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Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I made kimchi! but....I am not happy with it entirely, this is my second time to make it. I need to tweak the recipe for sure. this one was too salty for may tastes! I also harbor some confusion about the fermentation time and requirements for salt. more on that later

this is two heads of napa cabbage (I can't believe I found napa cabbage around here! yeah!) and also two heads of bok choi. Mostly because I like the green in it  . In the bowl is 3/4 cup korean pepper flakes, 1.5 heads of garlic, and salt. waaaay too much salt. the cabbage hase been brined and then rinsed several times and is wilted significantly. brining before or not seems to be a bit controversial. I just went with it.  my sil recipe is lost so I picked one off the net. It called for 1 whole cup of salt along with the pepper and garlic (outside the brine and mixed with the cabbage). I knew that was way too much for me so I cut it down to near or less then 3/4 cup. still too much. I eliminated the ginger from the recipe and decided to forego any of the other optional ingredients because I know i liked my sil's recipe and it had neither of these. I do remember she added thinly sliced green onion so thats what I did.

all mixed up! and getting juicy. this is where I tasted it and decided there was no way I could eat it or it could be healthy with that much salt. so I diluted the juice significantly. still saltier then I want but at least edible.... sort of.....maybe with a big glob of rice....this might be going into a stew actually.

it fit perfectly into four pints. confirming my suspician in the beginning that there was way too much salt in this recipe and that I didn't reduce it near enough.

so some questions. since this is really just a variety of saurkraut (right?) why couldn't I/shouldn't I follow the directions for kraut and just add the pepper, onions and garlic and use a dif variety of cabbage?  this seems like a simplistic way of going about it for me. I have good numbers on the required amount of salt for fermenting regular kraut with lbs of cabbage  per ounce of salt. I want enough to preserve it and allow the lactic acid to do its job but as little as possible.

also. kraut is fermented at 68* ish degrees for several weeks oftentimes. all the recipes for kimchee I find say only to ferment for a few days at room  temp if even that, and then refrigerate? is this just the recipe (s) makers safety since no one seems to have looked up the requirements for salt and safety? on sites that show the traditional method of making kimchi its not refrigerated it is in crocks in the ground. several say around 55*. I want as close to  the real stuff as I can get, not an americanized, non fermented version.

I want all the goodies from the fermentation process as I can get and still get a yummy kimchi. it seems alot of the recipes are just 'pickled' not really fermented. that would explain the high salt of some of them and the little to no fermentation outside of the fridge.

what do you think.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent

Joined: Sep 27, 2009
Posts: 40

If you don't have a copy of Sandor Katz's book "Wild Fermentation" then I highly suggest you do so. There are so many different ways you can ferment food like beer, bread, sauerkraut, amazake, yoghurt, and many more. It is an easy and down-to-earth read with a lot of humor laced throughout. Well worth spending some money on it.

His recipe for kimchi calls for mixing a brine of 4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of salt. Let the vegetable soak in that over night and then drain off the brine water the next day. Taste the vegetables and if they are sufficiently salty for your taste then go ahead and use the spices that you want to make kimchi with no additional salt. If it tastes too salty then rinse of the vegetables and retaste. If it isn't salty enough then he recommends sprinkling a couple of teaspoons of salt over it and mixing. Basically, you are salting to taste. If you get the book, be sure to check out his recipe for FRUIT kimchi. I am going to try some this year and see how it goes.

Also, are those canning jar lids on tight? You know that they might explode from the CO2? In general you should read Katz's book because he explains a few things that will make your fermentation a little bit easier.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1909
Location: PNW Oregon
I want all the goodies from the fermentation process as I can get and still get a yummy kimchi. it seems alot of the recipes are just 'pickled' not really fermented. that would explain the high salt of some of them and the little to no fermentation outside of the fridge.

I haven't made kimchi, but I do a lot of fermenting of foods and beverages, and I would say your on target with your assumptions from my experiences. 

One thing that might help is the type of salt.  What kind of salt are you using?
I ask because when I switch from table salt to Himalayan sea salt I noticed a huge difference in cooking.  Himalayan salt didn't taste near as salty when using the same amounts.  Maybe your recipe was made with a different salt - just a thought.


Joined: Apr 25, 2009
Posts: 20
Location: Northern Calif.
  Ok... you have me convinced that I have to start making my own Kim Chi.... those pics did it !

As I recall the reasoning for the burying the Kim chi underground was that it kept the crocks of fermenting Kim Chi at a small temp range of 50 to 56 degs F for most of the year round..... they would dig up the pots so they could have veggies during the frozen winters.

Back in the 70's when I was first introduced to Kim Chi they used to make their own and would ferment their Kim Chi for many months... not weeks..... some would even let it go for up to a whole year !.......... But for most people thats just too long to wait....... but my employers who made the Kim Chi were Korean and it was simply part of their culture and to them it was normal to always have some revolving batches of Kim Chi going on.

But I agree if it is only done for a couple of days or weeks it really is more of a pickling than longer term fermentation.

