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Creating Kimchi: a Korean tradition

Filed in Blog, South Korea by on November 16, 2017
by Daryn F.

This past Saturday was a very popular couple’s holiday in Korea called Pepero day. It was basically created by the candy company to sell a ton of the Pepero snacks. I originally thought I would write more about this holiday when my wonderful Korean mum asked me to come home and spend that holiday in Bucheon. Turns out I was recruited for labor during the peak kimchi making season.

Saturday morning we woke up and headed to the market to pick up our supplies. The main ingredient in kimchi is cabbage. We purchased three packs of two at total of 15,000 won (about $15). I am not exactly sure how much is considered a normal price, but just about every customer mumbled about how expensive this was for six large heads of cabbage. We then headed inside to pick up various types of onions, ginger and other ingredients. As a side note: The market also had a large fruit section so we naturally had to pick up the in-season fruit which includes apples and persimmons.

Creating kimchi 1

The cabbage, the red mixture, and the finished product. Taking a break to prepare more ingredients.

After the market, we brought all the ingredients home and began the prep on the living room floor. 엄마 (mom) cut up the cabbage, 아빠 (dad) cut up the other leaves, and 오빠 (brother) and I peeled the onions. Peeling all the green onions took a long time, so I unfortunately missed what happened to the cabbage. What I do know is that the cabbage was halved and placed in a large bag with what I believe to be salt, and set in the bathtub. All day long the cabbages soaked and would periodically be rotated.  After about 10 or 12 hours, so around 10 p.m., we resumed our Kimchi making. 엄마 (mom) diced up all of the prepared onions and leaves and placed them in a large bowl. There were a few more ingredients that I am not exactly sure that were combined. 엄마 (mom) moves quite fast, and was not exactly telling me everything she put in.

Creating kimchi 2

Seeking approval from the master of Korean cooking.

There was some sort of white substance that thickened on the stove — I was in charge of stirring. While I stirred, she placed shrimp and other ingredients in a blender. Both these liquids were added to the large bowl. More little shrimp, three large scoops of garlic, a dash of sugar and a heaping mound of red pepper were also added to the bowl. This was all then mixed together to be added to the cabbage. The cabbage was taken out of the soaking bag and rinsed in three different baths, twice each.

We brought each of these items back to the living room floor. The kimchi is then made by peeling each cabbage layer back and rubbing the red mixture all over the individual leaves. It is important to make sure and get the mixture down at the joint of the leaves (I messed this up a few times). The half head is then folded in half and held together by the outer leaf wrapped around it. The kimchi ball is then placed in tubs and sprinkled with salt.

Once we filled two and a half tubs of the large kimchi, we moved on to make two more types. 엄마 (mom) cut up the remaining cabbage into small strips. She combined this with the red mixture and then added in fresh oyster. This kimchi was placed in two large containers.

Creating kimchi 3

Tasting our handiwork, the best part of helping in any kitchen.

The final kimchi made is my absolute favorite. It is cucumber kimchi. A cucumber is sliced it to fourths. Each fourth is then quartered. The cucumber is then added into the red mixture. I was given a large container of this kimchi to bring back with me to my dorm. While making the kimchi, there were several chances to taste the product. Although it was rather spicy, I took a bite every time it was offered. I most likely won’t be able to reproduce the product on my own, but being a part of the process was a wonderful experience.

About the blogger

Daryn F. is studying abroad at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea.

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