The Great Kimchi Experiment

The Great Kimchi Experiment has begun! Remember the tremendously huge bok choy I bought at the farmer’s market two weeks ago? Well, somehow it hung in there, wrapped in paper towels and a plastic grocery bag in the fridge. It even survived the move. So when I had an unexpected afternoon at home waiting for cable repair men to show up I decided to seize the time available and jump right in.

I had kimchi making worked up in my head as this huge process, taking all day long. The giant batch I made only took a little over two hours, and some of that was just waiting for the salting to finish. The style of kimchi I decided to make is based on Maangchi’s extensive recipes and videos, using the glutinous rice paste base. My version ended up veering away from hers because I was working with what I had in the house and needed to stay away from the onions she uses. My poor husband loves onions but they tear up his stomach so this batch is completely onion-free.

Bok Choy, Pear and Carrot Kimchi

1/2 c glutinous rice flour (mochiko)
3 c water
1 large bok choy
1/2 c salt
2 1/2 c Korean coarse pepper powder
1/4- 1/2 c sugar
10 cloves of garlic
3 ” piece of fresh ginger
1 c Korean anchovy sauce, or fish sauce
1 large Korean pear
3 large carrots

There are a lot of steps, just take them one at a time.

Wash the bok choy thoroughly in cold water. Trim the bottom off, then stack the leaves and chop them into large pieces. Pack the bok choy into large non-reactive bowls, sprinkling the salt in as you go. Set aside to wilt for 1 1/2 hours.

Combine the rice flour and cold water in a small pan. Put over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a simmer. Turn to low and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture thickens considerably and smells cooked. Remove from the heat and pour the cooked rice flour porridge into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and set aside to cool.

Now prepare the fresh vegetables. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Slice the pear into thin matchstick pieces. Grate the carrots.

Once that is done, check the rice flour porridge. If it’s cool enough to stick a finger into, add the anchovy sauce, garlic and ginger. Stir thoroughly. Then add the pepper powder 1/2 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Do not get your face near the bowl or the measuring cup. If you breathe in the pepper dust you’ll regret it.

Once the pepper powder is stirred in thoroughly, take a minute and rinse everything around you. Wipe down the counter top with a damp rag, rinse out the measuring cup, and put any remaining pepper powder into a sealed container. If you used something re-usable to wipe down the counter top like a wash rag, put it immediately into the washing machine.

Now stir the pears and carrots into the mixture. You should have a thick red paste with all the fresh vegetables evenly distributed in the paste. It takes a lot of stirring! I used a long-handled wooden spoon.

The last step is washing and sterilizing the container you are using. Maangchi doesn’t address this at all because her kimchi is not fermented outside of the refrigerator. If you want to ferment your kimchi outside the fridge I would suggest washing the container now with hot soapy water and rinsing thoroughly with boiling water. You can also put your jars or containers through your dishwasher on high heat to sterilize them, or put them in boiling water.

Check the time. If it’s been 1 1/2 hours, go to the next step. If not, go take a break!

After at least 1 1/2 hours has passed, start rinsing the bok choy. I did this by filling my sink with cold water, then lifting the bok choy out of the brine with tongs and putting it into the fresh water in the sink. Now comes the fun part! Now, using tongs, lift the rinsed bok choy out of fresh water in small bunches and start stirring it into the red chili-vegetable mixture. I did this with long tongs, but you can also do it like Maangchi and use your hands if you have clean long rubber gloves. Keep adding the bok choy to the chili paste until it’s all mixed together very well and there are no “dry spots” between leaves with no paste. Then when it’s all combined, start packing it into the jars or container. Pack it down really well and then scrape any left over paste into the jar, too. Put on the lid loosely, wash off any pepper paste on the outside of the jar, and set it on the counter for 12 hours.

In 12 hours, look carefully at the jar. If there are lots of bubbles showing on the sides, take a long-handled wooden spoon and carefully push the handle of the spoon down into the kimchi, releasing the bubbles and packing all of the bok choy down into the pepper paste. Put the top back on loosely, and then put the whole jar into another bowl. Set it aside for 12 hours.

At this point the kimchi should be bubbling and happy. Push everything back down into the brine, rinse off the outside of the jar again, and put it in the fridge, preferably resting in another bowl just in case of spillover. Wait a couple of days or eat it right away. Enjoy!

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