Paek Kimchi, White Cabbage Kimchi
This kimchi is specially made, but the method is virtually the same as Whole Cabbage Kimchi. It has one distinct difference; this is one of the few kimchi that does not use hot red pepper powder or sweet rice paste. Instead, only a pinch of hot red pepper threads, sil gochu, is used, resulting in a pale pink color, hence the name, “white cabbage”. The spices are subtly toned down, with rare ingredients such as stone ear mushrooms, jujubes and others. It has a sweet and delicate flavor and refreshing texture. This salad-like kimchi is everyone’s favorite, especially the old folks and young children. To make its juice clear, garlic and ginger juice must be carefully strained in a sieve lined with the cheese cloth. The shelf life is shorter than whole cabbage kimchi; it is usually made in smaller quantities. Well chilled, the soup leaves a cool delightful tang in the mouth. It always reminds me of that superb bowl of soupy baek kimchi we had at Daeyunkak, one of the famous traditional Korean restaurants in Seoul sometime in 60s. On a hot summer evening, the elaborate banquet began with baek kimchi, as a cool, refreshing starter. The next course shocked and opened our taste buds—a large sweet green onion, shredded and beautifully curled up. Its tongue searing heat made it a wonderful ”wakeup call appetizer.” What a way to start off a banquet.
. Makes 6 quarts
About 1 hour to prepare, and 1 day to mature
4 pounds absolutely prime quality napa cabbage
1½ cups coarse sea salt, plus additional if needed
½ cup sugar, plus additional if needed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, juice squeezed out
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon juice from 2 tablespoons saeu jeot (salted shrimp)
½ pound mu (Korean radishes), cut into 3-inch matchsticks
½ cup sil goch’u (hot red pepper threads)
1 medium Korean pear, peeled, cored, and cut into thin matchsticks
2 green onions, white and pale green part only, cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 hot red Korean peppers, cut diagonally into thin pieces
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 ounce mustard greens, cut into 1½-inch pieces
3 chestnuts, shelled, skinned, slivered or 2 walnuts halves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts, brown tips removed
2 stone ear or p’yogo mushrooms, slivered
3 jujubes, pitted and slivered, or 10 raisins
Wash the cabbage once and drain. Remove the tough outer leaves and reserve for later use. Trim off the very bottom of the cabbage, leaving enough of the root end intact to hold the cabbage together. On a cutting board, hold one cabbage the root end up with one hand and, with a sharp knife, slice the cabbage in halves lengthwise halfway down. With both hands, split the cabbage into halves. (In this way, the halves will divide cleanly.) Repeat the same with remaining cabbages. If the cabbage is over-sized, the halves can be sliced lengthwise into quarters. Wash once more, but do not drain.
In a large (at least 6-quart capacity) nonreactive bowl, place the water drenched cabbage pieces and out leaves. Arrange them in one layer with cut sides up. Sprinkle 1-cup sea salt between the leaves. Dissolve the remaining ½-cup salt into 2-cups lukewarm water, and sprinkle evenly over the cabbage. Let it set for about 2 hours. Shift the cabbage every half hour for even salting. As water is drawn out of the cabbage, the salt water will eventually cover all the pieces completely. The cabbage should be crunchy but a bit under salted. Rinse a couple times and drain on a colander. Set aside. Discard the salt water and reuse the bowl for stuffing.
To make the stuffing, in a large bowl, add sugar, juice of ginger, lemon and saeu jeot and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients and toss all well. Place one cabbage piece in the bowl with stuffing. Starting with the outer leaves and working in, insert the stuffing between the leaves, sprinkling it lightly on each leaf. Lightly press the leaves together to create a bundle, and transfer it into a 6-quart wide mouthed jar with a screw-top lid. Repeat with the remaining cabbage pieces. Press down firmly on the bundles to pack well and remove trapped air bubbles. Use the reserved outer leaves and loose individual leaves to wipe up the remaining stuffing at the bottom and sides of the bowl. Spread these leaves to cover the kimchi. Add 2-cups salt water to the bowl to mix with remaining bits and pieces of stuffing. Pour over the kimchi and pack in well. At this time, all must be immersed in liquid. Be sure to leave at least 2-inch headspace.
Close the lid tight and double wrap in plastic bags. Secure the neck of the jar with rubber bands to keep the kimchi fresh. Set aside at room temperature overnight. The next day, ladle some of the juice out of the jar and adjust the saltiness. Let mature at room temperature for l day more. Transfer to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation. The kimchi will stay fresh for up to l month at least.
Vegetarian recipe: To make this kimchi strictly vegetarian, please replace salted shrimp with kelp stock.