The Musette: part two – what a pickle!

Now I’ve whetted your appetite for pickles, we can move onto kimchee. The backbone of most recipes is the white Chinese “napa” variety of cabbage with its wide stems and pale, crinkly leaves, large white radishes, ground chilli, garlic, chilli sauce and rice vinegar. Some versions, like this one, include fish sauce and ginger – a few neither. True Korean versions are masterpieces of the art but are often too stinky for me.

My own is far from authentic Korean. Of course I want heat. Not your actual teary-type heat, but at least enough to make your eyes sparkle. I don’t use the Korean gochujang chilli paste but ordinary red chilli paste, as I’ve yet to find the former in Nice. Plus, I shy away from leaving the salted cabbage several days to ferment at room temperature – the process that makes kimchee kimchee – partly out of impatience, and partly because I like the crackle of the crisp veg.

So mine is more a crunchy, hot, salty, sour condiment – and is none the worse for that. It is sensational with absolutely anything.

Here’s my recipe for Kimchee:-

Ingredients (makes one 2ltr jar)

  • 700g (25oz) finely sliced chinese cabbage
  • 200g (7oz) finely sliced red cabbage/fennel/celery/carrot
  • 150g (5oz) radishes
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 100ml (3.4fl oz) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp chilli paste or flakes (preferably Korean)
  • 2 fat cloves garlic
  • 6 spring onions (scallions)
  • thumb-sized piece ginger


1. Halve the cabbage, remove core and shred it roughly. Do the same with the red cabbage (if using) or fennel. then put both in a colander and rinse under cold running water.

2. Slice the radishes into quarters or thin slices, then mix with the cabbage and tip into a bowl. Scatter the salt over. Place a plate on top of the cabbage, put a heavy weight on top, and set aside in a cool place for 4 hours.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the rice vinegar, fish sauce, chilli paste or chilli flakes into a soft, deep rust-coloured sauce. Peel and finely cut the garlic and ginger into paper-thin slices and add to the sauce. Slice the spring onions, stirring them also into the sauce.

4. Rinse the cabbage in a colander, removing much of the salt. The cabbage will have relaxed. Transfer to a large bowl then tip in the chilli dressing and toss thoroughly to coat the leaves. Pile into the clean storage jars, pushing down  – I use a rolling pin – to eliminate spaces, seal and set aside in the fridge for 4 days.

5. Turn the jars upside down each day to encourage the dressing to trickle over the vegetables, keeping them coated.

6. Four days later, dive in! I love it on sandwiches, with felafel and even straight from the jar!

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Sterilise your preserving jars with boiling water and let them drain, or bake them at a low temperature in the oven for 10 minutes. This batch will fill two 1-litre Kilner jars or one 2-litre one. It will keep, for a couple of weeks, in the fridge. Turn the jars over every few days.

2. Once ready to eat, it’s amazing how many things you can eat it with.

3. Feel free to change the ingredients but maintain proportions.

Fridge of a thousand jars

A house guest once commented on the number of jars in my fridge calling it the “fridge of a thousand jars!” That was obviously an exaggeration but I’ve just given the fridge a tip to toe clean and frankly, once I saw all the jars lined up, I realised he did have a point.

Any jar once open naturally ends up in the fridge. I have the usual selection of mustards, home-made jams and marmalades, sauces, chutneys, mayo etc that you’d probably find in most people’s fridges, though I may have a few more condiments. For example, sweet German mustard for veal sausages, dill sauce for smoked salmon, two types of horseradish, German curry ketchup, Scandinavian remoulade sauce for cold roast beef, capers in brine and salt, anchovies in oil and salt……………I think you’re now beginning to get the picture!

I’m also keen on pickles, they add such a satisfying crunch to so many dishes. Of course, you’ll always find jars containing large dill pickled cucumbers and the smaller French cornichons along with a whole host of home-made pickles such as onion, red cabbage, cauliflower and even mixed vegetables. That reminds me, I must do a blog with some of my ridiculously easy pickle and fermented vegetable recipes. I find it’s an excellent way of not wasting a scrap.

I also have small jars of confit and roast garlic which I’ve prepared to pop into dishes where I don’t want the hit of raw garlic, along with confit tomatoes and maybe the odd confit duck leg sitting in its protective layer of unctuous goose fat. I’ll also often mince ginger and turmeric and pop the paste into little jars to use as and when, otherwise I find they tend to shrivel up in the fridge.

I’ll generally have some home preserved soft fruits, typically white peaches or apricots, as a go to dessert if unexpected visitors drop by. Before the jar’s open, it stays in my stand alone preserves fridge but once open it migrates to the main one.

There’s usually a small selection of open jars of home-made jams, chutneys and marmalades, along with home-made nut butters, home-made tahini and preserved lemons. There’s also usually a bottle of my home-made pesto. In summer it’ll be made with basil but at other times maybe rocket or carrot tops. Then there’s my home-made vanilla paste and extract, a few flavoured oils – though these don’t last too long – and let’s not get started on the small plastic containers full of dips such as hummous, guacamole, aubergine caviar and artichoke mousse which form the basis of many a pre-dinner nibble or a sandwich filling for me.

When I make up different curry pastes, I’ll make these in bulk and freeze what I don’t need in individual portions. Though, occasionally, I’ll just pop some in a small glass jar to use later in the month.

Every time I open a can of chickpeas, I drain off the aquafaba. If I’m going to use it within the next week, I’ll pop it into a jar in the fridge. If not, I’ll freeze it. I follow a similar procedure with egg whites.

I think you’re beginning to get my drift and it’s probably a good thing my guest didn’t glance into my freezer which is always full of little plastic bags filled with so many different treasures!