Kimchi is just about the hottest thing, both literally and figuratively, to hit American cuisine since Sriracha. Or maybe sauerkraut. You can buy jars of it in Korean markets for all your spicy fermented cabbage needs, but we've heard that Korean grandmothers would shake their heads in shame to see us doing so. Maybe they have a point.
For purposes of comparison, we'll use Granny Choe's Kimchi Co.'s original cabbage kimchi, which seems appropriate since it's granny's displeasure that has us here in the first place. And for the homemade recipe, we'll head over to Epicurious. All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery.
• Granny Choe's Original Cabbage Kimchee, $8.99 for a 15-oz jar from Granny Choe's Kimchi Co.
• Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi (makes 1 gallon) from Epicurious
• Peapod Online Grocery
• Granny Choe's Original Cabbage Kimchee:
PER SERVING (1 ounce): $0.60
• Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt: $0.33
2 heads Napa cabbage: $7.58
1 bulb garlic: $0.59
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger root: $0.25
1/4 cup fish sauce: $0.87
1 Asian radish (Couldn't find online; used 1/2 lb traditional radishes): $0.85
1 bunch of green onions: $0.69
1/2 cup Korean chili powder (sourced on Amazon.com): $4.50
PER SERVING (1 ounce): $0.12
• Granny Choe's Original Cabbage Kimchee: 0 Minutes
• Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi:
Based on Kathryn's experience, there are several hours of active prep time, mostly involving chopping veggies, rubbing them with chili paste, and layering them into the fermentation jars. Prep also includes a few hours of inactive time while the cabbage wilts and then at least a 2-3 day wait before the kimchi is ready to eat.
Although the entire process of making kimchi is rather labor intensive, it's not actually that hard. As Kathryn says, grab a few friends and make a party out of it. Once the kimchi is made, it will keep for several months in the refrigerator. And we imagine a gallon of the stuff will last most people for quite some time.
The ingredients to make kimchi are also not that hard to find or that extensive. An Asian grocery would likely carry the radishes we weren't able to find online, as well as the Korean chili powder. Other than those two ingredients, everything else can be found at just about any major grocery store.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
Kimchi isn't quite the commercialized product that cake mix and mac n' cheese have become. Most kimchi products like Granny Chou's are made with wholesome ingredients without a lot of added preservatives.
The upside of making it yourself is that you're guaranteed no preservatives and you get to choose the vegetables going into it yourself (buy organic, buy local, etc.). You're also in control of a lot more variables: the level of spiciness, the level of fermentation, other flavorings going into the recipe, and the recipe itself.
MAKE OR BUY?
If you love kimchi and are starting to add it to your regular shopping list, we think it's definitely worth making your own. One afternoon of labor will give you weeks or even months of very inexpensive homemade kimchi that's likely to be every bit as delicious as Granny Chou's.
If kimchi is just an occasional thing for you, spring for the good stuff. A jar will keep for months, so it's worth paying a few extra dollars for something you really like.
OUR VERDICT: Make it if you love it; buy it if you just want another condiment option in your fridge.
What do you think?
Related: Make or Buy? Kombucha
(Images: Granny Chou's Kimchi Co. and Kathryn Hill)