Twelve Gallons of Kimchi

“Amanda!” Mother said, the way she does, “You should not make kimchi. It is too time-consuming. You should just buy it.”

“Kimchi in the store has MSG in it.”

“Only a little bit, it’s OK,” Mother said.

“If I want to eat MSG, I will eat ramyeon noodles.”

“Amanda! No ramyeon! No cola! Soju and kimchi! But hey, kimchi is too hard. You should just buy it.”

“Mother, tomorrow you will go to church and tell everyone ‘Oh, my foreign daughter-in-law makes kimchi! She is a good wife!'”

Mother nodded and laughed, “Amanda is very smart. Oh, don’t use sugar. Use Asian pears. It is healthier.”

Good Wife
Photo by Diana

Diana and I made kimchi for eight hours with just a short break for lunch. What did the menfolk do? Play video games, hang out on their computers, and run to the store for leeks and garlic.

See, when I have made kimchi in the past, I have made normal amounts.

Diana and I, however, did not make normal amounts. And thus we needed more leeks and garlic.

“What did you talk about when we were at store?” Good Man asked me.

“Oh, work, money, people we don’t like.”

Good Man nodded, “Just like real ajumma.”

Real Ajummas
Photo by Min Gi

We started off easy, slicing up four heads of cabbage to make regular (easy) kimchi the way my mother-in-law showed me. While that batch was soaking (in a huge bowl—just like real ajummas would use), we started off on some easier dishes. Diana made stuffed cucumber kimchi and I made regular cucumber kimchi, very lightly spiced.

The first batches, while easy, took a bit of time. But then we pretty much had the pepper paste recipe down and it started being “손맛” (hand flavor).

We tried to rinse the cabbage leaves off in the bowl but soon realized my kitchen sink was just too small. That’s how we ended up in the bathroom. The bowl was so large we had to tilt it to get it into the bathroom!

Big Bowl of Cabbage

We worked together to rinse the cabbage while Min Gi took pictures. “Oh, two ladies are in the bathtub playing with cabbage.”

Two Ladies in the Bathtub Playing with Cabbage
Photo by Min Gi

We’d made a perfect amount of paste and mixing it in was rather fun, even if we had to sit on my kitchen floor to get it done. We packed the kimchi into canning jars and discovered that…we had a whole lot of kimchi.

Mixing in the Paste
Photo by Min Gi

Kimchi is often made in a more time-consuming way. Instead of slicing the leaves up, you soak the cabbages in brine until the stem is soft and then stuff the kimchi paste between the leaves.

I had soaked three heads of cabbage overnight and we decided to give it a try. After two half-heads, we got the method down. We even got the “rolling” part of it down pat. We packed 10-liter containers with kimchi!

Then we made radish kimchi and Chinese chive kimchi.

Finally, we put the paste away and made white kimchi.

By the time dinner rolled around, we had made over 12 gallons (45 liters) of kimchi. Diana and I stood there, laughing over the amount of kimchi we’d made. We also decided that next time we’re using her mother’s kitchen!

Seven Varieties of Kimchi

We’d used eight heads of cabbage and we’d made
– Stuffed cucumber kimchi (오이소박이)
– Cucumber kimchi (오이김치)
– Easy (quick) kimchi (쉬운김치)
– Hard (traditional) kimchi (천천히 김치)
– White kimchi (백김치)
– Radish kimchi (깍두기 김치)
– Chinese chive kimchi (부추김치)

Good Man’s suggestion that we work together was great. We couldn’t’ve made half the amount in the same amount of time working alone. Plus, it was a lot of fun to argue about the ingredients and chit-chat while we were working.

Photo by Min Gi

We tested the kimchi with dinner. Min Gi took a bite and grinned, “Oh! This is very good! This is delicious!”

I brought two one-quart jars to work and gave one each to my Korean coworkers. Today one of them reported back, “Oh! Amanda! Store kimchi is very spicy and very salty. Yours is very spicy and not salty. It it very good! Your husband must be happy.”

I think now we can both truly claim the “ajumma” title.


Kimchi Making Album