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Understanding And Making Kimchi

What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a flavorful, sour, salted mix of fermented veggies and flavorings that plays a crucial function in Korean culture. There are more than 200 variations of kimchi; the types of ingredients and the preparation method have an extensive impact on the taste. Napa cabbage, radishes, green onions, garlic, and ginger, in addition to a particular red pepper, are utilized in classical baechustyle, but area, seasonality, and cultural customs influence the unique kinds of kimchi.

The dietary value of kimchi differs with components but it is usually low in calories and contains vitamins A, C, and B complex, in addition to various phytochemicals and live cultures of microorganisms which confer a health advantage to the host. Eating kimchi can be a healthy way to include more veggies and probiotic microorganisms in the diet plan.

- The history of kimchi dates back thousands of years and the original name, chimchae, translates to 'salted veggies.'

- The bacterial cultures required for fermentation are present on the raw components, so a 'starter' culture is unnecessary.

How is kimchi made?
Making kimchi requires keeping a tidy environment and great health practices, thoroughly following all actions, and keeping an eye on temperature levels to cultivate the development of Weissellaspecies, Lactobacillus types, and other germs adding to the fermentation process.

- The procedure of making kimchi includes brining (salting) the veggies to draw out the water, which helps in conservation and allows the spices to penetrate the food gradually; the last salt concentration varies from 2-5%.

- Kimchi is generally fermented by 'wild cultures' naturally present on the vegetables. The development of natural acids (mainly lactic and acetic acid) leads to an optimal kimchi pH of 4.2.

- The kimchi fermentation procedure is very brief in comparison to making sauerkraut. Kimchi ferments at space temperature in just 1-2 days or more gradually in the fridge. For security, kimchi should be saved refrigerated and is best eaten within 1 week, as the quality of kimchi degrades with longer fermentation.

Making Baechu (Bet-schu) Kimchi: Mack (Chopped Cabbage) Style

Kimchi is a fermented veggie dressing, standard to Korean food. Season will impact veggie size and quality, along with time needed for fermentation. Search for light-green Napa cabbage with compact, extended heads that feel heavy for size. In summer season, Napa cabbage might be softer and ferment faster; while in winter season, Napa cabbage might be firmer and require more time to ferment. Some active ingredients, such as Korean red pepper powder and Korean radish, may require to be purchased through specialty Asian shops or purchased online.

Throughout preparation, correct sanitation practices should be followed to prevent contamination by putridity or hazardous microbes. This consists of proper hand cleaning as well as utilizing clean devices, utensils, and surface areas throughout all preparation steps.

• Large sharp knife and cutting board
• Blender or food processor (optional for blending ginger and garlic)
• Measuring cup, measuring spoons, and mixing utensils
• 1-quart saucepan for making sweet rice paste
• Food-safe, glass or plastic storage container with tight fitting lid. For example: plastic rectangle kimchi container, glass mason jars with bands and lids, or gallon-size re-sealable zipper plastic bags. Do not use metal containers nor earthenware with cracks or chips. Container(s) must fit in your refrigerator, but big enough to hold 2 cabbages.
• Large glass, plastic, or stainless steel mixing bowl
• Disposable food handler gloves (highly recommended) for protection from red pepper powder while handling kimchi

• 2 medium heads Napa cabbage (about 6-8 pounds total)
• 1 ½ cups coarse salt, non-iodized, divided (baked or sea salt recommended)
• 1 gallon + ½ cup cold water, divided
• 2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour
• 1-10 cloves garlic, depending on taste preference
• About 3 slices fresh ginger root (about 0.2-0.4 oz.)
• 1 cup Korean red pepper powder –specific “for kimchi”
• ½ Korean radish (about 1-1.5 pounds), or daikon radish
• 1 Asian pear (optional)
• 10 green onions
• 1 tsp. fish sauce (optional)
• 2 tsp. finely ground salt (optional, as needed)

1. Prepare Napa cabbage:
a. Rinse heads under cold water and drain.
b. Cut away and discard any spoiled or damaged spots.
c. Cut Napa cabbage into four quarters and remove core from each. Chop quarters into 2-inch pieces.

2. Salt cabbage:
a. Prepare saltwater solution of ½ cup course, non-iodized salt and 1 gallon cold water in large mixing bowl.
b. Dip cabbage pieces briefly in the saltwater solution, to facilitate penetration of salt into the cabbage pieces. Discard saltwater solution.
c. Drain and place cabbage pieces in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 cup of course, non-iodized salt over the cut cabbage and massage it into the cabbage well. Allow cabbage to sit covered at room temperature for 3 to 6 hours (a longer time will make it more salty).
d. Rinse cabbage pieces 3 to 4 times with cold water to rinse away the salt, then place in a colander to drain out excess water from the cabbage for at least 30 minutes.

3. Prepare seasonings:
a. Add sweet rice flour to ½ cup water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and set aside to cool.
b. Clean, peel, and finely mince (or use blender with small amount of water) garlic and ginger. Mix with cooled sweet rice flour paste and add Korean red pepper powder.
c. Clean and peel radish, clean and trim green onions, and if desired, clean and peel Asian pear. Slice all Julienne style, or into matchsticks about 1 inch in length.
d. Using clean hands and disposable food handler gloves, mix above seasoning paste and Julienned vegetables together in large mixing bowl. Then mix in fish sauce to create a spicy veggie paste. Add salt only as needed.
e. Combine cabbage with the spicy veggie paste, rub together and mix thoroughly.

4. Pack container:
a. Pack kimchi tightly into container, minimizing air exposure and encouraging brine formation. Fill container about 2/3rd full, as fermenting microorganisms will release carbon dioxide (CO2) and create bubbling and fizzing.
b. Cover tightly. If using jars, seal to finger-tip tight. If using bags, squeeze out excess air. Place on plate or in bowl to catch potential overflow.

5. Ferment!
Option 1: Kimchi may be placed in refrigerator so it ferments slowlyover 3 to 4 days. This may be preferred, especially during hot weather.
Option 2: Place sealed container in a well-ventilated location (may become pungent), with a relatively constant room temperature, around 68°F is ideal. Ferment only 1 to 2 days at room temperature, tasting it daily until it reaches preferred tangy taste and desired texture.

6. Store and enjoy!
a. Store fermented kimchi covered tightly in the refrigerator. Keep it pressed down to minimize air exposure. Kimchi may become more sour over time. Discard if you observe indications of surface mold.
b. Kimchi can be enjoyed in countless recipes! Try it with eggs, rice, noodles, potatoes, in stir fry, fried rice, soup, pancakes, or on a sandwich or hot dog. Happy kimchi making!