Kimjang

Kimjang, or the event of making kimchi, takes place every year in November. Families, or in my case, the church and school community, work together to prepare kimchi for an entire year. My first year it was just miserable, long hours of cutting vegetables, longer hours (outside in the biting cold with fingers chilled to the bone) cutting, washing, and stacking heads of cabbage (455 to be exact), and more hours of sitting cross-legged and applying red pepper paste to the cabbage leaves. Of course, all the while I couldn’t understand the conversation around me nor the right way to do my job. So last year I dreaded it with all my being, but contrary to my expectation, it was much simpler the second time around! Many of the students’ parents helped and it wasn’t too cold. So this year I had a pretty good attitude about it, and I can even say it was fun!! I took some pictures so you can see the process.

1. Gather the cabbages from the field.
2. Remove the outer leaves, cut the heads in half, and cut a notch at the bottom.
3. Pack (and I mean jam pack) the cabbage in deep tubs of water. Add salt, and stir once in the middle of the night (the high schoolers get up at 3am for that job).
4. Chop onions (white and green), garlic, ginseng, and other veggies for the red pepper paste.
5. Make the red pepper paste, stirring the powder in really well.
6. Apply the paste to the cabbage leaves.

The cabbage is then piled into plastic bags, put into heavy earthenware pots, and buried underground where it ferments for about a year before tasting just right.

And here’s a couple videos: