By Nancy Olah
I really, really, really wanted to like Kimchi . . .
Friends had raved about it . . .
I’d read online blogs about its powerful probiotic punch . . .
And since I adore sauerkraut and am totally sold on the powerful health benefits of probiotics, I thought I would give making my own Kimchi a try.
I read articles about it, got a great book called The Joy of Pickling from my local library, watched a fun video, and chatted with nice folks at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market about their personal forays into the world of kimchi-making.
One Saturday, I spent about twenty bucks buying all the fresh organic ingredients I would need to make my very own Kimchi:
- Napa cabbage
I had visions of my Kimchi being so delicious that I could augment my holiday gifts of homemade jams and breads with lovely little jars of my homemade kimchi for my family and friends.
After all, if Kimchi is one of the national passions of Korea (where they eat it at every meal), it had to be great . . . right?
I admit now that I should have listened to my skeptical carnivores while I rhapsodized endlessly about embarking on this incredibly foolish and time-consuming project.
Maybe I did something wrong . . .
I salted my sliced napa cabbage and let it soften in a large colander for an hour while I gently massaged it while I prepped my other veggies.
So far, so good.
I cut my lovely purple daikon into matchsticks, sliced my scallions, pressed my garlic, and grated my ginger.
These are all great ingredients, so what’s not to like?
Since this was going to be a vegan Kimchi, I eliminated the fish sauce called for in most recipes and substituted some organic kelp powder to give it that fishy taste. I didn’t have Gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), but I figured my good old Italian red pepper flakes would do nicely. I mixed the kelp powder and red pepper flakes with a tiny bit of sugar (about a teaspoon) and figured it tasted pretty good. I rinsed my cabbage, and mixed everything together. I tasted my concoction before packing it with brine in one of the large glass jars my hubby uses to make his “peach pussey” (i.e., his fermented concoction of Carolina peaches, sugar and moonshine, to the uninitiated). I left an inch of head room (as mentioned by all the recipes), capped the jar, and figured I’d be eating eating delicious Kimchi in about a week.
I faithfully checked my concoction every day (just like the books, recipes, and video advised), but unfortunately, my ill-fated project began smelling worse by the day. After a couple of days, I moved it from my kitchen counter to a place of honor in my chilly garage.
After a week of putting up with the increasingly nasty smell, I BEGGED my hubby to help of me dispose of this foul smelling mess as humanely as possible.
My hubby was concerned that I had irreparably harmed one of his treasured moonshine jars.
Our son was courageous (braver by far then me), and actually ate a small bowl of my concoction before he took photographs and we gave it a decent burial. (Yes, the sickly pinkish look is because I used the pretty purple daikon instead of the more appropriate white daikon – huge mistake!)
What did I learn from this fiasco?
- I’m not Korean (big surprise, right?)
- I can’t possibly imagine eating Kimchi (even well made Kimchi, and not my foul mess) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Dishes from one culture may taste (and have smells) that aren’t readily accepted by folks from another culture.
- Before I invest $20 in organic ingredients, I need to try (and like) Kimchi in a really good Korean restaurant and not get the idea in my lame brain that this Sicilian-Hungarian cook can become a proficient Kimchi-maker on her own.
Yes, I firmly believe that probiotics are great for your gut – but I’ll be getting my probiotics from Kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut until someone shows me how to make decent Kimchi!