Monday, November 29, 2010

Kimchi Making

Today was a fun day.  Every year after Thanksgiving (end of November) the Korean side of the church spends two days making kimchi to give away to those in need or without food.  Everyone is invited to come help prepare the kimchi and every hand willing to help is needed for this huge undertaking.  I thought it would be fun to check out and I was curious as to how to make kimchi so after I put Caleb down for his morning nap, I headed over to church (Mondays are Steve's day off so he stayed home with lil C).  Nothing could have properly prepared me for this Event.  It was mass food production meet church potluck at its finest.

Think over 3,000 heads of cabbage, hundreds and hundreds of (pinneapple-sized!) Korean radishes, pounds and pounds of sea salt, bunches of green onions and garlic, mass containers of hot pepper, and a fire truck to provide all the necessary water!

The above picture is what I saw when I first approached the church.  Being by myself and having never experienced Kimchi Making Day, I immediately thought the church was on fire and something had gone wrong.  I almost turned to go home but then realized nothing was burning and everyone was hard at work.

I approached slowly, tentative and not quite sure how to proceed.  It appeared to be a well organized assembly line, everyone with a job and working quickly.  Seeing as my Korean is limited to "hello" and "thank you," I wasn't quite sure how this was going to work.....

Thankfully, someone noticed the unsure American standing on the outskirts and invited me in.....I was given a blue full body suit (think decontamination suit) to put on over my clothes (keep the kimchi out) and I was sent inside to sit with over 40 other women on mats.  The floor of the church basement was covered in plastic sheets and everyone sat around chatting and grating large Korean raddishes (these things were huge! Although similar in smell and taste to the typical radish you think of, these things were ginormous.  Like I said earlier, they were about the size of a small pinneaple).  Our task was to shred them and there were hundreds.  Each lady was equipped with a large plastic bag to grate into, a grater and a mat.

Thankfully, they directed me to sit next to a lady (Grace) who had spent several years in the States with her husband (one of the Korean pastors) and she spoke some English. She was able to explain things in more detail to me and also shared some helpful things about Korea in general...Like where to buy my meat and which days the market has the cheapest prices. 

Can you pick me out of the picture above?  That's me, sitting with Grace and some of the other women...And yes, that huge bag of grated Korean cabbage sitting in front of me was my morning's work!

This is how it works:  The pictures above (outside) are where all the cabbage and raddishes and other veggies are washed.  The fire truck is hired to come spray their hoses and wash everything down.  Then the cabbages are cut and placed in salt water.  The clean raddishes were brought by basketful into the room we were in, chopped in half by several people and sent down our way to grate.  At the end of the day, all the cabbages will be left overnight in the salt water and then tomorrow everything will be mixed together, the spices added and the cabbage will be stuffed with all the other ingredients....and that (in a nutshell) is how kimchi is made.

Or at least how I understood it....It was a lot of fun, even though I didn't always understand all that was said.  I was glad to sit next to Grace who spoke some English and talked to me, explaining things as we went.  Occasionally someone would come by with a hot rice cake or some coffee or a bottle of "vitamin water" to "keep us going."

And around noon we all stopped for a lunch of rice and (you guessed it!) kimchi, with some fish soup (I think that is what it was anyway....).  Caleb and Steve came to check it out after Caleb's nap and Caleb was a hit with the ladies.  Everyone loves blonde hair out here (because it is so rare) so he is an instant hit.

Caleb even tried a little piece of raddish...I do have to say that I didn't think I liked raddishes much but after grating them all morning, I tried one and it was surprisingly cool and refreshing with a little kick...not too bad.

And that, my friends, was my introduction (and perhaps yours as well) to kimchi making....Hope you enjoyed my long winded post about fermented Korean vegetables....I enjoyed helping (sort of?) and enjoyed meeting some new friends.


  1. wow! What an undertaking that is!! the pictures are wonderful and you write so well sarita! thanks again for keeping us posted, plus you got snow! so fun!! Love you dear friend!

  2. oh this is ang under Doug's account! oops! I forgot to log me in! haha!

  3. Ha ha, Ang....I was totally confused...I was like that sounds a lot ling Angela but who IS it? =) Thanks for letting me know! hi Doug =)

  4. Very cool! That was massive. More food preperation then I've ever done for one food group. Great pictures! Very cool too how God placed you next to Grace.