The Prairie Homestead http://www.theprairiehomestead.com Homesteading | Self Sufficient Living | Living off the Land Sat, 14 Jan 2017 16:18:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.2 Heating with Wood on the Homestead http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/heating-with-wood-homestead.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/heating-with-wood-homestead.html#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:29:31 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=18014 I’m a such a sucker for roaring fire. I grew up with wood heat, and to this day, if I’m in a house during winter without some sort of heat source to stand next to, my soul feels a bit empty. When we moved into our little prairie house in 2008, it only had a […]

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heating with wood on the homestead

I’m a such a sucker for roaring fire.

I grew up with wood heat, and to this day, if I’m in a house during winter without some sort of heat source to stand next to, my soul feels a bit empty.

When we moved into our little prairie house in 2008, it only had a forced-air furnace and that was a serious bummer. Not to mention, the 100-year old house had pathetic insulation and the curtains would actually move when the wind blew. We pretty much froze the first four years of living here, as the furnace could never keep up with the brutal Wyoming temperatures, even when it was running full-blast.

In 2013, we finally bit the bullet and installed a wood stove. The stove crowded our already-miniscule living room, but I didn’t care– my house was warm and I finally could stand next to a roaring fire on the subzero days. So of course, when we did our extreme farmhouse makeover, there was no question in our mind we would have wood heat in the new portion of the house. In fact, we ended up moving the same stove from our old living room into the new living room.

I’ve received a number of questions about the feasibility of heating a homestead with wood, so I figured it was time to answer those questions today. I don’t claim to be an expert in this realm in the slightest, but I’m happy to share our experiences if they’ll help someone in the decision making process. So, let’s dive in.

Heating with Wood: WHY?

heating with wood on the homestead

I’ll be the first to say that heating with wood isn’t for everyone. There are availability, location, and cost considerations, not to mention it’s a lifestyle choice of sorts. But, here are the reasons we personally chose to heat our homestead house with wood:

It’s economical.

Notice I didn’t say ‘free’… Heating with wood still costs money. However, at least for us, heating with wood saves us a LOT of cash as compared to purchasing propane, especially when propane prices spike. Here’s a helpful article that compares costs of various heating methods. In our area, if you want a cord of wood that is already split and ready to go, you can expect to pay around $150/cord. We use around 5 cords per year. However, we prefer to get full logs, which drops our price down to around $100/cord. (More on that below.)

It’s a renewable resource.

I know some of my readers have trees they harvest right from their land… And if that’s you, I’m exceedingly jealous. We only have a few trees here out on the Prairie Homestead, and there’s no way I’d ever cut them down for firewood. However, there are plenty of beetle-killed trees in the nearby mountains (about 1.5-2 hours away) and those make an excellent source of firewood.

It’s efficient.

Actually, this point should come with a caveat– heating with wood *can* be efficient, as long as you have the right stove. Older models can really burn through the wood and you’ll find yourself using a lot of extra fuel. However, newer stoves do a better job of creating maximum heat with a more minimal amount of wood.

It’s not dependent on electricity.

This was a BIG one for us. Previously when we only had the furnace, I was scared to death the power would go out for an extended period of time. If it were to take the power company several days to fix the problem (which has happened…) we would have no way to heat the house or even keep the pipes from bursting. I hated the feeling of being a sitting duck. With our wood stove, the power could be out for weeks and we’d be just fine. And bonus– I could even cook on the wood stove if I really needed to.

It fits our lifestyle.

What can I say? We’re wood stove junkies… We love a roaring fire, and Prairie Husband even loves cutting firewood and splitting kindling. It fits our philosophy of life, and the slight inconvenience of it doesn’t bother us a bit.

What About the Wood?

ig-6

My main bit of advice here is to use what is most readily available to you. For us, that’s pine. Like I mentioned above, there is an abundance of beetle-kill trees locally, so that’s what we use. Pine burns a bit faster than some of the harder woods, but it’d be silly (and pretty much impossible) for us to source anything else in our area. (Our pin is ponderosa and lodgepole.) We have yet to make the trek to the mountains to harvest the wood ourselves, but have had good luck with paying folks to bring it to us. Prairie Husband gets a truckload of big logs, uses a chain saw to cut them into rounds, and then his homemade, tractor-powered log splitter to split into firewood. You can usually get pre-split firewood delivered too, but you know us– we like to do things the hard way. 🙂 (And it’s cheaper to get the big logs, anyway.)

Currently, we are borrowing a mobile sawmill from a friend and experimenting with sawing logs into boards for windbreaks and other projects. (You know, because we need more projects…) This yields a lot of scrap pieces which we’ve been using as firewood, which is handy because we currently have a never-ending supply that’s almost free.

We don’t have covered firewood storage, so sometimes our pile gets covered with snow. It’s so dry here, it doesn’t take too long for the wood to dry out. However, if you live somewhere super damp like the Pacific Northwest (where I grew up), it’s probably wise to have a shed or shelter of sorts. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with wet wood all the time, which will make you extremely sad when you’re freezing and craving a hot fire.

firewood storage

We usually keep a large stack of split wood over by our shop, and then fill up this homemade “bunk” to transport wood closer to the house. Prairie Husband made it to be easily picked up by the tractor, so we fill it at the big pile and then drive it over to the back porch. It’s pretty nifty. We prefer not to have firewood stacked next to the house, as it can be a fire hazard.

Is it Hard to Keep a Fire Going?

blazing fire in wood stove

No, not really. At least not with the stove we have. We opted for a wood stove with a catalytic converter, and it has been very efficient for us. (You can ready more about why we chose this model here.) We fill it full of wood first thing in the morning and then again at night. As long as we adjust the thermostat on the stove properly, it does a fabulous job of regulating itself all throughout the day and the night. Since Prairie Husband and I both work from home, we can tend the fire if we need to, but it’s honestly not needed. I have no doubt if we left for work during the day, the house would still be warm when we returned at night.

What About Back-Up Heat?

As we were doing our remodel, we opted to still install a propane-powered furnace in the house as well. Our reasoning was two-fold:

  1. We wanted a back-up source of heat for when we are traveling or if we can’t keep the fire going for an extended period of time.
  2. We didn’t want to hurt the resale value of our home. Not that we plan to move anytime soon, but we know there are a lot of people who might not be too keen on having wood heat as their only option if they were ever to buy our house.

Even though we rely on the wood stove 98% of the time, it’s reassuring to know we have a back-up option if we need it.

Is Heating with Wood a Safety Hazard?

heating with wood on the homestead

It can be, I suppose, but we feel the risk is minimal when the proper precautions are taken. We keep the stove pipe clean and have made sure the stove has the proper clearances from the walls, etc. (We used corrugated steel for the stove surround, and landscaping paving bricks for the base. And yes, before anyone sends me an email saying that isn’t up to code– it is. We had it officially inspected. Also, our model of stove has heat shields which keeps the back and sides of the stove surprisingly cool.)

As far as having little kids in the house with a wood stove, it’s never been an issue for us. I think a large part of that is thanks to the platform we made for the stove– it raises it up off the floor enough that it’s not as appealing for them to get close to it. And they understand it’s hot and naturally stay away from it anyway– even the little ones.

Do You Cook on Your Wood Stove?

Not really, although I’ve experimented with it a few times. Unfortunately in order to get the stove hot often to even semi-heat the food, I had to have a raging fire in it, and it about ran us out of the house. If it was my only option, I’d use it, but it’s really not designed for that. I do like to set my rising bread dough near the stove, though. That’s pretty handy.

Any Must-Have Accessories?

antique tinder box

A cool wood box is always nice– we repurposed this old tinder box that Prairie Husband salvaged while on a construction job years ago. I painted it with milk paint and if it the paint gets chipped from storing the wood, it just makes it look cooler.

non electric wood stove fan

We also love this little fan that sits on the back of the stove. It requires ZERO electricity and helps keep the air moving. (We got ours on Amazon– (affiliate link))

