Saturday, September 5, 2015

Canning Kimchi

In Korea, there are hundreds of different varieties of kimchi, each variety noted by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the dish. In fact, there is a museum in Seoul South Korea specifically dedicated to the dish. Regardless of the region, the most common ingredients in kimchi are: napa cabbage, salt, scallions, onions, ginger, radish, garlic, shrimp paste, and fish sauce. The great thing about kimchi is the variety of vegetables you can use, however the one vegetable that all varieties of kimchi contain is cabbage. After that it is game on, use what ever vegetables you have, that is the great thing about kimchi.

Kimchi is that is fermented is traditionally made via the process of lactofermentation, just like sauerkraut. This process of using living bacteria can cause many problems when you want to make kimchi at home and can it safely. Personally I am not sure if you can do so, or if you should. I know you can buy commercially produced kimchi that comes in glass jars that have been heat processed, but I am loathe to try canning a batch of lactofermented vegetables at home.

My nephew Calan and his wife Eri (who is from Korea) introduced me to kimchi. I am talking about the authentic, fresh as well as fermented kimchi, tangy, crunchy, and full of flavor. Not the kind you find in jars at the local Walmart, you know the ones with ½ inch of dust on the top. This recipe is based on the varieties of fermented kimchi that I personally believe are out of this world. Listen, my wife will be the first to tell you I am not a big vegetable eater, but I really enjoy pickled and fermented vegetables. The variety of both fresh and fermented kimchi in which my niece Eri introduced me too blew me away.

Growing a garden and being somewhat of an avid canner, I wondered if I could come up with a recipe that would satisfy my taste for kimchi, but be safe to can and share with my family and friends. Technically, this recipe is not a traditional kimchi, but rather a 'Korean Inspired' recipe for pickled vegetables. The same ingredients can be used, however, rather than using the process of lactofermentation, I pickled the vegetables using vinegar and traditional kimchi spices. Now, The closest local Korean market is 'H-Mart' in Dallas, TX and that is about 2 hours from my home. When we go to visit Calan and Eri who live in the DFW area we generally go there and I stock up on my supply of Korean and Asian foods.

Anyway, I have been wanting to try a 'kimchi' inspired pickle recipe. I did not have any Korean red Pepper Flakes, but had about 10 tablespoons of red pepper paste left so I decided I would give my recipe a try. I had enough red pepper paste to make four pints and if it did not work, well the cost was minimal. Because regular cabbage was $0.49 a head, and napa cabbage was $2.49 a head, I decided to use regular cabbage and treat it just like it was napa cabbage, used banana peppers from my garden, and regular onions and carrots. Personally I love the way this recipe turned out! Next time I go to Dallas I will by some daikon radish and spring for the extra cost for the napa cabbage at my local Walmart and try it with more traditional ingredients and see if I like it better. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use what ever vegetables you like.

Special Ingredients

As mentioned earlier the variety of vegetables and ingredients kimchi varies, with each person or family having their of traditions and personal tastes. Most kimchi's however contain one or more of the following ingredients. Napa cabbage, salt, daikon radish, scallion and red pepper flakes (gochugaru). Most of these ingredients with the exception of the red pepper flakes (gochugaru) can be found at your local supermarket. Heck my local Walmart here in East Texas has everything except the daikon radish, but I have seen it there. Now the Gochujang is a different story, and you will either have to find it as a local ethnic (Korean, Chinese, or Asian) market, or you will have to purchase it online.

When purchasing it at the supermarket, most of the bags will be labeled in Korean or maybe even Chinese. Another thing you must look out for, is that even though it is called red pepper flakes, it is really 'coarse' red pepper powder and the bag made labeled as such. Your best best if you do not have a Korean friend or family member is to look for bags labeled 'Coarse Red Pepper Powder' or Gochugaru. In my recipe I used red pepper paste (gochujang), I could have used flakes, but as mentioned I did not have any on hand. Next time I will try a combination of both although I am happy with how the red pepper paste turned out.

Red Pepper Paste (Gochujang) – Dried Korean red flakes, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt that is made into a paste and fermented.

Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – Sun dried Korean red peppers that are coarsely ground. The may be mis-labeled as red pepper powder in English, but remember you want the 'coarse' red pepper flake. Red pepper flakes that you find in your local supermarket (the type used on pizza) are not the same.