EDIT : I think I may have egg on my face here and please accept my apology , but I think I messed up here as I got crossed up and was refering to the Koreans burying their Kim Chi in pots in the ground for up to a year...... not the 1st fermentation stage before storage.... my mistake. ops:

Joined: Apr 25, 2009
Posts: 20
Location: Northern Calif.
As I was doing some researching I found this article on fermenting veggies...... not directly related to Kim chi but was interesting none the less for a beginner like me.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
don't worry the lids are not on tight!

I hadnt' thought about the differing kinds of salt. I used just plain kosher course salt.

I just started a batch of sauerkraut yesterday. 3 T salt for 5 pounds of cabbage. a whole lot less then 1 cup for 4 pints! I have has success with kraut before using guidelines in my books and from real people in 'fermentation forums" there seems to be alot more consistancy in "how to make kraut" then in "how to make Kimchi".

they only problem I have with the brine then rinse method is that I know that with kraut a certain percentage of salt is required to inhibit the growth of the bad stuff and allow the lacto fermenters to get a good hold of it. i am sensitive to salty things (I often can't eat restaruant food even) and I am afraid i will rinse off too much salt. I just don't want to end up with rotten cabbage as opposed to fermented cabbage.

ah well. half the fun is the experimentation!


Joined: Oct 28, 2009
Posts: 1
maybe try tweaking the amount of hot pepper flakes. if salt is a big concern, adding more hot pepper can increase the fermentation of the good bacteria. i don't know how that works, but every time i hear about kimchi the people tell me hot pepper is really important -- almost as important as the salt. (I live in Korea and eat kimchi every day for almost every meal.) I've been to a couple of company gatherings and there's usually a kimchi presentation involved. invariably, hot pepper is lauded as the substance that makes kimchi possible. I've heard it called things like "force multiplier" and "super catalyst."

Also, most sources (old ladies in school kitchens) tell me that you can eat kimchi a day after it is brined.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
yeah...I will probably just start over. I have a nice batch of kraut bubbling on my counter and I think I will just use my kraut recipe and add the pepper, green onion and garlic and use napa cabbage. it just makes sense to me. it is not too salty and has a nice "sauerkraut" smell to it already.

I did find a blurb somewhere about how napa cabbage has more sugar in it, maybe that makes it ferment quicker?

sounds like the pepper does alot to help with the suppression of the icky stuff so it can only be easier than plain kraut...
Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Leah Sattler wrote:I did find a blurb somewhere about how napa cabbage has more sugar in it, maybe that makes it ferment quicker?

sounds like the pepper does alot to help with the suppression of the icky stuff so it can only be easier than plain kraut...

Both of those make lots of sense to me.  Although some of the fermentable components of cabbage are oligosaccharides: gums, pectins, etc.  Sugars would give the microbes a headstart, but  AFAIK that's only the appetizer course.

It may be possible that some of the organisms discouraged by pepper play an important role in sauerkraut, and if so a particular culture might be important to kimchi somehow.  This seems less likely the more I consider it, but I can't rule it out.

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
that may be unlikely but still a possibility I hadn't considered yet. that could contribute to a slightly different flavor also that I hadn't attributed to it. 

I tasted my sauerkraut now at a week from the outset and it is quite yummy with a great typical tang to it developing. maybe next week I can try the kimchi again with these ideas rolling in my head and see what I come up with, and use a little more artistic licence and not be so concerned with finding someone elses recipe to use.
Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
By the way, this looks really good! I'd like to try some.
rose macaskie

Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
Leah , my mother in law used to make incredibly salty soups and i found it really hard to eat them when i was pregnant, it might be that you can't bare the kimchi to be too salty because you are pregnant.
  I am glad you have put in this thread, Kimchi was something i wanted to know how to make. I shall have to read this with attention, i have just run my eye through it, so that i can try it myself. agri rose macaskie.
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
you're right rose. I am especially sensitive to salt right now. I got pretty irritated the other night when we went out to eat and I couldn't eat 1/2 the things on my plate because of the salt. my eyes bug out of my head when I see my husband add salt to stuff like that  

even the sauerkraut I made has a salty taste to me and it didnt in the past. 
Frank Turrentine

Joined: Nov 12, 2012
Posts: 73
I make my own kimchi all the time now, though this winter I don't have any greens besides broccoli growing out in the garden - and I don't really expect much out of it this year. But last year I made several batches of kimchi, and I'm still nibbling on the remains of that even now.

I don't use Napa cabbage for mine. I use bok choi, radishes, carrots, horseradish, onions, chiles and garlic - and sometimes I use store-bought green apples as well just for kicks. I made the first few batches with dried bonito flakes, but I gave that up this past year. I like to give a lot of it away, and many of my friends who like it are vegan anyway. I just pack all of this stuff in layers into a crock, cramming it down with my fist as I go and then leave it on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks, checking it periodically and skimming the scum off the top if needed.

This may not be an orthodox kimchi recipe, but the Korean lady who owns the donut shop down the street tasted it and asked me if I knew any Korean folks and told me it was really good and nicely sour. I felt validated.

