Kimjang Kimchi

Our Thanksgiving leftovers had hardly gotten cold before Mom started gearing up for yet another formidable culinary project.  Apparently, while the end of November signifies the commencement of turkey dinners and holiday shopping in the States, in Korea, its the season for making kimchi in frighteningly massive quantities.  "Kimjang," as it's referred to here, is observed today more out of tradition but it truly started as a survival technique.  As pickling was the best way to preserve vegetables before there was refrigeration, people made a shit ton of kimchi right before winter in order to secure a source of nutrition throughout the cold season.  The timing happened to work out nicely as I just learned that autumn harvest cabbages and radishes are the sweetest.  The kimchi would then be stored in colossal clay jars buried in the ground up to their "necks."  That way, the kimchi would usually stay just above freezing but cold enough to slow the fermentation.  Today you can order kimchi on the internet at any time of the day and have it delivered to your door at any time of the year, thus making the concept of "kimjang" pretty obsolete.  And yet, many families still keep up the tradition (my mother included).


This year however, my mom decided to cut herself a little break by ordering 10 kilograms of pre-brined cabbages, saving herself hours of work cleaning and salting the cabbage the night before.  Much to my mother's delight, it arrived on our doorstep in a cardboard box lined with plastic right on time.  She also decided to go easy on the added ingredients.  In my experience, kimjang kimchi is usually much fancier in comparison to regular kimchi, often including things like chestnuts, ginko nuts, oysters, and Asian pears.  This year, Mom decided to stick with just oysters (a real slacker she is).  From right after breakfast and right up to dinner, she and I were on our feet, orchestrating the production of the greatest quantity of kimchi I have ever seen my mother make.  Just before we broke to make lunch, I sustained two (minor) thumb lacerations while shredding radishes but it wasn't enough to keep me down.  We pressed on, mincing garlic, chopping giant green onions, churning rice paste, and stuffing cabbages.  Finally, after a drawn out game of kimchi Tetris, nine proud tubs of kimchi gloriously formed a wall in our kitchen.  As I gawked at the fruits of our labor, my mother said to me, "Can you believe that my mother used to make kimjang kimchi with 200 cabbages in the freezing cold?  I'm such a lightweight compared to her."  "Yeah, Mom," I said rolling my eyes, "such a lightweight!"


Post a Comment




Follow by Email

Be sure to get the latest and greatest of oinge by signing up for email updates!