Korean Tradition : Kimjang
14-15 Nov 2015 | South Korea —
Today, I’m gonna share about my first kimchi making experience with my in-laws. Not just one head of baechu (napa cabbage) but amounting to a year supply.
As we all know, kimchi is the most essential food in a Korean meal since many years ago. It’s also considered as one of the healthiest food in the world. The fermentation of kimchi is called 김장 (kimjang / gimjang). It usually takes place during late autumn or on the month of November.
Last November 14, we went to aunt’s house to make kimchi that can last at least a year for 4 families. That same day, there was also a rally at Seoul city hall. We expected heavy traffic all day going to and from Seoul and so, it took us about 3 hours on the road. Upon arriving at aunt’s home, they already finished salting the cabbages.
So instead, we julienned the radishes and seasoned them with salt, red chili paste, minced garlic, fermented shrimps and chopped scallions. Then, manually mixed them with our own hands. It took us about 3 hours to finish. At around 8pm, we had dinner, watched tv and waited for my sister-in-law to arrive.
When she arrived at midnight, we ate some chicken and chattered a little more. Finally, we prepared for bed at around 1:30am.
The next day, we woke up at 7 in the morning and continued the work without having enough sleep and breakfast yet. Danny, me and two of his aunties rinsed all the salted cabbages in a squatting position for 2 hours and arranged them in rows to prepare for stuffing. I think there was about a thousand cabbages. Everyone lost count.
Afterwards, we ate brunch and then, went back on to our work again. My back was beginning to feel sore, but I didn’t tell anyone. There was nobody else to help the elders since my sister-in-law is pregnant, 2 older cousins didn’t arrive yet and 2 younger cousins were doing some other things.
While stuffing the cabbages with yangnyeom (seasoned, julienned radish – what we made the night before), aunt’s mother-in-law was preparing the meal. She also gave us some slices ofbossam to eat. Bossam is a boiled pork belly dish that goes well with fresh kimchi.
After 4 hours or so, we finally finished stuffing the cabbages and placed them neatly inside the plastic containers. The traditional ones are kept inside the jars and buried them under the ground. Unfortunately, we don’t have a yard at home. Thus, we keep them inside the kimchi refrigerator.
The work was very tedious that Danny and I slept very well that night and I didn’t want to get out of bed the next morning. But, I still did despite the aching body because I was so eager to try this traditional hands-on experience. I also had a fantabulous time with the family. We shared stories, laughter and good food. ‘Til our next kimjang~
So, tell me about your kimchi making experience.