Winter Picklin’: Kimchi!

10 Feb

For most people, the idea of making pickles is a summertime thing.  Like maybe this should be on in the background, and a bbq should be planned for Saturday.  The aforementioned is decidedly not what February is like.  Instead, February is Super Bowl blah blah blah, snowpocalypses, the last vestiges of trying to go to the gym for the year, and maybe house organization projects.  But people!  You can still pickle in the off-season!  And you will!  After you read my series…Winter Picklin’!

Every series should have a mascot.  Winter picklin’, eh?  I bet I can find one! I’m kind of an expert at google image searching for wacky food related images.   I’m gonna go with this one:

That's an actual product you can order on Etsy, from someone named LoveLee Soaps! Love Lee? Love IT!

One would find the above  if one were to search for novelty images of pickles dressed up in winter clothes, but what adult would engage in such a juvenile endeavor?

The main place to pick up players for your off-season pickling team is at your local farmer’s markets.  See what I did there?  Sports analogy!  And depending on how local you want to be, you can also pick up some star players at many international markets.  I live near an area with a great wealth of Vietnamese, Thai, and Mexican markets, so sometimes in the off-season, I’ll see a big tray of something being sold for cheap, and my mind immediately turns to pickles.  Viva la White Center!

Once the holidays ended and all of its magic was over, I decided to make kimchi.  And you should too!  Needless to say, there are a lot of ways to make kimchi.  I’ve followed Sandor Katz’s recipe from Wild Fermentation, and David Chang’s recipe from Momofuku.  I wasn’t a huge fan of either recipe, even though I do love both of those dudes.  Sandor’s tasted too much like ginger, and Chang’s tasted too much of kochukaru, or Korean red chili powder.  I wanted something different.  I remembered an article I read in Edible Seattle.  Do you love the Edible magazines as much as I do?  Edible Seattle is especially good.  I’ve picked up issues in Hawaii and Manhattan, Portland and Vancouver, and I gotta say, Seattle’s is best.  Anyway, a while back Edible Seattle ran a piece about making kimchi with Korean grandmothers.  If it’s got grandmothers in it, its gotta be good!  The recipe took a lot of time, but not a lot of work.  It’s worth it!


Adapted from Edible Seattle, Jan/Feb 2009 issue

Equipment needed:


Large, non-reactive bowl

Food processor

Large food grade tub or bucket.  The vessel you chose needs to be able to hold 2-3 Napa cabbage heads, cut in half, so about 4-6 cabbage head halves.  Plan accordingly.

Saran wrap.

1 gallon glass jar with lid.

Latex gloves, optional.


2-3 heads Napa cabbage:  about 5-6 pounds.

Napa cabbage.

1 large daikon radish: about 1 pound or so.

Kosher salt: 1 cup plus 1 TBSP.

Rice flour: 1 TBSP.  You can buy rice flour at any large Asian market.

1 large onion.

1 red or green bell pepper.

1-2 or more jalapenos or chilis of your choosing.

Korean fish sauce: 1/2 cup.  I actually looked all over for specifically Korean fish sauce, as it was recommended and I heard it was stronger.  I couldn’t find any, so I used my Thai fish sauce and it was fine.

Korean chili powder: 3/4 cup.  Also known as kochukaru. This is different from other kinds of chili powder.  Look for it in major Asian grocery stores.

Garlic cloves: I used about 6-8.  If you like it more or less garlicky, dowhatchulike.  MUSICAL INTERLUDE!

1 inch or so of fresh ginger, peeled and grated or diced.  Use more if you like especially gingery kimchi, which I do not.

1 cup of julienned carrot.

Scallions: 1-2 bunches, chopped roughly.

Sesame seeds: 1 TBSP, toasted.  Just toss them in a dry hot skillet for a few minutes until they are golden brown.


1.  First you must brine your veggies.  Peel your daikon, and don’t forget to think about the dirty jokes you’ll tell your S.O. when they arrive to see you wielding that thing.  Julienne the daikon, toss it with 1 TBSP kosher salt, and set it in a colander to wilt.

You thought it too, don't lie!

I'm loving my new over-the-sink colander!

2.  Now time to brine the Napa cabbage.  First, make the brine.  Find a large, non reactive container that you will wilt your cabbage in.  I did mine in a big stainless roasting pan.  A large food grade bucket or tub would work well too.  Put 1 cup of Kosher salt and 1 gallon warm water into the bucket/tub.  Let the salt dissolve and set the tub/bucket aside for the next step.

3.  Now, deal with the Napa cabbage, which will go in the above brine.  Discard any nasty outer leaves and trim excess off stems.  Cut each head of cabbage in half and rinse.

Cut the heads in half, longways.

4.  Take each halved head of cabbage and, one by one, hold them over the bucket of brine, cut side up.  Pour the brine over the cut side of each head, making sure that the brine really gets up in there.  Keep pouring.  You want the brine to get into and between each leaf of cabbage.  Repeat until all the cabbage halves are brined, then set all of the cabbage halves into the tub of brine.  When placing them in the tub, make sure the stems are covered—you really want to soften the stem area.  Also make sure the halves are touching as much brine solution as possible.  Let the cabbage wilt in the bucket for 2-3 hours.  If any areas of the heads are not wilted after 3 hours, sprinkle more salt onto those areas and place the halves back in the brine for 1-2 hours.

Napa cabbage, patiently waiting in it's salt brine.

