Ashkenazi Kimchi

Excerpted from The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

Jeffrey: How can there be kimchi, a Korean fermented staple, in an Ashkenazi cookbook? Fair question. In 2009, I was writing an article about the Lower East Side’s annual Pickle Day. I met a number of young Korean Americans who had started kimchi companies, building something new from an age-old tradition. I liked that sentiment so much that a few years later, I looked to those entrepreneurs for inspiration when conceiving of The Gefilteria. Plus, kimchi is to Korean cuisine what sauerkraut is to eastern European cuisine, though fermented cabbage may be even more revered on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, when there was a shortage of napa cabbage a few years ago, the South Korean government instituted an emergency kimchi bailout program.

We’ve given this kimchi a Yiddish accent by including green cabbage, turnips, and hot Hungarian paprika. If you want a spicy kimchi, include spicy chile peppers like serrano or cayenne. If you’d like a more mild kimchi, leave out the hot paprika and opt for milder peppers like ancho chiles or banana peppers. I opt for no ginger, but Liz feels pretty strongly that the ginger belongs. Use this kimchi in your Kimchi-Stuffed Cabbage (page 245) for a spicy and distinctive take on a classic. It also makes a great palate opener or side. Just know that each time you open a jar, the smell will linger for a few moments. You’ll learn to love it. Note that this recipe calls for an extended wait time.

Ashkenazi Kimchi

Serving Size

Makes 2 Quarts Kimchi

ingredients

  • 1 pound green cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and thinly shredded
  • 1 pound napa cabbage, outer leaves removed, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound turnips or daikon radishes, halved and cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick half- moons
  • 1 pound carrots, cut into 1⁄4-inch- thick rounds
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 8 cups filtered water
  • 1⁄2 cup kosher salt (Diamond-brand preferred)
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 chile peppers, fresh or dried, mild to hot based on your preference
  • 1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the prepared vegetables in a large bowl. In a separate container, combine the filtered water and salt and stir until the salt has dissolved. Pour the saltwater brine over the vegetables, weigh down the vegetables with a plate to ensure that they stay below the brine, and let sit at room temperature for 11⁄2 hours.

  2. Drain the vegetables, reserving 1 cup of the brine, and return them to the bowl.

  3. To make the paste: In a food processor, combine all the paste ingredients and process for about 15 seconds, or until the ingredients break down and combine to form a rough paste. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this using a mortar and pestle.)

  4. Using a wooden spoon or your hands (we prefer our hands—but keep in mind that the mixture is spicy), coat the vegetables with the paste. Once well coated, pack the vegetables very tightly into two quart-size jars or a small ceramic crock so that the brine rises to cover them. If there is not enough liquid in the jar to keep the vegetables submerged, pour in enough of the reserved brine to cover them.

  5. Create a seal: If fermenting in a crock, use a plate or a wooden board to force the vegetables beneath the brine. Top with a clean glass growler or jar filled with water to ensure that the weight applies pressure on the vegetables, keeping them submerged. If fermenting in a jar, use a smaller jar filled with water to do the same. Cover with a towel to keep out dust and bugs. Let the kimchi ferment on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight, for 3 to 7 days, or longer to taste. Fermentation times vary significantly with temperature, so it is critical to taste the kimchi each day after 2 days. When the kimchi reaches the desired taste, cover the jar and refrigerate. Kimchi will remain delicious in your refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Excerpted from the book THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO by Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern. Copyright ©2016 by Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Lauren Volo.