The February topic for the Food In Jars Mastery Challenge was salt preserving. My only previous experience of this was a batch of preserved lemons a few years ago so I thought I would venture into unknown territory and have a go at making kimchi.
The winter goodies at one of my local farmers markets included eye catching bunches of young collard green leaves, which I thought would be a good candidate for kimchi with a southern twist.
The project also gave me a good excuse to go and explore the aisles of one of the great Asian supermarkets in town to pick up Korean red pepper powder and a big bag of fine Korean sea salt.
The recipe is loosely based on this one from minimalistbaker.com but with quite a few tweaks along the way.
I wanted my kimchi to be vegetarian so the first step was to make a batch of vegetarian fish sauce. For this component I turned to this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for a deeply savoury sauce made from shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce.
While the sauce was cooling I prepped my collards, washing and drying them before cutting them into bite sized pieces and layering with generous amounts of salt. They were then turned regularly for a number of hours, drawing out moisture and leaving the leaves tender. I used young leaves, which are smaller and more tender to start with than regular collard leaves, but they would work although might need a little more time in the salting process to get tender.
While the salting process was taking place I made a spicy paste from ginger, garlic, Korean chili, onion and the vegetarian fish sauce.
After rinsing the excess salt from the collard leaves and patting them dry again they were thoroughly coated with the spice paste before packing into a jar to ferment.
I was delighted with the result, which tasted great with a good burst of spiciness. I’ll definitely be making more kimchi in the future.
Collard Green Kimchi
Vegetarian Fish Sauce
3 cups water
0.25oz dried shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Soak the dried mushrooms in one cup of hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. This makes them easier to slice and you can used the soaking water when cooking to add more shiitake goodness to the final sauce. Make sure to strain out any grit from the soaking liquid.
Slice the mushrooms and add to a small pan with the soaking liquid, 2 more cups of water and the salt and soy sauce. Combine all the ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, 30 – 40 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
3 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
0.25 cup Korean red chili powder
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
0.5 cup vegetarian fish sauce
Place all ingredients into a food processor and whiz until combined into a paste.
1 small bunch young collard green leaves (5-6oz)
4 green onions, sliced into half inch pieces
Remove the stalks from the collard leaves and slice into bite sized pieces. Wash well, drain and dry. Layer the leaves in a bowl with generous amounts of sea salt between each layer. Weigh the leaves down (I used a nest of smaller bowls) and leave for half an hour. Then turn and massage the leaves, ensuring they are still well coated with salt, weigh down once more and leave for another 30 minutes. Repeat this process a further 3 times, by which time the leaves should have lost some moisture and become noticeably tender.
Rinse the leaves to remove any excess salt and then place on paper towels and pat dry.
Next comes the fun part. Put the leaves in a bowl and add the sliced green onions. Then add the spice paste and mix by hand, making sure the vegetables are thoroughly coated with the paste.
Once well combined pack the mixture into a sterilised jar, pressing it down well. Put the lid on and leave in a cool dark place to ferment. Leave for at least 2-3 days and periodically taste to see how the flavour is developing. Once you are happy with it, put it in the fridge. I left mine for a week before refrigerating.