Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Kimchee Cocoon

Eight heads of Napa cabbage have been quartered to make 32 cocoons of kimchee. With the base of the cabbage left intact, each section is treated with salt, stuffed with ginger and garlic, smothered in Korean chili paste and then carefully wrapped to make “pogi kimchee.” This might sound like a weighty task,  but the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) does most of the work.

This fermentation process relies primarily on salt. After soaking thoroughly in water each leaf is rubber with salt and left to drain for about four to six hours, then brined for another ten to twelve hours, rinsed and drained again. The cabbage sections will be supple, pliable and noticeably smaller. With most of the cell walls broken, it’s now conditioned for osmosis.

Each section is generously rubbed with Korean chili paste (gochuchang) and stuffed with garlic, ginger and chive greens. You can buy Korean chili paste, but it’s best if you make your own if you have issues with shellfish to MSG. You can manage how much salt you use in your own chili paste. The cabbage sections are carefully wrapped and pressed to remove most of the air between the leaves, then packed into air tight containers.

LAB is very salt tolerant, where as most pathogens are not. As long as the contents of the container(s) is submerged is liquid, LAB will also combat pathogens. Left at room temperature for three to five days, LAB establish and colonize creating a sour, tangy flavor. Cold fermentation slows the process down to create a complex savory flavor and pungent aroma. After three to four weeks of refrigeration, these heads of cabbage are magically transformed into kimchee. Although it’s known to restore health by replenishing beneficial flora and fauna to our bodies, I jut think it’s delicious.

Learn how to make a vegan Korean chili paste and casual-style kimchee click here.

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