So no… heating with wood isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely a fit for us. And when the Wyoming winds are howling and the snow is blowing, you can bet you’ll find me hunkered down by the fire with a cup of chai and a good book. 🙂

heating with wood on the homestead

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How to Acid Stain Concrete Floors http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/acid-stain-concrete-floors.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/acid-stain-concrete-floors.html#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:29:58 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=16697 I really debated posting this one… The topic of acid staining concrete floors strays a little from my usual subject-matter and seems slightly more suited for a home renovation blog. But I decided to go for it anyway, as I figured a) I have a ton of very thrifty, very handy readers who love frugal, […]

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how to acid stain concrete floor

I really debated posting this one…

The topic of acid staining concrete floors strays a little from my usual subject-matter and seems slightly more suited for a home renovation blog. But I decided to go for it anyway, as I figured a) I have a ton of very thrifty, very handy readers who love frugal, DIY stuff, and b) I honestly just wanted a reference for myself, as I have a bad habit of doing a complex project and then promptly forgetting all the details for time and eternity. Ahem.

So here we are.

To catch up those who may be new to the Prairie Homestead craziness, we did a massive home remodel last year (basically building a whole new house onto our little shack), and added a full basement in the process. (Previously we had a teeny tiny hand-dug basement resembling something out of a horror movie.)

We had the new basement sheetrocked with the rest of the addition, but I put the rest of it on the back burner as 2016 had us occupied with other projects. So when I found myself with an unusually quiet week between Christmas and New Years, and decided it was time to wrap up this basement once and for all.

I rushed to acid stain the concrete in the guest room downstairs earlier this year as we had a steady string of house guests coming through and they needed a place to sleep (funny how that works). Doing that smaller room first gave me a good chance to experiment with the acid staining process (for some reason, it felt extremely intimidating to me when I first started researching it). And true to my nature, I messed up my first go-round a bit, so I’m glad I had a chance to make adjustments before finishing the rest of the rooms.

But before I go into the specifics (and my mistakes), let’s talk about why we chose acid stain concrete in the first place:

how to acid stain concrete floor

Why We Chose to Acid Stain Our Concrete Floor

1. It’s not carpet. I have a passionate hatred for carpet, y’all. We have carpet in two small bedrooms in our house and that is IT. Dogs + 3 kids + a rural lifestyle = disgustingly putrid carpet. I just couldn’t stand the thought of putting pretty, fluffy carpet downstairs so the dogs could throw up on it, poop on it, and the kids could spill stickiness all over it. Nope. Not gonna happen.

2. It’s cheap. But not tacky-cheap, or fall-apart-in-18-months cheap. Since carpet was obviously out of the question, we priced wood for the large room (ouch) and tile (bigger ouch) and decided the price wasn’t something we wanted to pay.

3. It’s tough. Since the acid stain actually reacts with the concrete itself, it won’t scratch or peel like paint.

4. You can always cover it up. If I suddenly develop an affinity for carpet in 3 years (ain’t gonna happen, but still….) we can just slap it over the top of the concrete– no big deal. Same goes for other floor coverings.

5. It looks darn cool. Acid stained concrete has the rustic, irregular look I love, and I see it going with a variety of styles and designs. It works with the natural irregularities of the concrete to create a rich, marbled look. No two floors will look the same.

how to acid stain concrete floor

Will MY Concrete Floor Work for This?

To be perfectly honest? I have no idea. I am not claiming to be the definitive acid-stained concrete expert in any way, shape, or form. Since this is a considerable project with pretty permanent results, you’ll want to spend time doing your own research and to decide if this will fit your situation. I read DOZENS of articles on acid staining concrete before I even bought my supplies and I suggest you do the same. Here are a few I found helpful:

We didn’t intend on acid staining our concrete when the floor was poured, so we didn’t have the concrete crew take any special considerations. They power troweled it, and we slopped paint and sheet rock mud on it as we were finishing the walls (which I deeply regretted later….). However, the stain still reacted beautifully with the concrete once I cleaned it.

The biggest consideration is the floor with which you’re starting. This is a stain, not a paint. It’s not covering anything, but rather reacting with the chemicals in the concrete. Therefore, you want to make sure the floor is EXTREMELY clean before you start. Any sort of paint or glue residue can mess up the stain reaction. Your best bet is testing a small area of your concrete floor to make sure the acid stain works properly before committing to the whole thing.

how to acid stain concrete floor

Equipment & Supplies for Acid Staining

In the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty low-budget DIY project. However, there are a few tools that’ll make your life much easier:

A Shop Vac: It is VITAL all residue is completely gone from the floor before you apply the stain and sealer. That’s pretty tough to do with a regular ol’ mop, so we relied on the shop vac to suck all the nasty water off the floor.

