History of Kimchi
History of Kimchi
Kimchi is a centuries old method of vegetable preservation. People on the peninsula of Korea have been salting, curing and fermenting seafood and meats for thousands of years, vegetable preservation and the creation of kimchi was part of a very natural course of food evolution. There is some evidence that the process originated as early as 3,000 years ago, and then continued on through Korean history as a cultural identifier and indivisible from it's people's national identity.
Most authorities believe that kimchi took on it's current distinctive bright red color and unique flavor in the late 1700's. Red peppers are a New World food, meaning they originated in the America's, and did not reach Korea until the 1500's after invasion and trade with Japan. The peppers were hybridized over this period and then were added to kimchi, to make it what it is today.
It was originally meant to preserve vegetables for extended periods of time and over the long and harsh Korean winters when fresh vegetables were obviously not an option. Historically, every fall during harvest season, all the women of the community would gather their efforts together, and collaborate on large amounts of kimchi to sustain the entire community for the year. Known as Kim-Jang, this period of the year is a huge celebration full of eating, drinking, and elbows deep in cabbage.
There are over 200 different varieties of kimchi, but the most popular and widely known include Napa Cabbage, Daikon Radish, Turnip, and Cucumber.
Eaten on the tables of kings and the common, kimchi continues to be a part of every Korean meal. Most meals will include at least 3-5 different types of kimchi and fermented or pickled vegetables and side dishes called banchan and are essential for the full meal experience to be complete. Korean meals are meant to be shared and enjoyed together with friends and family, and a large portion of the Korean day revolves around food and drink, and preparation for more food and drink with kimchi always at the heart of it.
My family's kimchi recipes and flavors are what are considered Homestyle. My grandmother was from the country outside of Seoul, and her kimchi flavors reflected this taste. Historically, kimchi recipes were passed down through the generations of women. In Korea, the old methods and techniques are becoming enveloped in the hustle of fast paced tech driven modern life, and are quickly being lost. Not enough young people are interested in carrying on their family traditions and rather elect to buy grocery store made kimchi and forgo learning the old ways.
This is where we find our inspiration, saving the art of traditional kimchi making...