October's warmth allowed my fall vegetables to grow at record speed. Check out these beautiful mustard greens:
I planted this fabric bed on my patio with a mixture of Asian greens and the red mustard (right side) in particular has really taken off. I think it will make a beautiful kimchi.
After harvesting and washing about a pound of greens, I roughly chopped them into approximately 2-inch sections. I also thinly sliced the two biggest 'Watermelon' radishes I could find in my garden along with a store-bought carrot. All of these went into a big bowl of brine (4 cups water, 4 tablespoons salt) and were allowed to sit for several hours until softened. This softening step is important for when you pack the kimchi into the jar, as you want the vegetables to compress without breaking.
Now it's time for the spices. Most recipes call for a few green onions, a few cloves of garlic, some fresh ginger, and gochugaru (Korean chile powder). Instead of finely mincing the garlic and ginger, I like to slice the ginger into thin but still relatively large pieces and partially crush the garlic so that it remains in large chunks. Likewise, I cut the green onions into approximately 2-inch lengths. Leaving these spices in larger chunks allows for the flavors to both meld together and remain uniquely identifiable. Gochugaru can be found at any of our local H Marts. Fish sauce or salt-cured seafood are also traditional ingredients, but I chose to make this a vegetarian kimchi.
Starting top right, then proceeding clockwise: green onion segments, crushed garlic, thinly sliced ginger, and gochugaru (center).
Next, drain the brine from the vegetables (save at least a cup of it in case you need it later) and give the vegetables a taste. If they are too salty, rinse them. If they are not salty enough, add more salt. Likewise, as you mix the spices, give it a taste and adjust the flavors to your preferences. For instance, I used half a cup of gochugaru because we love spicy food.
Now mix the vegetables and spices together.
Red mustard, 'Watermelon' radish, and carrot on the left (after brining), spice mixture on the right.
Pack the veggies and spices into a clean quart jar and add more reserved brine to submerge the vegetables, if needed. As I packed the jar, enough juices were present in the brined vegetables that no additional brine was needed. Put a lid on the jar loosely so that carbon dioxide can escape and leave it on the counter, tasting every day to gauge the fermentation. You want to arrive at a balance of salty, spicy, and sour flavors and for the vegetables to retain some of their crunchiness without going mushy. On average, it takes about a week.
I like kimchi straight out of the jar, but kimchi pancakes are extra drool-worthy.