­bly tex­ture. The fla­vor will also con­tinue to de­velop in the re­frig­er­a­tor, al­beit much more slowly.

5 Tbsp. rock salt (4½ oz.) 1 large head Napa cab­bage (3¾ lb.), quar­tered length­wise through the root 2 Tbsp. chapssal­garu (sweet rice flour) 4 cups (3 oz.) bu­geochae (Korean dried pol­lock), shred­ded 1 lb. daikon radish, cut into 2-inch match­sticks 1½ cups (7 oz.) gochugaru (Korean red chile flakes) 1 small sweet ap­ple, cored and puréed in a blender or small food pro­ces­sor (1 cup) 1 small white onion (6 oz.), puréed (½ cup) ½ cup fish sauce ¼ cup plum ex­tract ¼ cup sae­woo juht (tiny Korean shrimp in brine) 2 Tbsp. minced fresh gar­lic 1 Tbsp. peeled and minced ginger 6 scal­lions, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 In a small bowl, com­bine the rock salt and 1 cup of cool wa­ter. Stir to dis­solve the salt (this might take a few min­utes).

2 Work­ing with 1 quarter of cab­bage at a time, gen­tly sep­a­rate the leaves from one an­other with­out de­tach­ing them from the core. Pour and rub some of the salt brine onto each leaf, then transfer the wedge to a large, high-sided basin, tub, or bowl. Re­peat with the re­main­ing wedges. Pour any re­main­ing salt brine over the top, then set aside at room tem­per­a­ture for about 5 hours.

3 After 5 hours, the cab­bage will have wilted and re­leased a good amount of liq­uid; flip the wedges over, press­ing and ro­tat­ing them gen­tly to sub­merge the leaves and core as much as pos­si­ble in the ex­pelled liq­uid. If needed, set aside at room tem­per­a­ture for an­other 3–5 hours. (When ready, cab­bage should look wilted but will still re­tain some crunch.)

4 Mean­while, make the rice glue: In a small saucepan, whisk the rice flour and 2 cups wa­ter, then bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low to main­tain a strong sim­mer and cook, whisk­ing con­stantly, un­til the liq­uid is thick­ened and you can see the bot­tom of the pan while whisk­ing, 20–22 min­utes. Re­move from the heat and let the rice glue cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

5 In a small bowl, com­bine the bu­geochae with ½ cup hot wa­ter and set aside to soften, 10–12 min­utes. Drain and dis­card any re­main­ing soak­ing liq­uid.

6 Make the kim­chi paste: In a large bowl, com­bine the rice glue, bu­geochae, daikon radish, gochugaru, ap­ple and onion pureés, fish sauce, plum ex­tract, sae­woo juht, gar­lic, ginger, and scal­lions, and mix well.

7 Re­trieve and drain the cab­bage, and dis­card all the ex­cess liq­uid. Rinse each wedge thor­oughly un­der cold wa­ter, then shake off any re­main­ing mois­ture. Add the wedges to the bowl of kim­chi paste. Us­ing gloves, if de­sired, rub some of the paste onto and be­tween each leaf, then tightly pack the cab­bage and any ex­tra paste into a large air­tight jar or crock. Let the kim­chi rest at room tem­per­a­ture for at least 2 days, or longer if you de­sire a stronger, more-fer­mented sour fla­vor, then transfer to the fridge for an ad­di­tional 5 days. Eat im­me­di­ately or store for up to a year in the re­frig­er­a­tor.

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