Hakusai no Tsukemono & Kimchi

Salt Pickled Napa Cabbage 2-ways

It’s not quite an apocalypse, but in times like this, it’s good to know how to make things last. Napa Cabbage is prolific (for now) and you can make it last for up to 6 months or even a year depending on who you talk to!

In this post, I’ve got 2 recipes for salt pickling napa cabbage: Hakusai no Tsukemono and Kimchi, with one actually (according to my method) as the precursor for the other. Both go as a wonderful addition to grilled meat dishes, cooked in stir fries or even just as an accompaniment to something as simple as a bowl of steamed rice.

Hakusai no Tsukemono is the Japanese version of non-spicy Kimchi which the Koreans call Baek Kimchi or “White” Kimchi. It is simple, can be ready in a matter of days, light in flavour in comparison to regular kimchi for those who can’t handle it. It only requires 2 basic ingredients: cabbage & salt.

Kimchi is better known here in the states and so many people have fancy, posh versions floating around the internet. I am far less fussed about a kaleidoscope of exotic ingredients and simply prefer to make my kimchi as basic and easy to make as possible. Very appropriate for our current situation! In fact, I make my kimchi from the first stage of my recipe for Hakusai no Tsukemono and it only requires an extra addition of garlic & chili powder.

Hakusai no Tsukemono

Salt-Pickled Napa Cabbage

1kg/2lb Napa Cabbage (about 1 large head)

30g/1oz Fine Sea Salt (NOT iodized or it will not work!)

note: The weight of your salt should be roughly 3% that of the cabbage.

A large pot with lid

Something flat like a plate, slightly smaller than the width of the pot

Something heavy like a stone (I’ll explain)

A dish towel

Optional Ingredients:

Rind from 1 Lemon, grated or sliced thinly

3-4 cloves (or MORE) Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2-3 dried Chili Peppers

Quarter your cabbage lengthwise and lay them out on a plate or a tray in the sun for a few hours or overnight indoors. This will dry out and wilt the cabbage which is what you want! If you live in a city or somewhere with lots of pollution or dust, do this step indoors.

After air-drying them, get out your big pot, measure out your salt and it set aside. Piece by piece, gently massage salt into all corners and crevices of the cabbage for about 1 minute each piece. As you do it, you will feel them “sweat”. Place each piece at the bottom of the pan to create layers as flat as you can. Once you’ve created one layer of cabbage, sprinkle some of the garlic, lemon rind and chili (if you’re using them) on top before creating the next layer. Repeat until you’ve finished off all the ingredients.

The next part is a bit weird. You need something flat like a plate. I use an otoshibuta (drop lid) my husband made for me but don’t be confused by the pics. A plate works fine. Put the plate face down on top of your cabbage layers. The plate MUST fit inside the pot and cover as much of the cabbage as possible. Next take the heavy “thing”, like a stone, and set in on top of the plate. These “things” and plate will create a weight on the cabbage thereby encouraging the sweating liquid to come out of the cabbage and create a natural brine. It doesn’t need to be super heavy, but it definitely needs more than just gravity! Then place the lid on the pot.

Next take a towel and wrap it around the whole pot as best as you can. This not only helps create an extra seal but also keeps in the smell of fermentation as it ages…becauuuuuuuse……

….you will now leave the tsukemono, as is, somewhere in your kitchen or house where it won’t be moved for at least 3 days. It is not going in the fridge!

Leave it in the same spot for at least 3 days. We normally wait about 5 days because we like a more pungent flavour. Each day, you can check on the fermentation if you are interested. Open up the lid and you should see the liquid rising day by day until the point that it reaches the top, almost completely submersing the tsukemono in its own brine. If by the third day you do not see much liquid, that may mean that you do not have enough salt OR the weight is not heavy enough. Fix that by adding more salt gradually and sparingly or by putting more “things” on the plate to weigh it down.

After the 3-5 days, it is basically fermented. Follow the next steps to jar and store them OR scroll down to turn it into Kimchi!

Sterilize some jars to store your tsukemono. This can be anything from a proper big pickling jar or a jam jar BUT you must ensure that it can seal AND that you sterilize it first, which you can do by pouring freshly boiled water into them then letting them cool naturally.

