This classic Korean ferment highlights Napa cabbage spectacularly. Traditionally, kimchi is blisteringly hot, but this tamer-but-still-full-flavoured version can be spiced to taste.
- 1 head Napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 cups non-chlorinated water, plus more as needed
- 1 large daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks (optional)
- 3-4 green onions, white and green parts julienned into 1-inch pieces
- 5 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 2-inch nub fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce or 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes, more to taste
- Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut the cores from the bottom portions. Cut or tear the leaves into large, bite-sized pieces, about 2-inch strips. Place the pieces in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage pieces and massage to gently work the salt into all the pieces. Pour over the water, adding more if necessary to completely submerge the cabbage. Place a plate on top of the pieces to keep them submerged and let sit until the cabbage is slightly wilted, 2-4 hours. Drain and rinse thoroughly with clean, fresh water, finishing by letting the cabbage sit in a colander for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the spice paste. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce and mash into a smooth-ish paste. Add in the chili flakes and mash again.
- Return the cabbage to the large bowl, squeezing it gently over the spice paste as you move each handful. Stir the spice paste after each addition. When all the cabbage is in the bowl, pour or scrape in the paste and toss until the cabbage is well-coated. Stir in the daikon radish and green onions.
- Pack the mixture into either 1 or 2 quart-size Mason jars, leaving at least one-inch of headspace in each jar. Press down on the vegetables until the brine completely covers the vegetables. Add more water if necessary to cover. Cover tightly with lids or fermentation airlocks. Set inside a bowl to catch any overflow as fermentation begins.
- Let sit at room temperature for 2-5 days. Check the kimchi once a day, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. If you use a standard Mason jar lid, this also "burps" the jar and releases gases that have built up during the fermentation process. After two days, taste the kimchi and when it tastes well-fermented, transfer to the refrigerator. If you used an airlock, be sure to replace it with a standard lid.
- The kimchi is ready to eat at this point, but the flavor will continue to develop and is best after another 1-3 weeks. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Be sure to use salt that is free of iodine and anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
Likewise, chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use distilled, filtered, or fresh well water.