Quick Cucumber Kimchi from Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July 2013

Welcome to another Sam I Am moment. You remember Sam, don’t you? He’s the guy with the friend that can only say, ‘I do not like green eggs and ham.’

Brave as I am when it comes to food (refer here if there’s any question), when the word ‘ferment’ is included in any recipe, I balk. And grimace.

I know, I know. Fermenting is present in many common kitchen ingredients and foods. The vinegar add to my vinaigrette? I’m well aware that it’s fermented cider. Or wine. Or champagne. Or sherry.

Beer. All hail the mighty brew. The might fermented brew. Beer gets its own paragraph.

And then there’s cabbage. Why cabbage? People have enough trouble eating the stuff, so what made someone decide to ferment it?

It was the Koreans, in case you’re curious. They did it several thousand years ago. I’m guessing that it was the best way to preserve a super-abundant crop of cabbage, but I don’t really know. The Koreans’ fermented cabbage, or kimchi, is the original sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut, if you’re curious, is an Eastern European adaptation of kimchi. The Koreans fermented their version with rice vinegar. German chose to use  salt instead.

I’ve never eaten kimchi. I’m scared of it and I don’t know why. While I’m not a huge sauerkraut fan, eating it only on a well-made Reuben, I won’t shrink back (much) when offered some at a German food-inspired dinner party.

Maybe it’s because kimchi’s red and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because people throw the word ‘fermented’ around when talking about kimchi, but when discussing sauerkraut they only debate the bag or bottled varieties.

No matter what the reason, I’m not ready to head there. Yet. Give me a little time. Maybe start with cucumbers.

The Process

I’ve been toying with making this recipe since I received the magazine, but seemed to always ‘forget’ to buy cucumbers and never went so far as to tab the recipe on page 77. Then a friend gave me a bag full of beautiful garden cucumbers.

After several meals of tomato and cucumber salads, I knew I had to do something with the rest before they started to liquefy. Since I don’t have any fresh dill, cucumber kimchi seemed destined to be.

Since there was a bunch of mincing, I used my little chopper, so that part of the prep went quickly. The rest was just a matter of waiting.

I cut the cukes, salted them and let them sit for an hour. Then I rinsed them well, stuffed them with the minced mixture and packed them together in my container. I covered them and waited.

That’s it.

The Verdict

Because of the heat, I didn’t even offer these to Dudette. In fact, since this was my food challenge, I put a cucumber on a plate and did my taste test when I was all by my lonesome. Of course, since I’ve never had kimchi, I have nothing to compare this with so I will have to tell you what I think this tastes like, not how it measures up to the cabbage variety.

It’s very good. There is no spoiled flavor (which is what I was most afraid of). The magazine describes these as being ‘salty, tangy, slightly spicy…’ I would rearrange the words a bit to say, ‘slightly salty and tangy, spicy.’ Emphasis on spicy. But very good too.

I love these as an alternative to pickles. Remember the Sausage Burgers with Sriracha-Honey-Mustard Sauce? Cucumber kimchi would be awesome alongside the burger.

Now I can’t wait for Hubby to get home and give these a try. He’s gonna love them.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I really didn’t get tangy or salty. Maybe it’s because I rinsed my cucumbers well like the magazine told me to. I missed the zing. I would either add a teaspoon of salt to the stuffing or a tablespoon of sherry vinegar.

Quick Cucumber Kimchi from Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July 2013
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Source:
Recipe type: Canning
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. small cucumbers, such as Kirby or small Persian (about 6), ends trimmed, halved crosswise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup very thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts (about 2 medium)
  • 10 fresh chives, sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces (1 Tbs.)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) or fish sauce
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red chile flakes) or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Directions
  1. Stand the cucumber pieces on their trimmed ends and, using a small knife, cut an X into each, stopping about halfway down. Season inside and out with 1-1/2 Tbs. salt and let sit in a shallow bowl at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the onion, scallions, chives, saeujeot, garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and 2 Tbs. water; set aside.
  3. Rinse the cucumbers well inside and out under cold running water and shake dry. Gently spread open the cucumbers and press about 1 heaping tsp. of the chile mixture into each piece. Transfer to a shallow glass or plastic container, standing them on their trimmed ends and packing them tightly together. Press any of the remaining chile mixture in and around the cucumbers and pour over any accumulated liquid. Cover and let sit at room temperature to ferment for at least 24 hours. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes, and then serve.
What I'd Do Different Next Time
I really didn't get tangy or salty. Maybe it's because I rinsed my cucumbers well like they told me to. I missed the zing. I would either add a teaspoon of salt to the stuffing or a tablespoon of sherry vinegar.

 

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18 Responses to Quick Cucumber Kimchi from Fine Cooking Magazine, June/July 2013

  1. Janel says:

    I've had a commercial brand of kimchi and found it very addictive. While I have recipes for making it myself, the whole fermenting thing has freaked me out, too. This cucumber version sounds interesting as well as being a good way to try fermenting myself. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Sounds like we think alike, Janel. For some reason I acquainted fermented with soft and slimy. I was thrilled that it wasn't the case with the cucumbers. Now that I've done this, I think I will try my hand at traditional kimchi.

  2. Wow! this looks fantastic. I cant wait to try it! I can get most of that stuff at the asian store?

    • Thanks, Veronica. I told you I'd be trying this. :) I used the fish sauce and red pepper flakes that Fine Cooking gave as alternatives to those hard-to-find Asian ingredients since we don't have an Asian market around here. I would assume that you could find them there though, yes.

  3. This Kimchi looks so fresh and tasty.

  4. R.W says:

    Kimchi is NOT Chinese- it is Korean. Chinese have their own pickled/fermented vegetables.

    • THANK YOU for the correction! I appreciate you catching it and letting me know. The section in Fine Cooking is even about Korean cooking so that was a bad slip-up. I appreciate your letting me know.

  5. suchimajum says:

    Hi Christiane, I am new to your blog. Loved reading your post. I am a big fan of kimchi and the rest of Korean cuisine, but I have never tried making it at home. Now you have inspired me! :-) Cheers, Suchi

    • Hi Suchi and welcome aboard! I love Korean cuisine as well, but this was definitely a first for me. I just brought home some cabbage yesterday so I can dive into true kimchi. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

  6. seana says:

    My neighbor gave me a handful of cukes the other day too. This may sound a bit odd. My husband loves his one local brand of pickles that are garlicy and HOT-as in jalapenos are in it. I get them occasionally for him as a treat because they are $8 a jar. He finished them and I told him to leave to container w/ liquid in the fridge. I sliced up some of my neighbors cukes (they weren't giant ones) and threw them in the leftover pickle juice. 24 hours later, my husband is eating his beloved pickles again :)

  7. Ramona says:

    This kimchi looks very tempting… I love cucumbers in all forms… so it's a winner in my book. :)

  8. thatskinnychickcanbake says:

    I've been a bit leery of kimchi as well…the first time I heard of it was through my FIL. He was in the Korean war and didn't have anything good to say about it! I think I could do the cucumber version…glad to know it didn't taste spoiled…I would have fretted, too.

  9. Laura says:

    This looks like it would go along great with a ton of things! Seems like it could give a lot of life to certain dishes! Thank you for trying it out!

  10. Ameena says:

    Cucumbers go bad really fast these days, don't they? It's not just me?

    Love this idea. It's perfect for the hot temps and easy enough. Somehow I think I'd be eating these solo as well!

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  12. Awesome Post on Cucumber Kimchi…. Cant wait to try it.

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