Scrub Brushes: I had a very stiff hand-held brush, along with another brush with a long handle. Both were crucial in the cleaning process.

Squeegee: You could do the project with a squeegee, sure… But it sure made things easier during the cleaning. I used it to scrape the rinse water towards my shop vac.

Floor Cleaner: If your floor is very dirty, you’ll want a heavy-duty cleaner that won’t leave a residue. TSP is what is recommended by most professionals. I couldn’t find TSP locally, but I did find a TSP-alternative that worked just fine for removing the paint residue on my floor. (I think it was a better option, anyway– TSP is rather nasty I think.)

Sprayer: I wanted to use an old weed sprayer for this, but the only weed sprayer I have has metal parts inside the sprayer assembly. You cannot use a sprayer with ANY sort of metal, as the metal will create a nasty reaction with the acid stain. So I just used an all-plastic, quart-size spray bottle instead. Yes, my hand got tired, but it still worked. (And I did’t feel as bad about just tossing it when the project was done.)

Protective Gear: Rubber gloves are a must, and a mask and eye protection isn’t a bad idea, either. The stain can burn your lungs if you breathe it in, so good ventilation is wise.

Acid Stain: There are a bunch of different brands out there, but this is the one I went with from Amazon (affiliate link). The color I chose is dark coffee-brown with some slight reddish undertones. I used just under 2 gallons for a bedroom, storage room, and the large family room. You’ll want to check the manufacturer recommendations on the stain you’re using to see how much you’ll need for your space.

Clear Concrete Sealer: I found the Clarishield Wet-Look Water-Based Sealer at Sherwin Williams and went with that. I know there are a variety of other products that’ll work for this, too.

how to acid stain concrete floor

How to Acid Stain Concrete

{Step One} Prep

When I did my first room, I decided to be lazy and NOT mask the bottoms of the walls. My big idea was to use a foam brush to apply the stain around the edges of the room, and then follow up with a sprayer in the middle areas. I figured I wouldn’t have the danger of overspray on the walls and I could skip the masking.

And… this was a horrible idea. The stain applied with the foam brush ended up being much lighter than the stain applied with the sprayer…. So that room is rather blotchy and uneven. Not the end of the world I guess, but needless to say, I masked the next two rooms, used the sprayer on the whole thing, and the results are much better.

So yeah, masking is a good thing.

how to acid stain concrete floor

{Step Two} Clean

I can’t stress enough how important this step is– do NOT skip it and do NOT skimp on it. You’ll want all paints, dirt, grime, and glues completely removed from the floor before you get started. Admittedly, this is also the least fun part of the process….

We had some pretty thick paint overspray around the edges of our walls. My cleaner wouldn’t remove it on its own, so I had to use a sharp scraper to peel it off the floor. I then followed it up with a hard scrubbing with water and cleaner. In my first room, I used a gel paint stripper to loosen the worst paint overspray on the edge of the room, and I wish I hadn’t. It seemed as though the paint stripper changed the concrete a bit and it caused the stain color to be different where the stripper had been used.

My cleaning routine was: scraping paint/gunk off the floor, scrubbing with warm water and the TSP-alternative, vacuuming up the water, rinsing with fresh water, and then vacuuming again. Yep– it was super tedious.

I did this 2-3 times until the floor was as clean as it possibly could be and there wasn’t any dirty water left anywhere on the floor.

how to acid stain concrete floor

{Step Three} Stain

One the floor is completely clear and dry, it’s time to break out the stain. Give yourself a full day to do this portion of the project. Not because you’ll need to be working the entire time, but rather because you’ll need to stain, wait a couple hours, and then neutralize the acid. There’s really no way to know exactly how long the stain will need to sit on the floor before it’s ready to neutralize, so you want to have plenty of time to be flexible. (However, 2-4 hours is a pretty average time frame. I left my stain on for about 2 hours before I started neutralizing.)

