There are so many variations on this Korean ferment that it was difficult to narrow the choices down to one recipe. Basically, you can make kimchi out of anything: not only the usual Napa cabbage, but other kinds of cabbage or bok choy, grated turnips, daikon, apples, or even stone fruit! I don't think a Korean meal would be quite right without a small plate of bright orange-red folds of spicy, sour, pleasantly salty cabbage. It's fiber-and vitamin-rich and offers all the healthful benefits of fresh fermented foods.
Kimchi takes only about a week to reach its peak and then keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. It is almost infinitely versatile. Serve it as a side dish, but also drop some into broth along with cubed tofu, mince it and fold it into white rice, or use it in place of scallions in Chinese-style scallion pancakes.
Fermenting the kimchi in a half-gallon jar with a brine-filled plastic bag stuffed into the top is an idea that comes from the always brilliant Linda Ziedrich, who offers several intriguing kimchis in her Joy of Pickling.
- 1 medium head Napa cabbage (about 1½ pounds)
- 6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 small daikon, peeled and cut into julienne strips (about 8 ounces)
- ¼ cup pure kosher salt
- 2 to 4 tablespoons Korean chile powder (see Notes)
- 1½ inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets in oil or salt, drained or rinsed and finely minced
Quarter and core the cabbage and cut it into roughly 2-inch squares. Put in a large stainless-steel bowl with the daikon and scallions and set aside.
In another large bowl or a half-gallon jar, combine the salt with 8 cups water, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour the brine over the vegetables to just cover them, then put a plate on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. Cover the container with a clean, heavy towel and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain the vegetables, reserving the brine, and return them to the bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, ginger, garlic, and anchovies, mashing with a fork to make a loose paste. Add the paste and the scallions to the cabbage and daikon and toss to coat thoroughly. Pack the mixture tightly into a half-gallon glass jar. Pour in some of the reserved brine if necessary, pressing down on the vegetables to make sure they're just covered with brine. Stuff a resealable plastic bag into the mouth of the jar, pour in enough of the remaining brine to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine, and seal the bag.
Let ferment at cool room temperature for about 1 week, until slightly sour and very tasty, then remove the bag and put a lid on the jar. Refrigerate and use as desired. The kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks, becoming gradually more sour.