5. It’s now time to make the seasoning mix that you will rub all over your cabbages!    First, dissolve 1 TBSP of rice flour in ¾ cup water.  Mix well to remove clumps.  Put the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a good simmer, then reduce heat so that the mixture is going at a low simmer.  Stir constantly.  The mixture is ready when it turns shiny and smooth.  This only takes about 5 minutes.  When shiny and smooth, set the mixture aside

6.  While your rice flour mixture is cooling, prep the other ingredients for the seasoning mix.  Peel and quarter one large onion.  Cut the red bell pepper in half.  Add both to the food processor and then toss in the 1-2 jalapenos, or chilis of your liking.    Process in the food processor until the mix is really blended and soupy, about a minute or two.  Put that mixture into a large non reactive bowl.

7.  Now add the rice flour mixture, and the onion/pepper/chili mix from food processor to the bowl.  Mix to thoroughly combine.  Here, you might want to wear rubber gloves.  Add each of the following ingredients to the large bowl, mixing well after each one: ½ cup fish sauce, ¾ cup Korean chili powder/kochugaru, 6 cloves garlic, 1” or so of ginger peeled and grated or diced, the wilted daikon from step 1, 1 cup julienned carrot, 1-2 bunches of scallions chopped, and 1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds (toast them for a few minutes in a dry hot skillet).  Make sure the end result is mixed well.

Kimchi seasoning mix.

8.Now for the fun part!  Sterilize a 1 gallon jar and dry it well.  Now grab your cabbage halves.  Wearing rubber gloves, slather some of the completed spice mixture onto every leaf of the cabbage halves.

Wine helps winter all-day pickling projects!

Put more down by the stem because it’s thicker down there.  You need enough seasoning paste for all the cabbage heads, so make sure you evenly divide the spice mixture between all the cabbage halves.  Now fold the completed cabbage halves in half, then stuff into the large jar.

The halved cabbage heads should be pretty saturated with brine and seasoning paste.

This will be messy.  And don’t do this at 11:30 on a Saturday night, it will make your S.O. unhappy.  Keep stuffing the cabbage halves into the jar very tightly.  Pack the jar very tightly—you do not want air pockets.  The amount of cabbage called for here should fit into the gallon jar.

Stuff those cabbage halves in that jar!

9. Put a clean piece of plastic wrap on the top of the jar before putting the lid on the jar.  Now let the capped jar sit in a cool place for two days, then refrigerate.  Enjoy!


Thoughts: This just gets better the longer it sits until it’s not, then it becomes pretty intense.  The cabbage halves will keep wilting and will slightly break apart, but they stayed somewhat unwieldy to get out of the jar.  Be mindful of splashes, or if you really think this will bother you, cut the heads into quarters.  Eat this kimchi fresh!  Or make kimchi stew, especially after it’s aged a bit and especially right now, while it’s winter!  Here’s how I did it.

Kimchi Stew:


Meat and/or seafood.  I used about 3/4 pound of good Thundering Hooves ground beef, and it wasn’t enough.  I think possibly the same amount of beef plus perhaps an equal amount of shrimp would be delicious.  Use what you have!

2 cups of kimchi, which you just made!

1 onion, diced.

6-8 cloves garlic. I like garlic.

2 TBSP kochukaru.

2 TBSP kochujang.

1 TBSP soy sauce.

1-2 TBSP fish sauce. More if you do not use seafood or shrimp.

1 block tofu.

6 cups water or broth.

1 bunch of scallions, chopped.

1-3 TBSP sesame oil.


1.  Put 1-2 TBSP sesame oil in a large dutch oven or wok.  Add meat and stir fry for a few minutes.

2.  Add kimchi to pot and stir fry for a few minutes.

Lookin' good! This stew is good for what ails you!

3.  Add rest of oil and onion, garlic, kochujang, kochukaru, soy sauce and fish sauce.  Stir to combine. Here, you can dd whatever veggies you have around the house.  We had about a half a pound of green beans leftover, so we added those.  You could add mushrooms, potatoes, kale, etc.  Use what you have!

Kochujang on the left, kochukaru on the right.

4.  Add water or stock to pot and bring to a boil.

5.  Let simmer for 20-230 minutes.  Add tofu after first 10 minutes, then add scallions at the very end.

Don't stir too much and the tofu cubes will stay intact.

Eat with rice!

I’ve got more winter pickles to come folks! And I’m heading to the farmer’s market this weekend, to see what’s next.  Stay tuned!


11 Responses to “Winter Picklin’: Kimchi!”

  1. growandresist February 13, 2011 at 12:40 AM #

    mmm! Can’t wait to taste the kimchi! I am still down in CA and thought of you when I went searching this place: It looked awesome. Unfortunately, awesome and closed. Boo!

    • ohbriggsy February 13, 2011 at 2:13 PM #

      friend! i miss you! that shop looks awesome! sucks that it’s closed! and yep, you gotta try the kimchi. i hope you, your mom and dad and the BL are ok! when do you come back?

  2. double S February 14, 2011 at 7:53 AM #

    Try this kimchi recipe as well as the kimchi stew. So So So Delicious! I’ve been eating the stew for breakfast and its a delightful way to start the day out right!

  3. Peter February 16, 2011 at 4:57 PM #

    Kimchi and Humpty in the same post? Nice work. I make mine completely differently, but that’s the beauty of this sort of thing. Open-source awesomeness.

    • ohbriggsy February 17, 2011 at 5:56 PM #

      thanks, peter! yeah, there are so many different ways to make kimchi. i’m really liking this way–really flavorful! glad you liked the humpty! if you cant read about fermentation while listening to digital underground…well, that’s just too sad to think about.


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