Getting Everything Ready (Mise En Place)

The use of vinegar in this recipe makes the kimchi a high acid food so we will use a water bath canner to can our kimchi. In addition to the water bath canner you will need the appropriate number of pint of quarts jars, lids, and rings. If you haven't cleaned yours jars, then do so before you get started. Once your jars are clean we are going to sterilize them. Fill your water canner about ¾ full with water and put on the stove and set it on high. I like to go ahead and sterilize my jars and set them aside on my racks just before I add my ingredients.

Once the water in your water bath canner or stockpot begins to boil, reduce the heat until the water simmers and using your jar tongs place no more than 3 pint jars in your water bath canner or stockpot at a time and leave for 30 seconds to sterilize the jars then remove to a rack to cool. If you do not have a metal rack, a bath towel folded in half to protect the counter will work, however be careful not to knock the jars onto the floor. At this point I also sterilize my funnels and other equipment by dipping them into the water and placing them on my canning racks with the jars. When you are ready to can your kimchi, take a small saucepan and fill with water and set it on high and heat it just until it starts to boil. Turn off the heat and add your rings and lids.

The Recipe

As I mentioned earlier Kimchi can be made fresh or fermented, so I asked myself why can't it be pickled? This recipe uses the same spices as a traditional kimchi, and has the same spicy, tangy flavor it is simply pickled as opposed to fermented. As far as I am concerned, this recipe definitely classifies as a variety kimchi. But if it makes you happy, then you could call it 'Korean Style Pickled Vegetables'. Whatever the name, I asked my Korean niece Eri how she liked it and I got what I call the official Korean seal of approval “that's good uncle Todd.”

Anyway, I have enjoyed this recipe and if you like kimchi and or other pickled vegetables, I am sure you will like it as well. The kimchi recipe that I used as inspiration for this recipe can be found at the website 'The Kitchen: How To Make Easy Kimchi At Home.'

Todd's Kimchi (Korean Style Pickled Vegetables)

2 lbs cabbage, cored and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 onions, chunked
1 cup banana peppers, cut into matchsticks
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup pickling salt
¼ cup fish sauce (If you want it vegetarian you can substitute soy sauce)
8 to 10 tablespoons red pepper paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste or grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the red pepper paste, ginger paste, garlic, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then let it cool. Once the pickling liquid has cooled, add the fish sauce to the liquid. I like to make my mixture a day ahead to allow the flavors to mingle.

Core and cut the cabbage into 2 inch pieces and place in a large bowl and toss with the salt. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours tossing it every few hours. After the allotted time (6 to 8 hours), place a colander in the sink, drain the cabbage, and rinse with cold water three or four times to remove as much of the salt as possible. Gently squeeze out any excess liquid and place in a large bowl.

Toss the cabbage with the remaining vegetables (carrots, banana peppers, onions) and optional red pepper flakes. Pack the vegetable mixture firmly into pint mason jars. (the recipe as written generally makes about 4 pints. If you find you need more jars, you may not have packed firmly enough - and you'll need more vinegar mixture as a result.)

Using a canning funnel, pour the pickling (vinegar and spice) mixture over the vegetables and leave ½ of head space in each jar. Wipe the rim of the jars with a damp paper towel to remove any residue, then add the heated lids and rings and hand tighten. Using you jar tongs, place the jars into your boiling water bath canner making sure that the water level in the canner is 2 to 3 inches above the tops of the jars.

Process the jars for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. After 2o minutes, remove them to cool on a rack or towel until you hear them seal and they are cool. Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 weeks before opening.

The Conclusion

I have to admit that I was really surprised how good this recipe turned out as I was sort of winging it. I had a base recipe, but substituting regular cabbage for the napa variety concerned me. I thought I would come out soggy, but I found that the process of salting the cabbage actually kept it crunchy, even after processing in my water bath canner. I whole heartedly believe it is the technique of the recipe that made the difference. I really liked having big pieces of onions with the cabbage, and the banana peppers from our garden were a last minute addition. Like I mentioned earlier, that is the great thing about pickling vegetables, almost anything works.

This recipe is a keeper for me, there may only be a few people in my family who will enjoy the tangy, crunchy, flavor, but that's okay, it means more kimchi for me. If you are wanting to learn about canning, be sure and check out some of my other articles on the subject on our blog. And as always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us on friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.

Additional References:

To Pressure or Not To Pressure, That Is the Question: Preserving Your Bounty Safely.

The Kitchen: How To Make Easy Kimchi At Home.'

1 comment:

  1. How long can the Kimchi be expected to be good on the shelf for, given the jars are boiling-water bathed and not pressure cooked? Have dabbled in traditional Kimchi but it really didn't have the texture or flavor I was looking for. This recipe seems to be dah one.