A standard of Korean cuisine that has found popularity in the United States in recent years, kimchi dates back over two thousand years. Like most pickled produce, the melange of cabbage, root vegetables and spices began as a method for preserving crops to be eaten during times when garden crops were not available for harvest. Like its German cousin, sauerkraut, cabbage was lacto-fermented in clay pots, but the Korean tradition also involved burying the sealed vessels underground. The method stabilized the temperature and allowed the kimchi to ferment more slowing, keeping it palatable for many months. Thanks to refrigeration, it is no longer necessary to dig holes in the backyard to produce delicious and stable kimchi. Making kimchi at home using fresh ingredients from the garden isn’t just easy, it’s an amazing technique for preserving the harvest, bringing spicy, garden-fresh goodness to the table.
Served with rice, as a condiment or as a spicy side dish for meat or fish, kimchi, like salsa, has many variations, but the basic ingredients are easy crops to grow in your own backyard. Most are already familiar to many home growers, including Napa cabbage, green onions, carrots, ginger and garlic, but even the seemingly “exotic” crops are easy growers that will be right at home in any garden.
Daikon radishes are a fast growing cool-weather crop that does well in early spring or in fall and will reach maturity in about two months, with a mild flavor and crunchy texture perfect for kimchi.
Although it isn’t a required kimchi ingredient, sesame seeds add a nutty flavor popular in many recipes. Sesame plants can be grown at home and the familiar seeds can be used in recipes beyond kimchi, including tahini, candies, stir-frys and baked goods.
Using common (and a couple of less-common) backyard crops to use in spectacular and spicy homemade kimchi is easier than you think and the refrigerated result doesn’t require a treasure map to remember where it’s stored.
- 1 large head Napa cabbage
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup daikon radish, peeled and julienned
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
- 1/4 cup fresh ginger, grated
- 3 tablespoons hot chili paste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Chop cabbage into 2-3 inch pieces, discarding root.
Place cabbage in a large bowl and use your hands to massage salt into the cabbage.
Add enough water to cover cabbage, cover and let rest overnight.
Drain and rinse the cabbage.
Add daikon radish, green onions, carrots, ginger, chili paste, fish sauce, garlic and sugar.
Stir to fully combine.
Pack kimchi into a large glass or ceramic container, pressing firmly down to compress.
Fill a 1 gallon Ziploc bag 1/2-2/3 full with water and seal, pushing out as much air as possible.
Place Ziploc on top of kimchi to compress and create a seal that will release gasses as fermentation occurs.
Let rest in a cool location for 48 hours.
Taste kimchi. If the tanginess is weak or flavor is dull, continue to store at room temperature for another day until the desired flavor is reached.
Transfer into one or several jars with airtight lids and store in the refrigerator.
Once refrigerated, fermentation will slow down, but not cease.
Flavor will become stronger the longer it is stored, but kimchi is usually good for several months under refrigeration.