Monday, November 10, 2014

Kimjang

While at my cousin's house on Sunday evening (after having spent the earlier part of the weekend with a different cousin), I got a call from my dyeing teacher. He asked if I had time on Monday to come over, and I thought he said to come take class. I thought, well, I don't really need to dye anything nor am I in the mood to do it, but I'd be happy to see him now that I'm back in Seoul. So I got up and rushed over the next morning, only to see THIS.
Which could only mean one thing: I wasn't there for class, but to help with kimjang! That's what everyone in Korea does in the late fall, to make kimchi for the rest of the year, and to do it in big quantities and with lots of help.
I had helped a tiny bit with a small batch of white kimchi up in the mountains for my jiseung teacher, but they are a small household. Here is where the cabbage, which had been quartered, was soaking in salt water to brine. The outdoor workers emptied the huge container as they rinsed all the cabbage for the final step.
In the meantime, us indoor workers (chilly enough to have to light the charcoal burner) shredded radish, cut greens, cut green onions, and put it all into this great round plastic container sitting on top of two folding tables. I noticed one end was not quite supported by a table, which became a big problem later.
Tiny shrimp, before being added to the mix. There was a LOT of other stuff that went into this batch, things I never imagined went in (like sticky rice paste).
Once all of the ingredients were ready, the red pepper powder was added and then it was time to mix mix mix. We got this all done before lunch, and then went upstairs (with some of the mix and salted cabbage) to eat. It was delicious, but then we came downstairs to find that the precious sauce had leaked out of the unsupported end onto the floor. So much work, gone!
We did our best and then took the rinsed cabbage and rubbed the mix in between all of the leaves and packed them away into bins and boxes. Near the end, the mix wasn't wet enough, so they added some extra ingredients to make up for the loss. The entire batch won't taste the same, obviously. I would have stayed to the bitter end, but my back was killing me, so I left around 3pm with precious cargo: a small bin of kimchi for my family! It was great to feel like I earned my keep for one day. I came home to shower, start a new jiseung piece, and then sleep sleep sleep.

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