One of my favorite things in the entire world to eat is Napa kim chee. It is DELICIOUS. I go through the stuff like a buzz saw. It's my breakfast of choice, in fact. Kim chee over rice with a little sesame oil. That'll put lead in your pencil, boy. It is among one of the top healthiest things in the world to eat, too. Look it up! But the problem is, the stuff is expensive.
So I goes online, I does, and I looked up recipes. Come to find out, making napa kim chee is absolutely dead simple and need not involve the use of vast crocks and burying things for a year and all that. No! You can make it in your kitchen! No cooking involved!
The core process is soaking room temperature, bruised napa cabbage in just enough room temperature salt water to cover it for about four hours, or overnight, doesn't matter. The salt, the water, and the compounds and natural bacteria found in the cabbage mix and create what's called a lacto fermentation. How? The salt kills harmful bacteria but not the benign ones, and those benign bacteria produce not alcohol, but lactic acid. It's that lactic acid that pickles the ingredients. You get that process started and it's off to the races!
First and foremost: Do let's start out with clean hands and utensils, and do rinse off your ingredients too. Unless you like botulism. Do you like botulism? No. Nobody likes botulism.
Now the following is all 'to taste', and take into consideration the fact that I'm the only one in the house who eats the stuff. I make it in small batches, and it lasts me about, eh, two weeks if I'm being conservative.
The salt water should be as salty as the sea. Please don't use sal gris or himalayan pink salt because those products are not pure. Ideally, use kosher salt. I like the 'Diamond Crystal' brand. Iodized is fine. Smoked is also fine. The idea is, you don't want dirt (pink Himalayan is full of clay) or seagull shit and fish assholes (sal gris) in your kim chee.
My particular taste is more cabbage than anything else, so I use a smallish head of napa as big around as a magnum bottle of wine (how's that for a measurement?), four red radishes, two tablespoons of crushed garlic, one teaspoon of crushed ginger, one cup of cut scallion greens, a healthy few glugs of fish sauce and about 1 tbl of oyster sauce, or less. I use two heaping tablespoons of Nanami Togarashi spice, and once it's all mashed together and packed I end up with about a half-gallon of kim chee.
Now to get things happening, you chop the head of Napa in half. (This is to help keep the ingredients all in a bunch and submerged than it is aimed at end use, when you'll cut it into bite size with a scissors.) Use the core too, removed and sliced fine. Put it in enough salt water to just cover it.
Now, scrunch the cabbage around in the salt water with your bare hands until it gets soft. Spend a couple of minutes really squishing this stuff. Put a cheesecloth or a splatter guard over the bowl to keep out flies, roaches, hippies and what have you. Then walk away and find something to keep you busy for the next four hours (or overnight, doesn't matter.)
The salt water and the cabbage juices and natural cabbage bacteria all start doing their thing and lactic acid begins to be created. Once it starts, it doesn't stop, although it will slow down to almost nothing after being chilled in the refrigerator.
After this initial soaking, strain out the cabbage into a bowl - but keep that salty water handy - and add the rest of the ingredients to the cabbage, which will now be very flubby and glossy.
Squish the ingredients together in a bowl to make the juices flow. Use your hands, gloved or not, or use a potato masher and a spoon and turn it over and around and just really mistreat it for awhile. Don't make a paste out of it, let the ingredients keep their structural integrity, but get them juices flowing!
Now pack it all in a jar, a Tupperware, what have you, and pack it in tight. No air bubbles. Tip in a little of the salt water, tap the container on the counter until there's no bubbles coming to the surface, squish it down and then put a plate, or pickling weights, or whatever you can on top of that, and then top it up with the leftover salt water until it covers the ingredients by an inch. The idea is to keep as much of the vegetation underwater as you can, though naturally a few bits will escape (and you will throw those away, because they'll spoil the batch.) Leave some 'head room' in the container, about an inch or two between the lid and the contents. With the weights in place, put the lid on very loosely, set the container in a bowl out of the way, at room temperature - not in the blazing sunlight, of course, and wait three days.
Some liquid might burble out due to the fermentation process. I've never had this happen, but my daughter, who makes it in huge batches, has. Wipe that up with a clean, dry paper towel (no soap!) if that needs to happen. Three days later, tighten down the lid, and put the container and the bowl it's in into the refrigerator, and there you go. Done! Ready to eat once chilled!
Now you're worrying about botulism and salmonella. Me, I'm assuming you rinsed off your vegetables and you have a clean workspace. That being the case, lactic fermentation is pretty safe. You're working with an acid, after all, (lactic acid!) and like vinegar, also an acid, also used to pickle, it kills the 'bad' bacteria, and only the acid producing organisms survive.
Like anything that's been canned or pickled, once you open it, put it right back in the refrigerator. If you don't, then you're courting trouble. Otherwise, be neat and clean and you'll be OK.
And you'll have kim chee!