Put on your protective gear, and fill your sprayer with stain. Some websites advised diluting the stain with water, but I didn’t.

Pick a corner and start spraying. Try to keep the spray in an even layer as you go, but remember it doesn’t have to be perfect ( that’s why I love this project so much). Once you get in your groove, it really doesn’t take long to spray an entire room.

When the spray first goes down on the floor, it’s super light. Mine was approximately the color of bile when it first hit the floor (I had a small heart attack at that point), but don’t worry–it’ll darken as it sits. It also might fizz a bit, and that’s normal too.

Work over the entire room, then allow the stain to sit on the floor. As dries, it will darken and then turn super chalky and quite ugly. (Another heart attack, but it’s OK…) 

The next part is up to you– you will need to watch the floor and see if you like the shade of the stain. Mine darkened to my ideal shade after about two hours, but your floor may take more or less time. You might even need to apply another coat after a couple hours, (but I didn’t).

how to acid stain concrete floor
Chalky look prior to neutralizing

{Step Four} Neutralize

It might seem weird to scrub a floor you just spend an hour coloring, but this step is important to remove any leftover acid residue which may cause problems when you go to seal the floor. Once the floor is dark enough for you, use a mop and/or scrub brush to scrub it with an ammonia/water solution. (I used about a cup of ammonia to a gallon of water.) I did one application of the ammonia & water, and then rinsed it 2-3 times with fresh water until my rinse water was mostly clear. Again, tedious but necessary. (My shop vac/squeegee method was handy here, too.)

Let it dry complete (at least 24 hours) and then you’re ready for the last step!

how to acid stain concrete floor

{Step Five} Seal

Not only does applying a clear coat to the floor protect it, but it also gives it that “wet look” and brings out the beauty of the stain.

I applied my clear coat with a roller with a long handle. The smoother the roller nap, the better. (I used a 3/8 nap roller on one of my rooms (it was all I had), and I didn’t like the “texture” it left in the finish. A smoother nap would have been much better.)

Make smooth strokes with the roller, and try not to “overwork” the clear coat. I applied two coats to mine. My sealer looked white and milky when I first applied it, but then dried to a clear finish.

Let it dry, and you’re done! I plan to wax my acid stain concrete for extra shine and protection, too, but haven’t found an appropriate wax yet– I’ll update this post when I do.

how to DIY acid stain an concrete floor, from start to finish

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Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate Recipe http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/12/slow-cooker-hot-chocolate-recipe.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/12/slow-cooker-hot-chocolate-recipe.html#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2016 18:05:10 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=17977 It’s extremely hard… To convince me to leave my cozy little house on winter evenings. Between the flickering fire, the Christmas tree lights, and my favorite Douglas Fir essential oil wafting from the diffuser, I’m pretty content to be a winter-time hermit. And when you add in a mug of homemade hot chocolate? Forget about […]

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homemade slow cooker hot chocolate recipe

It’s extremely hard…

To convince me to leave my cozy little house on winter evenings. Between the flickering fire, the Christmas tree lights, and my favorite Douglas Fir essential oil wafting from the diffuser, I’m pretty content to be a winter-time hermit. And when you add in a mug of homemade hot chocolate? Forget about it. You’d be hard-pressed to get me to venture out even if Joel Salatin himself was visiting our town (Okay, so I *might* leave the house for him… But I’d have to think about it.) 😉

I usually make a version of this hot chocolate recipe whenever I’m hankering for a cup– it’s ideal for when it’s just the Prairie Husband and I.

