Spicy Cucumber Kimchi

This has to be my favorite kimchi. A few years ago, I ran several experiments on this recipe to see what folks liked, and this recipe was the result. It’s a spicy pickle with the perfect combination of salty, sweet, spicy and umami. Every ingredient contributes.

As you can probably tell from my other recent posts, we have a lot of cucumbers in the garden right now. For this recipe, I select very uniform cucumbers. This is important so that the cucumbers ferment evenly.  I use a 4 quart rectangular Cambro container for this. I find it is just right to stack the cucumbers in layers. About 16 or so cucumbers will fill the container. If you are not growing cucumbers, then select very fresh and evenly shaped cucumbers from your farmers’ market. The cucumbers must be very fresh or they will turn to mush when fermented.

Wash the cucumbers very well with cool water. Pay close attention to the blossom end. I generally scrape the blossom spot with my thumbnail to make sure it is white and clean. Next, use a very sharp knife to slice the cucumbers lengthwise into quarters, but leaving the ends connected. I start my cuts about ¾ to ½” from the end and finish the same from the other end. Try to make the cuts 90 degrees from each other so the cucumber is evenly quartered.

Now rub the cucumbers with an ample amount of Korean sea salt. You might notice I use this salt a lot in my cooking. I find it to have a great texture and it’s easy to work with. Place the salted cucumbers in a large bowl and let them sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. They will soften.

While the cucumbers are salting, assemble the ingredients for the stuffing.

* 5 scallions minced
* 1-2 heads garlic minced
* 1 golf ball sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
* 1 bunch garlic chives cut in ½ to ¾ inch pieces (everyone should have this in their garden)
* ½ cup minced Korean salted baby shrimp (if you cannot find these, you can use fish sauce, but the shrimp are really key to the flavor of this kimchi)
* 6T hot Korean red pepper flakes
* 1t sugar
* 1t salt

Mix these ingredients in a bowl.

Salted baby shrimp
Salted baby shrimp
Garlic chives

Rinse the salt from the cucumbers. Squeeze down lightly on the ends of a cucumber and stuff it full of the stuffing mixture. As the cucumbers are filled, stack them in the container you will use for fermenting.

When all of the cucumbers are stuffed, place a lid on the container and just let it sit on the kitchen counter or someplace about 70F for 48 hours. The cucumbers will ferment. At this point, you may eat them and place container in the fridge to store. They will last a few weeks in the fridge, but it’s likely they will be eaten long before then.

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