Kimchi (Korean spicy pickled cabbage/vegetables) is a staple in our house. For a family of non-Koreans, we consume an alarming amount of kimchi. My favorite breakfast is a lump of fresh kimchi on top of some fluffy white rice, a few pieces of ggim (toasted seaweed paper), and a sunny-side-up egg. Son 1 has been munching on kimchi since he was 10 months old and now he begs for it... often. Since moving to the rural Midwest, I've started making my own kimchi (because reasonably good tasting kimchi is nowhere to be found in these parts) and I think I've mastered the process.
Just when I thought I knew all about kimchi, I found out I hardly did. A fellow CSA member posted a question on my Facebook wall, asking if kimchi is made with Bok Choy (we are all overflowing with choys!). I responded in the negative. Kimchi is made from Napa Cabbage, I explained to her. A few minutes later a chat window pops up from a Korean friend of mine and she informs me that in Korea, especially in the Spring months, it is fairly common to find Bok Choy Kimchi. Not only do I stand corrected.... I have 5 large heads of Bok Choy in my fridge from our CSA and fresh out of kimchi! "How do you do it??" I asked. Her only advice was to let it soak in the salt brine longer and once done on the counter for several days, otherwise, she tells me, it's the same process. So here is how I made Bok Choy Kimchi:
3 heads of Baby Bok Choy or 2 heads of regular Bok Choy (I made both, separately)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger root
1/4 cup gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder)
half of a yellow onion
half of a ripe pear
half of a ripe apple
1 tsp fish sauce
1 carrot, grated
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
3-4 stalks of green onion
Kosher salt or course sea salt
Wash the Bok Choy well and sprinkle with salt. Mix about 1/4 cup of salt with 3 cups of water until dissolved (this is the brine) and pour over the Bok Choy. Let it sit for about 8-10 hours. When the Bok Choy is ready it will look like this...
Now, add the red pepper powder to equal parts warm water and mix... it will soon become a paste. Add the minced garlic and ginger to the paste. In a mini-prep food processor blend together the yellow onion, pear and apple (adding a bit of water until it's the consistency of stage 1 baby food or applesauce). This makes the kimchi more flavorful than adding white sugar (which most store-bought kimchi has) and adds a slightly sweet dimension. It's also a lot healthier than adding sugar. Add this mixture to the paste along with the fish sauce, grated carrot, and sesame seeds.
Chop up the green onions - the white parts smaller than the green parts - and add them to the Bok Choy. Now, put on your rubber gloves (this is food, so use something sanitary, please!) and mix the paste all over the Bok Choy. The gloves keep your hands from burning from the hot pepper. Keep the gloves on after it's well mixed, you will need them to stuff the kimchi in your jars.
Leave some space at the top of your jars, but pack it down well. Once it starts fermenting it will develop bubbles and liquid and if it's too full you will have overflow. Just leave some space, people. You need to pack it down to ensure that all the choy is covered in the paste. Leave them out of a fridge for at least overnight and at the most 4 days to ferment and get that tangy kimchi taste.