However, if you’re making hot chocolate for a crowd or need to have to ready ahead of time, this slow cooker hot chocolate recipe is perfect. You can make a large batch without compromising on taste or resorting to those not-so-lovely powdered mixes. Throw the ingredients together, set the slow cooker on low for two hours while you play in the snow or do chores, and your hot chocolate will be ready right when folks walk through the door. Bingo.

slow cooker homemade hot chocolate recipe

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate Recipe

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 2 ounces of pure chocolate of your choice
  • 1 cup real whipped cream
  • 1/8 cup shaved chocolate for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa, salt and milk.
  2. Pour mixture into a slow cooker and add vanilla. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.
  3. Add cream, cinnamon and maple syrup. Cover, and cook on low for an additional 20 minutes. Stir in 2 ounces of chocolate until melted. It’s best to break or shave chocolate into smaller pieces before adding to the slow cooker to help the melting process.
  4. Pour hot chocolate into mugs and top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of shaved chocolate.
  5. Grab a mug, get warm and enjoy the time with your family.

slow cooker homemade hot chocolate recipe

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate Notes

  • You could easily double this recipe if you’re serving a large crowd– as long as your slow cooker is big enough.
  • I haven’t tried this recipe with non-dairy milks, but I’m guessing it’d probably work.
  • If you want to get extra-fancy, add a peppermint stick for stirring or serve homemade marshmallows on the side.
  • Looking for other cozy drink ideas? Here’s my homemade egg nog and chai tea concentrate.

slow cooker homemade hot chocolate recipe

 

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How to Make Kimchi http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/12/how-to-make-kimchi.html http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/12/how-to-make-kimchi.html#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2016 22:14:13 +0000 http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/?p=17953 “What is that?!” I answered the question no less than 15 times while I had my brightly colored jars of kimchi sitting on the counter fermenting. My answer (“It’s spicy Korean sauerkraut…”) didn’t exactly erase the quizzical look from the faces of the question-askers, but considering most of them are well-acquainted with my weirdness, I doubt […]

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how to make kimchi recipe

“What is that?!”

I answered the question no less than 15 times while I had my brightly colored jars of kimchi sitting on the counter fermenting.

My answer (“It’s spicy Korean sauerkraut…”) didn’t exactly erase the quizzical look from the faces of the question-askers, but considering most of them are well-acquainted with my weirdness, I doubt anyone lost sleep over it. 😉

I’m generally not willing to be very exotic when it comes to fermented foods. I do enjoy sauerkraut and a good old-fashioned brined pickle, but I have yet to develop a taste for some of the more adventurous ferments, like kvass or even fermented asparagus (I wanted to like it SO BAD, but just couldn’t do it…)

That’s why you haven’t seen kimchi here on the blog before now– not because I didn’t like it, but mostly because I was too afraid to try it. Sorry, just keepin’ in real…

Upon the gentle-prodding of my buddy Matt from Fermentools, I decided to give it a try. He said if we liked sauerkraut (which we do), we’d probably like kimchi. I figured I could handle that.

Wait… What is Kimchi Again?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made with lacto-fermented vegetables (namely cabbage). Lacto-fermentation is the same process we use to make sauerkraut or brined pickles, and is an old-fashioned way to preserve food that imparts probiotic benefits as well.

There are approximately 1.5 billion different ways to make kimchi, and I have no doubt my version would be deemed inappropriate by some… But it’s a good baby-step for us Prairie People who are still slowly expanding our palates, due to the lack of international cuisine options out here.

Some kimchi recipes call for fish sauce, kelp, Asian pears, carrots, radishes, or other veggies. I kept mine simple– partially because it’s hard to source certain ingredients here in Wyoming, and partially because I didn’t feel like being too adventurous… At least not yet.

Therefore, you’ll find pretty basic ingredients in my kimchi recipe: green onions, cabbage, ginger, garlic, and salt. The one “exotic” ingredients you simply MUST have is the Korean red chili powder (gochugaru). Because, nope, you can’t substitute regular red pepper flakes. Thankfully, it was easy to order the Korean chili powder on Amazon, and I’m guessing the bag will last me for the next 5 years worth of kimchi-making…

how to make kimchi recipe

Do I Need Special Fermenting Equipment?

For my first few fermentation adventures, I simply used a regular mason jar and lid. However, I’ve been using air locks from Fermentools for the past few years and haven’t looked back. Are air locks an absolute requirement for making fermented foods at home? Nope. However, they *can* reduce the chance of mold occurring on a ferment, and allow they allow the gasses to escape without you having to “burp” the jar. Basically, if you’re new to fermenting, an airlock makes the whole process pretty much fool-proof. I’ve used my Fermentools non-stop ever since for all sorts of fermenting projects.

