Spicy Local Mak Kimchi!

Kareno with field staff Natasha and Rachel. Kimchi party 2017!

We love ferments!  Especially this Spicy Local Kimchi!  It’s delicious as a side dish to any meal or added right into a stir-fry or soup.  And fabulously healthy!

Mak means “easy” in Korean, meaning that the cabbage has been cut up and is ready to eat.  This kimchi spicy paste uses seaweed in place of the usual shrimp.

Thanks to Sweet Digz Farm 2017 field staffer Rachel Whiteside for adapting this recipe for us, making it vegan, and modifying it for our fall crops!

Brief recipe here – for full recipe and fermenting instructions, keep reading below.


Spicy Paste (see below for ingredients & instructions)

5 pounds coarse sea salt
5 pounds Napa Cabbage
1 cup sliced leeks &/or scallions
1 kohlrabi
1 bunch hakerei salad turnips or radishes, plus greens
1 bunch carrots


Make the paste.

Cut and slice cabbage, mix it with the sea salt, and press/massage to bruise the leaves. Let sit for an hour or more while you cut and chop the other ingredients. Keep checking that the leaves are releasing their brine, and when they have, combine the other ingredients with the cabbage & brine. Salt to taste (should be salty!) and add paste to taste. Ready to eat – or ferment!

Ferment – pack the kimchi into a large jar, bucket, or crock. Pack it tight, press to keep vegetables submerged under the brine, and use a weight/plate to keep it all weighted down. Let sit for a few days to weeks – check on it & taste test it often. When it suits your taste buds, put it in the fridge. Fermenting is easy if you follow some simple steps – keep reading.


Full recipe:

Adapted from maangchi’s Mak-Kimchi (go to https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/easy-kimchi for an exhaustive step-by-step recipe plus kimchi Q+A).


For the paste –
½  sheet dashi kombu, soaked overnight in 2 cups water (optional)
¼  cup sweet rice flour
1 cup korean pepper flakes
½  cup diced onion
¼  cup garlic
1tbs diced ginger

For the kimchi –
5tbs  coarse sea salt
5lbs Napa cabbage
1 cup sliced leeks and/or scallions
1 kohlrabi
1 bunch salad turnips or radishes, plus greens
1 bunch carrots


Make the paste –

In a saucepan, bring konbu and soaking liquid to a boil. Remove kombu from water and set aside. In a bowl, combine rice flour with a small amount of cold water to make a paste. Slowly add paste to the saucepan of boiling water, stirring constantly. Continue cooking till liquid starts to thicken. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Place remaining paste ingredients plus thickened rice slurry into a blender, and pulse until you have a smooth paste, stopping to scrape down sides of blender if necessary. Set aside.

Make the kimchi –

Prepare cabbage by cutting into quarters, removing core and slicing into large chunks. Wash, making sure there are no debris stuck in between leaves, and drain very well.

In a large bowl or tub, toss cabbage with the sea salt (note: it is important to use sea salt, not table salt here. If your salt is fine, not coarse, start with half the amount of salt and check later for saltiness). You can start massaging the cabbage or pressing down on it as you mix: you’re looking to slightly bruise the leaves and force them to start releasing their brine. Allow to sit for an hour or more, coming back occasionally to toss/massage the leaves and encourage them to release more brine.

While your cabbage is salting, prepare the rest of your ingredients – slice the reserved dashi kombu (if using) into strips; finely slice the leeks and/or scallions; peel the kohlrabi; and either finely slice or grate the kohlrabi, turnips/radishes, and carrots. Keep a hold of your turnip/radish greens, as these make a nice addition to the kimchi mix.

Finally, combine the kimchi! Ensure that your cabbage has released plenty of brine. Toss in your sliced vegetables and mix well. Taste for salt – the mix should taste as though it is very well seasoned: a little too salty perhaps but not unbelievably so. It is the salt that creates the conditions for your ferment to happen, so it does need to be salty. Then start by adding half your kimchi paste. Mix well, and give it a taste. It should already be really tasty at this point, as though you could eat it with a bowl of white rice. If you could use more flavour, continue adding more paste until it tastes just right for you. (If you have extra paste, it can be stored in the refrigerator for another batch of kimchi!) The kimchi can now be eaten as-is, but you’ll probably want to…

Ferment your kimchi! –

Start by packing your kimchi mixture very well into a large jar or crock. Add the mix little by little and press down as you are going to make sure it’s all very tightly squeezed in. Top off with all the brine that has been released by the vegetables. There should be plenty to ensure the vegetables are covered in a good amount of brine – if not, you probably need to pack them in more tightly.

Now, you’ll need to rig up a system to make sure all of the vegetables stay submerged under the brine. This involves covering the top of the ferment and then weighing it down. If you have a smaller jar which fits snugly inside your fermenting vessel, this would work perfectly. Press it directly into your kimchi so that the vegetables are all held down under the jar, and the brine rises up the sides – leaving a few inches headroom so it doesn’t bubble over as your kimchi ferments! You can add some weight to the jar by filling it with water, but make sure none spills into the kimchi (this will dilute your salt content and make the ferment less likely to succeed).

Alternatively, if you can find a plate or similar which fits snugly into the jar, use this on top of the vegetables, then add a weight on top. Glass jars, ziplock bags filled with water (make sure they don’t leak!) or even very well washed stones all work. The key simply is to make sure that all the vegetables are well covered with at least an inch or so of brine, and none are able to escape and float to the surface. DO NOT use cans or anything metallic in direct contact with any part of the kimchi or its brine: it will become acidic as it ferments and will react with the metal.

Place the whole shebang onto a plate or tray in case there are spills, and cover lightly with a tea towel or similar. Leave to ferment in a cool spot, and check daily for signs of fermentation, like bubbling, and to make sure no vegetables have escaped their brine and that no mold is starting to form.

After around three days, you can start to taste your kimchi. It will start to taste pleasantly sour and will seem less salty as the ferment progresses. Keep it at room temperature until you have reached your desired level of sourness and funk, up to around two weeks depending on how warm it is.

As soon as the kimchi tastes right to you, the weight can be removed, a lid added and it can be transferred to the refrigerator. Whenever you use the kimchi, try to make sure it is replaced into the fridge with the brine covering the vegetables: this will keep it good for a long time. The kimchi will continue to ferment in the fridge, just much more slowly than at room temp, so you will notice it becoming more sour over time.  This is normal, and a good use for kimchi that has gotten just a little too sour is jiggae, or kimchi soup.