The aromas of fermenting kimchi are wafting through the house fiercely. I’ve completed step II and with the recent heat wave, the fermentation has picked up speed and is going full-force. Those wonderful microorganisms are turning the brine acidic and adding those nuanced flavors we’ve come to associate with kimchi.
We left off with a bunch of cabbage, bell peppers, garlics and kohlrabi fermenting in a vat of brine (If you missed it, check out Step I). Here’s the next step:
Kimchi Step II
Next we’ll need to prepare the spicy, garlicky paste that will give kimchi its characteristic flavors. Feel free to make it as spicy, garlicky or fishy as you like. Here’s what I used:
10 garlic cloves
4 Tbsp chili powder (choose how spicy you want to make it)
2-3 anchovies (make sure they contain no preservatives, as they can kill your microorganisms) or 2 tsp fish sauce
4 Tbsp grated ginger (I used baby ginger, which is particularly fresh & spicy)
1 leek, chopped
1. Place all of the chili paste ingredients in the food processor or blender and process until it forms a nice paste.
2. Take your vats of brined kimchi and drain the brine above the cabbage into a container (save this for now). Taste the kimchi. If it is too salty, rinse it with water. If it is not salty enough, add more salt.
3. Using your clean hands, massage the chili-garlic paste into the kimchi until every last bit is covered.
4. Once you are finished, press down on the kimchi until brine comes up above the cabbage. If there isn’t enough liquid, use the brine you drained off. Make sure there is about an inch or so of brine above any of the kimchi.
5. Weigh down the kimchi with a plate so that the cabbage stays below the brine (this will prevent mold from growing on your kimchi).
6. Cover the top with a cloth or a plastic bag (but make sure it can still breathe) and leave in a warm spot. You’ll be leaving this baby to ferment for several days, several weeks or up to a month. It depends on (a) the flavor you want and (b) the weather. We’ve been having hot, hot, hot weather in San Diego so my kimchi was ready to go pretty quickly, but if you’re in a cooler place, it might take longer.
How do you know when it is ready? It will smell sour and fermented. After several days, take a little piece and try it out.
7. Every day, check the kimchi to make sure that the cabbage is still submerged underneath the brine. If a little mold has formed on top, scoop it out. This is nothing to worry about — it’s just on the surface and has not affected your kimchi.