Makes about 2 quarts
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS We have a weakness for the spicy, crunchy Korean fermented-cabbage condiment called kimchi. Whether you spoon it over a hot dog, stir it into fried rice, use it to add some heat to scrambled eggs, or—when it’s really good—snack on it plain, there is no shortage of ways to put it to good use. For our version (which, yes, is good enough to snack on), we wanted to create a somewhat thick, viscous, full-bodied brine with plenty of kick and vegetables that retained some fresh crunch. Tossing napa cabbage in canning and pickling salt and letting it sit for an hour removed excess water to maximize its crispness. We knew that the fermentation process would introduce layers of complex flavors, and after researching a number of kimchi recipes, we settled on a pungent paste of garlic, ginger, gochugaru (Korean chili powder), sugar, fish sauce, and soy sauce for additional concentrated, authentic flavors. With all of these bold elements present, we limited the rest of the roster to scallions and carrot. You can find Korean chili powder at Asian markets and online; if unavailable, you can substitute ⅓ cup red pepper flakes. For the most balanced flavor, we prefer a fermentation temperature of 65 degrees.
1 head napa cabbage (2½ pounds), cored and cut into
2- inch pieces
2½ teaspoons pickling salt
20 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup Korean chili powder
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped coarse
16 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 Toss cabbage with salt in bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer cabbage to colander, squeeze to drain excess liquid, and return to now-empty bowl. Cut out parchment paper round to match diameter of ½-gallon wide-mouth glass jar.
2 Process garlic, chili powder, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and ginger in food processor until no large pieces of garlic or ginger remain, about 20 seconds. Add garlic mixture, scallions, and carrot to cabbage and toss to combine. Tightly pack vegetable mixture into jar, pressing down firmly with your fist to eliminate air pockets as you pack. Press parchment round flush against surface of vegetables.
3 Fill 1-quart zipper-lock bag with 1 cup water, squeeze out air, and seal well. Place inside second zipper-lock bag, press out air, and seal well. Place bag of water on top of parchment and gently press down. Cover jar with triple layer of cheesecloth and secure cheesecloth with rubber band.
4 Place jar in 50- to 70-degree location away from direct sunlight and let ferment for 9 days; check jar daily, skimming residue and mold from surface and pressing to keep mixture submerged. After 9 days, taste kimchi daily until it has reached desired flavor. (This may take up to 11 days longer; cabbage should be soft and translucent with a pleasant cheesy, fishy flavor.)
5 When kimchi has reached desired flavor, remove cheesecloth, bag of water, and parchment, and skim off any residue or mold. Serve. (Kimchi and accumulated juice can be transferred to clean jar, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 months; while refrigerated, kimchi will continue to soften and develop flavor.)