On Sunday afternoon, I joined some 25 people at Muriel Olivares’s Little River Market Garden to learn how to make kimchee. Sitting in the perfect shade of her mango tree, we watched as Muriel made a huge batch of this popular Korean dish made by fermenting vegetables and chilies.
Before starting Muriel warned that the way she prepares her kimchee is the way she likes it not necessarily the traditional way. Not that it matters. One Korean couple that attended the workshop said there is no one exact way to make kimchee. You can make it your own and in Korea there are endless variations of it depending on the region and even the household in which it is prepared.
To start off, Muriel prepared the chili paste. Yes, you can buy it already made but it’s really not that hard to make.
Into a food processor went two onions, one cup of peeled garlic cloves, a handful of coarsely chopped ginger, five hot chilies, about a cup of dried chili flakes, a bit of paprika, 1 teaspoon of honey, about ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil. Muriel makes the chili flakes by chopping dried pasilla, California and New Mexico dried chilies in a food processor but you can use store-bought chili powder instead.
The chili paste was then combined with coarsely chopped Napa cabbage that had been soaked in salt brine (two tablespoons of salt per quart of water) overnight and daikon radishes, turnips and bok choy. For smaller batches, Muriel suggest using a ratio of two cups of chili paste and two daikon radishes per head of cabbage. She also likes cutting the radishes into thick strips (like a French fry) for a little crunch.
A strong scent of chilies and garlic permeated the air as soon as the paste was poured into the bin. With gloves on to protect the hands from the chilies, Muriel and her friend Olivia mixed everything well and the kimchee was done.
I brought a jar home and left it sitting at room temperature for two days with the lid loosely on as instructed. Now it’s in the fridge and I’m looking forward to digging in.
Check out the recipe for Muriel’s kimchee on the Little River Market Garden site. And stay tuned because more workshops are coming to the garden.