When the jars are ready to go, once again, layer the tsukemono into the jars. This ensures that there are no air-bubbles and that all the tsukemono can remain under the brine. It also helps you fit more into the jars! If you are using small jars, you may need to cut your tsukemono first. If you do, do them in 2 inch pieces. After filling your jars, slowly pour brine over the tsukemono allowing it to work its way down through the layers and up to the top, leaving about 1 inch of brine above the cabbage. Using a fork, gently press down on the top to remove any extra air-bubbles and to make room for the brine to cover the tsukemono. Put the lid back on, sealing the jar. Now the rest is up to you. You can put it into the fridge and start using it. OR you can leave it in a dark, cool cupboard for anywhere up to a month. Chris and I tend to let ours ferment for 2 weeks before putting it into the fridge. Either way, once it’s in the fridge it will last up to 6-months! Just make sure you keep the cabbage under the brine to keep it as fresh as possible.

Note: If your tsukemono hasn’t gone into the fridge yet, open it every few days to release the gas caused by fermentation and press down on it with a fork to get it under the brine and release more gas.

KIMCHI

Spicy Salt Pickled Napa Cabbage

Choose your own adventure! If you are here, you have chosen to make your Hakusai no Tsukemono in Kimchi!

After your cabbage has fermented in the pot as per the instructions for Hakusai no Tsukemono, you’ll want to prepare your kimchi paste:

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 pinch of Salt

3-5 T of Gochugaru Chili Powder (or any kind to be honest!)

Water

1 T Fish Sauce- optional

Now if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, this could be tricky but not impossible.

First make a garlic paste by pounding your chopped garlic and a pinch of salt. The salt breaks down the composition and fibers of the garlic, turning it to mush when smooshed. Then add your chili powder. Gochugaru is a Korean chili powder made from dried Togarashi peppers but of course not all of us have this. I have used Indian chili powder before as well and it turned out great, obviously not without its subtle differences. Add the fish sauce then, little by little and stirring all the time, add cold water until it forms a thick paste-much like a Thai curry paste or tomato paste consistency.

Pour the brine out of your pickles and reserve to the side for later. Dump the kimchi paste into the pot and using your hands massage the paste into every single nook and cranny of your cabbage pieces. Really get it in there! Your hands will be red and oh so smelly good! Once rubbed in, get your jars ready and load them up!

Sterilize some jars to store your kimchi. This can be anything from a proper big pickling jar or a jam jar BUT you must ensure that it can seal AND that you sterilize it first, which you can do by pouring freshly boiled water into them then letting them cool naturally.

When the jars are ready to go, once again, layer the kimchi into the jars. This ensures that there are no air-bubbles and that all the kimchi can remain under the brine. It also helps you fit more into the jars! If you are using small jars, you may need to cut your kimchi first which you should do before you add your kimchi paste. If you do, do them in 2 inch pieces. After filling your jars, slowly pour brine over the kimchi, allowing it to work its way down through the layers and over the cabbage. Using a fork, gently press down on the top to remove any extra air-bubbles and to make room for the brine to cover the cabbage. Put the lid back on, sealing the jar. Now the rest is up to you. You can put it into the fridge, wait 24 hours and start using it. OR you can leave it in a dark, cool cupboard for up to a month. Chris and I tend to let ours ferment for 2 weeks before putting it into the fridge. Either way, once it’s in the fridge it will last up to 6-months! Just make sure you keep the cabbage under the brine to keep it as fresh as possible.

Note: If your kimchi hasn’t gone into the fridge yet, open it every few days to release the gas caused by fermentation and press down on it with a fork to get it under the brine and release more gas.

2 thoughts on “Hakusai no Tsukemono & Kimchi

  1. Hello Adrian, we just joined Radical Family Farm. We used your recipe for tsukemono and after 5 days we don’t have enough brine to cover the napa when it’s in the jar. Any suggestions? Use brine from some other kimchi? Add salt water? Compress for a few more days? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Forrest & Eileen

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    1. Hi Forrest! That should be ok. Keep it compressed as much as possible so oxygen has little chance to get in. You can press once a day or every other day. If it tastes good you could start eating it now and keep it in the fridge or leave it for a bit longer!

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