I used to be terribly intimidated by stuff like this. Now it seems like the most natural thing in the world. And, much like my sourdough and kambucha, I think nothing of making it anymore and playing it by ear.

Rebecca Norman

Joined: Aug 28, 2012
Posts: 689
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5 or 6
Super simple kimchi (vegetarian and using common ingredients)
I have been making this for the past three years, in large amounts, with great success. I live in the Indian Himalayas where we only have regular round cabbage, and we use whatever red chillies we have, not Korean chilli.

We learned how to make it from our friend Nate, who learned it from his Korean mother on Martha’s Vineyard where she didn't have napa cabbage and Korean chilli. With no fresh fruit and veg in the market for 4 months of winter in Ladakh, our kimchi is a smash success all winter. We also make local style oiled pickle, but many of our local teenage students say they like our kimchi better than the traditional homemade pickle they grew up with. And it’s easier to make.

This recipe fills about 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of containers. Our 40 people gobble up a 10 liter tub in 3 days. You can use an assortment of smaller containers and reuse commercial jars. Canning jars are unnecessary.

• About 10 kg (20 lbs) cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces. Normal round cabbage works great, as would napa etc.
• Optional: replace 1 kg (2 lb) with carrots and/or radishes, julienned (cut into narrow rectangular strips). Or add strips of a dark green cabbage leaf such as kale or collards. Or fresh chillies in halves, red or green.
• 50 g (2 oz) salt, then add more to taste. It should be lightly salty, like food. Don't worry if it's iodized salt.
Chop the cabbage and vegetables and mix the salt throughout. Leave it covered for an hour or two, so it wilts a bit.

• a bunch of scallions (onion leaves), or an onion sliced in thin rings
• 200 g (7 oz) garlic (a bit less than half a pound)
• 250 g (9 oz) ginger (a bit more than half a pound)
• 200 g (7 oz) powdered red chilli, but not a very hot variety. We have big Kashmiri chillies that give gorgeous colour and flavour but only moderate heat. If using other chillies, start with less and later add more to taste. We buy whole dry red chillies and powder them in the blender.

Chop the garlic and ginger fine. Make a paste of them with the chilli powder and smear thoroughly throughout the vegetables, mixing the onions in. Include some of the brine that came out of the vegetables. Taste and adjust the spices and salt. It should be a tasty salad at this point, only as spicy and as salty as you like it.

Pack tight into clean containers (not metal since it could rust). Cover as airtight as possible (not very strict), and stand in a warm place for about 5 - 7 days. We keep them in a sunny windowsill or solar heated greenhouse, which probably reaches 27˚C 80˚F in the day and drops to 13˚C 55˚F at night. Stand the containers on a tray in case they ooze garlicky juice.

The lactobacillus bacteria like a warm, moist, lightly salty, anaerobic (airless) environment. They produce lactic acid which eliminates other organisms, gives kimchi its characteristic sour tang, and preserves it.

Keep tasting it, and when it’s nice and sour either eat it soon, or refrigerate it. After it has fermented fully in the warmth, we wrap the containers in plastic and bury them 1 m (3 ft) deep in the garden, the same way we root-cellar potatoes over the bitter cold winter here. It is if anything, even more delicious four months later at the tail end of winter. It stays good at least a week or two at cool room temperature (but we've never been able to test if it lasts longer than that!).

Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas . "Back home" is Cape Cod.
Renate Howard

Joined: Jan 10, 2013
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
There's a way to ferment vegetables using whey, if you have any. I've never done it because I love salt!

I started using a brine method for fermenting that I lot because it takes all the guesswork out of it for me, about how much salt needs to be added. I use 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water to make a brine. Use less brine than you need to cover all the vegetables because they'll wilt and it will draw out some fluid from them so you'll wind up with too much brine otherwise.

I make a blend of kimchi and sauerkraut now - use regular cabbage but add carrots, daikon, hot pepper, onions, garlic, etc. It's delicious! I can't go back to regular sauerkraut now. I read that the REAL sauerkraut used to be much more than just cabbage - they'd even stick sausages in there to ferment with the cabbage. I've not worked up the courage to try that yet, but I've layered sauerkraut with meat in the refrigerator for a few days before cooking it. It smells nasty (cabbage fumes) when cooking but tastes out of this world delicious!
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
It's nearly kimchi season for you Northerners...
I had lots of bok choy and wom bok that were transplanted late and never got decent root systems going.
They're either bolting or being massacred by slugs/snails.

wom bok, bok choy, giant red mustard, red Russian kale
The self-sown daikon radishes are still tiny. I thinned them out.
The garlic chives are resprouting. I chopped off all the mature leaves
I left small leaves whole, and cut big leaves into three or so bits.
Kimchi is always quite chunky in my experience.

I mixed fish sauce, chilli paste, salt, sesame oil, grated garlic and ginger in a big plastic bowl,
added the leaves and pounded it with a bottle just enough to break it up a bit.

I was just thinking-the ferments I've done that involve garlic/chilli/ginger have never gone wrong.
Should I assume the things in them that protect me from illness are busily knocking off pathogenic bacteria in a ferment?
Makes sense...

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subject: kimchi