by guest blogger Robyn Jasko, cofounder of Grow Indie
Kimchi, the fiery Korean cousin of sauerkraut, is all the rage these days, showing up at your favorite health food stores and supermarkets, with jars of bright red fermented cabbage lining the shelves. This Korean superfoodhas been a cultural staple for generations—and for good reason: Kimchi is packed with healthy probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and beneficial bacteria.
It’s also a really great way to add a little flair to your favorite foods. Many people soon find themselves addicted to the sour/spicy flavor, using it to make everything from Korean Tacos to Kimchi-Scallion Pancakes. I love to brew up a hot pot of healing Kimchi Stew when I feel a cold coming on (the hot pepper, garlic and ginger in kimchi definitely help kick out whatever ails you).
Although kimchi was traditionally buried in crocks underground while fermenting, you can easily make a batch at home with just a mason jar.
- 1 head napa cabbage, or 2 large heads bok choy, with a few large leaves reserved
- 1 daikon radish, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 2-inch knob ginger, peeled
- ½ cup Korean red pepper powder
- 1 chile pepper
- 1 Tablespoon sugar or 1 apple or pear
- 1 sterilized mason jar
Place cabbage or bok choy and daikon in a large bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Toss to combine, cover, then let sit at room temperature until cabbage is wilted, at least 1 hour and up to 12. It should release ¼ to ½ cup of liquid. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, ginger, red pepper powder, chile pepper, and sugar (or apple/pear if using) in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a rough paste is formed, about 30 seconds total, scraping down the container’s sides as necessary. Drain cabbage and pat it dry (set liquid aside) then mix the cabbage with the paste. Pack kimchi and some of the liquid into your mason jar, pressing the cabbage down firmly with a wooden spoon so the brine covers the top. Add more water if needed to make sure the mixture is completely covered and submerged. Add the reserved large cabbage leaf to the top and leave at least an inch of headspace in your jar.
Seal the jars tightly and allow them to sit at cool room temperature (65 to 75 degrees is ideal) for 3 to 5 days, tasting every few days to see if the kimchi is ready. When it develops a sour, spicy taste and a texture similar to sauerkraut, remove the big cabbage leaf and store the jar in the fridge.
Grow Your Own Kimchi Garden
Kimchi is so versatile—it can be made of almost whatever crunchy vegetables you are harvesting and makes short work of those extra carrots, cabbages, broccoli rabe, chives, radishes, peppers, kale, and cucumbers that may be overwhelming your garden in late summer or fall. Or, you can even plant a kimchi garden that includes napa cabbage, daikon, and carrots (for an interesting spin-off of a salsa garden).
Although napa cabbage is ideal for making kimchi, it can be a bit difficult to grow and takes up to 80 days to harvest. Bok choy is a fantastic fill-in, ready in just 45 days—and even sooner if you grow the dwarf, or “baby,” bok choy variety, which can be picked as early as at 30 days. Bok choy is also easier to grow and takes up a lot less space than cabbage, making it a perfect choice for containers or small-space gardens.
Daikon radishes are a kimchi favorite, too, but if you are short on time and space, or just new to growing, ‘Saxa 2‘ radishes are the easiest, earliest radishes I have ever grown and are ready in just 3 weeks!
Experiment with making different kinds of kimchi. There are no strict rules, and it’s always fun to make up your own tasty varieties.
Robyn Jasko, creative services director at Runner’s World magazine at Rodale, is a local-foods activist, community garden starter, and cofounder of Grow Indie, a site promoting sustainable lifestyles, homesteading, eating well, and living local. Her first book, Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live, was released May 2012.