Kim Chee

Update: I recently heard that on the Art Bell show on March 20, 2005, mention was made that eating Kim Chee can help protect one from illness. Bird Flu was mentioned specifically, from my information. (Thank you, dear Isolde!)

I just love Kim Chee, but the price per pint has gone up to about $4!! Too much!! So I started playing around and read the label on my Harry Kim jar, which I think is the best commercial brand.

For this you will need a huge bowl and 2 wide mouth 1-quart canning jars with lids. I actually use a 2-quart wide mouth jar, but they are hard to find. I got them at the hardware store finally after a long search. I got a case of 6 for $12 or so.

OK, here goes. Buy one huge or two medium heads of Nappa cabbage. That’s the stuff that has a wide white rib and pale green ruffly leaf. Wash it and shake it out well. Leave the heads intact. Cut it crosswise about 1″ wide, discarding the stem at the bottom.

Separate all the sections and put them into your huge bowl. Take a small handful of Celtic salt or sea salt and sprinkle it over the cabbage. Mix and toss well, cover and set aside to wilt. Every 20 minutes or so stir it to make sure the salt gets contact with all the cabbage. After 6-12 hours stir one last time, and drain off the brine, or your finished product may be too salty. Do NOT rinse!

While the cabbage is busy wilting, mix together your spices. You will need 1-2 T of cayenne pepper depending on heat desired, at least 2 T of granulated or minced dry garlic, (if you use fresh garlic you will need about 10 good-sized cloves minced) and grated fresh ginger, about 2-3 T after grating. Dry powdered ginger doesn’t have the bite and fragrance of the fresh. If you like finding chunks of garlic and ginger in Chinese food, you can chop the fresh stuff a little bigger. In that case, use a little more. I don’t use sugar in my Kim Chee. Some commercial brands do. Actually, the reason I started making my own is because I didn’t like the sugar. If you want sugar, start with a teaspoon or so per head of cabbage.

You can vary the spices to your preference, of course, but I recommend you use some of everything.

After draining the brine, sprinkle the spices on the wilted cabbage. Toss all this together, mixing well, and then cover with a lid if you have one or clear wrap if you have no lid. Leave it out on the counter, and periodically for the next 24 hours mix it and press it down.

You’ll notice some juice in the bottom of the huge bowl. Do NOT throw this out! Pack the Kim Chee into your jars, pressing down well. Divide your liquid between the jars. Put the lid on loosely and leave on the counter. NOTE: if your jars are full, it is desirable to place a glass plate or dish under them because the fermentation will make them overflow when the little bubbles come up to the top.

The Kim Chee should sit on the counter for another day or two to ferment. This kind of fermentation is called “lacto-fermentation” and results in a marvelous lot of enzymes and friendly bacteria in the finished product. There are also enzymes in kombucha.

Each day run a narrow spatula or knife down the sides of your jars to let the bubbles out and pack the Kim Chee down to keep working. I use a bamboo spatula about 1″ wide. This step is easier with wide mouth jars. After a couple of days, tighten the lids and put the jars in the frig. Of course, this all works faster in hot weather.

And enjoy!! You’ll find you’ve made Kim Chee for about a third of the store price, and you know exactly what’s in it.

Variations: Add green onions, onions, white radish sliced thin, dark green leaves like bok choy, or even try some regular cabbage. I’ve done all the but last one. I like the plain best.

Like this? Email me with your variations!

April, 2009 ~ Comment from Kerry in Sydney, Australia. “You can remove the pepper or to keep it hot leave it in, then add two chillies, sliced.”

March 12, 2008 For the first time in 5 years, someone sent me a variation. Thanks, Dave!!

Dave Y. here. I live in Puna and use to buy only the qt. jars without MSG. That is the second reason for making my own.
I have several large pickle jars I use. 62oz. each
This makes one jar
One large or two small Chinese cabbages
4 tbsp  Korean chili sauce or powder
4 tbsp  chopped garlic
2 tbsp  chopped ginger
2 to 3 ounces fish or shrimp sauce
4 tbsp crude/kosher salt
2 to 4 ounces cider vinegar
Clean cabbage and slice cross cut about 1 inch wide down to the stump. Mix the green and white together and stuff jar half way.
Mix all other ingredients together and pour half in jar. Stuff remaining cabbage and pour remaining
juice over the top.
Cover with lid and wait. Check back every hour or so and roll shake and mix up the good stuff. The cabbage will shrink and the the juice will increase. Keep agitating it every time
you get close to it for two or three days. Observe the lid and release the gas now and then.
Chill and enjoy.
Hui ho,

Note: Kim Chee has been used in the orient for thousands of years, so the recipe is free, but this text is copyright Nancy Adams, 2009, and may not be reproduced without permission. I invite you to link to this page if you like, however. The address is

Disclaimer: Please note that your use of these instructions and Kim Chee are solely at your own risk and discretion and Nancy Adams assumes no responsibility for your results, either positive or negative, or lack thereof. Kim Chee is used by many people worldwide (including me) as a beneficial and healthful food. No claims of any sort are made for its use, at least by me. People whose health has benefited by eating it feel differently about that.