Bottom line– you don’t have to use a air lock, but they are pretty handy and often produce a higher quality product in the end. And if you’re making a big batch of anything, half-gallon mason jars are easier to handle (and less expensive) than one of those big ol’ fermenting crocks. (I have one of the 6-packs, which will handle around three gallons of kraut…)

homemade kimchi ingredients

How to Make Kimchi

Yield: Approximately One Quart

  • 1 head (approximately 2 lbs) Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup green onions, coarsley chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
  • 1 tablespoon salt

(Feel free to double or triple this recipe– it’s just as easy to make a big batch as it is a little one.)

Instructions:

Coarsely chop the cabbage leaves into 1/2 inch (or so) pieces, and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt over the cabbage, mix in well, and allow to sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Once you’ve allowed the salted cabbage to sit, use your hands to mix and mash the cabbage until it starts to shrink and a brine begins to develop in the bottom of the bowl. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this–the goal is to just start the juices flowing. You’ll want to taste the brine and add more salt, if necessary. The brine should taste quite salty, like sea water.

Mix in the onions, garlic, ginger, and chili powder thoroughly, then start packing the mixture into a clean mason jar. (**I highly recommend wearing kitchen gloves while mixing– as the chili powder has the potential to get under your fingernails, and it’ll hurt….)

I like to add a 1/2 cup of cabbage to the jar, pack down firmly with a wooden spoon, then repeat until I get to the top. Once you get to the top of the jar, the goal is for the cabbage mixture to be completely submerged, with the brine fully covering it by 1″. If you don’t have enough naturally-occuring brine after all your smashing, you can easily make your own 2% brine to top it off (instructions below). I use a glass weight (from my Fermentools kit) to hold down the cabbage, but you can also use a bit of the core. The goal is to not let the kimchi itself be exposed to air.

homemade kimchi recipe

Affix a lid to the jar (fingertight only), and set aside in a room-temperature location, out of direct sunlight, for 5-7 days.

You’ll probably want to place a small dish or tray under the jar, just in case you overfill it a bit and the jars  spill over a bit. Also, removing the lid after a day or so to “burp” the jar and release any pent-up gasses is also a smart idea (if you’re NOT using an airlock).

Taste and smell your kimchi after five days. If it’s tangy enough, move to the refrigerator for storage. If you like a bit more tang, simply allow to ferment for a bit longer.

Enjoy your homemade kimchi as a side dish, make kimchi fried rice, kimchi mac n’ cheese, or a host of other kimchi-flavored dishes.

Your kimchi will last a many, many months in the fridge, unless you eat it all before then– that’s one of the beautiful things about fermented foods.

how to make kimchi recipe

Kimchi Notes

  • To Make a 2% Brine: Dissolve 1 tablespoon fine sea salt in 4 cups non-chlorinated water. If you don’t use all of the brine for this recipe, it will keep indefinitely in the fridge.
  • Like I mentioned above, there are a million-and-one different ways to make kimchi, so feel free to experiment with the flavors. I’m going to be brave and add fish sauce next time.
  • Every time I try a new fermented food, I have to give myself a bit of time to become accustomed to the new flavors. But then within several days, I always mysteriously find myself seeking it out and almost craving it. I suspect that’s my body trying to tell me something.

WHERE TO BUY FERMENTING STUFF?

I’ve been totally impressed with my Fermentools equipment. Here’s why:

  • The airlocks work with the jars I already have, so I don’t have to buy special containers or crocks.
  • You can easily make big batches of fermented foods with little hassle (no lugging around heavy crocks, either)
  • Their glass weights are super nice to just pop into my mason jars so the food doesn’t float out of the brine and get gross.
  • There’s a super-handy chart on the front of their ultra-fine powdered salt bags to help you figure out exactly how much you need for the perfect brine

Click here to shop Fermentools

fermentoolslogo

This post is sponsored by Fermentools, which means they sent me one of their air lock systems so I could try it out. However, like everything I promote here on The Prairie Homestead, I don’t promote it unless I’m actually using it and loving it, which is absolutely the case here.

homemade kimchi recipe

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