OPMF: Kimchi

Mom Food from extended family members: this time, from Korean in-laws.

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[If you’re visiting from SITS, welcome! And for those of you who don’t know what SITS is, it’s a blogger community (The Secret’s In The Support!) where I love to hang out and schmooze with other bloggers. Some of them may be visiting today. Be nice. Or if you can’t be nice, be funny and interesting and maybe they won’t notice.]

[OPMF = Other People’s Mom Food]

Remember the other day when I told you about my brother Rick and the Caesar salad he taught me to make? Well, that got me thinking about his family and what Mom Foods we’ve gotten from his wife’s side of the family.

Debbie, who we all love, is a wonderful sister-in-law to have. Her mother Bonnie came from Korea, so in the twenty or so years since my brother and she got together, her side of the family has added a couple of Korean Mom Foods to our repertoire around here. The carnivores among us love nothing better than Bonnie’s Korean ribs (galbi).

Galbi at Asahi
[Photo courtesy of Selena N. B. H.]

But me? I could eat her kimchi all day and half the night.

Kimchi, all done!

A week or two ago, I did a photo shoot at our local Korean grocery store (for Oakland Magazine — I’ll let you know when the article comes out), and I decided I needed to make kimchi. Goodness knows we spend enough money on the stuff at the store; why not try my own hand at it? I bought a nice container to ferment the stuff in, a big head of napa cabbage, a bucket of gochujang (red pepper paste), and I was off!

The red pepper paste

Homemade kimchi is a thing of delightment. I have never had store-bought that could touch Bonnie’s, and I probably will never make homemade that’s as good, but I finally decided to give it a shot. It was MUCH easier than I expected, and not fussy at all. I used Closet Cooking’s recipe as a starting point, but I had gochujang rather than gochugaru (red pepper flakes), so I hunted around the web and decided to use about 6 tablespoons of the paste in place of the cup of flakes. It might not be spicy enough for some people, but it was perfect for us. A little too salty, but I gathered from reading some recipes online that it will be less salty if instead of salting it directly next time, I soak it in salty water. We’ll see.

Here’s the cabbage before salting:

The raw cabbage, before salting

And here’s the same amount of cabbage after adding salt and time (and then rinsing/draining):

Cabbage after salting

Mix it all together:

All the kimchi ingredients in a bowlKimchi mixed together, before fermenting

Et voila!

Kimchi in the fermenting container

We left it out for about two and a half days to ferment, then stuck it in the fridge while we were out of town for a week. It was perfect when we opened it, minus the slightly too salty thing.

The joy of this for us is the almost carbonated sizzle you get from a newly opened batch of the stuff. It feels alive or something. This batch had that tingly feeling, and while it wasn’t nearly as good as Bonnie’s, it brought me some of that Mom Food joy, even though her kimchi is now 500 miles away, where I can’t get to it.

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Author: Serene

I run The Mom Food Project, which was born out of love for my mom and a desire to preserve the recipes of my childhood, which didn't actually exist in written form until I quizzed my mom and wrote the recipes down.

37 thoughts on “OPMF: Kimchi”

  1. Happy SITS Day! After having smelled one of the husband’s roommates fermenting cabbage one time, I still can’t bring myself to eat kimchi…but you make it very tempting! I also have an in-law that came from another country, and I love hearing about the differences in food and culture. Thanks for sharing some of your family with us!

  2. I’ve loved kimchi forever but have never been brave enough to try making it! But the idea of having a big vat of it all to myself (as opposed to an expensive little jar) is tempting. Thanks for a great post.

  3. Happy SITS Day!

    It is so nice to meet another food blogging mom with a similar mission and love for food especially food from our past and childhood.

  4. The food is killing me! Im so hungry lol. I hardly ever cook anymore due to time constraints.

    Happy SITS day! Good food great blod!

  5. After my couple of visits to Korea I said I wouldn’t ever try the stuff, SUPER SMELLY….But I eventually did and now love it…Oh and it’s good for your tummy too which helps. ;)

  6. I am sold. This recipe looks divine. I love the ideas of creating heirlooms out of recipes. I’m totally inspired! Happy SITS day!

  7. Happy SITS Day! I’m so glad you are being featured! I first had Korean food as a grad student and developed a constant craving for BiBimBap. When I moved to PA, at first there were not Korean restaurants in my area, and it was something I missed so much. I found a recipe, and started making it–lots of prep work, but my husband joined me in getting it all done, and it was so so delicious.

  8. Came over from SITS–I’m a newbie and wondered through your blog till I about starved. Great foodie blog and love the authentic home cookin’ part of it. I’m a cook too, but my blog’s about interiors.

  9. What a wonderful idea for a blog. You’ve certainly got me thinking about family recipes.

    I was blessed to inherit my grandmother’s cookbook, where she hand-wrote so many of her favorites on the backs of the ones printed in it. It’s priceless to me.

    Congratulations on your SITS day. I hope it’s a great day for you.

  10. Wow….such great pics of some great looking food. I am jealous of your cooking talents since I don’t have much talent in the area of cooking. I love to follow a good recipe and see my family enjoy it though!!! Happy SITS day:-)

  11. I love Kimchi so much !!!!!!!!!!! I’ve never made it but I have close Korean friends and i could eat it all the time. Have you ever tried Kimchi on buttered whole wheat bread? It’s really good, try it sometime.

  12. I made home-made kimchi for the first time a couple of months ago (I think you and I discussed it). I used a recipe from David Lebovitz (I think that’s his name) and I didn’t have gochujang, so I used the Chinese alternative he suggested. It came out surprisingly good for a first try (and it’s all eaten now) but I want to try again with more liquid and gochujang. Next time the CSA has napa cabbage …

    Meanwhile, I’m bookmarking this. It looks like a better recipe than mine (“pantryslut” has a good one also that I’ve been eyeing).

  13. Mmmmm, I LOVE kimchi. You make it look so easy to make :D

    I’m dropping here via SITS! Can I just say I love your blog’s tagline? Food isn’t love, feeding people is love… it resonates with me so well. Thanks for such an inspirational line.

  14. i worked as a pianist for a Korean-American church at Fort Riley waaaaaaaay back in my late teens, and had more kimchi forced on me than i can even express to you. i have tried to get over my hatred of it because of how healthy it is for temperamental digestive systems, but i just can’t seem to shake it.

    i love that you said it tastes alive… it *IS* alive! Fermented foods, especially wild-fermented foods, are so good for you. Have you seen Sandor Katz’s website and book about wild fermentation? Good stuff.

  15. That looks so good! I wish I made better Korean food. (or Korean food at all for that matter) I’m Korean, but grew I’m born and raised in the US. Have no idea how to cook any of this yummy stuff!

  16. For whatever reason I used to HATE cabbage but for some odd reason (probably due to finding the beauty that is sesame oil) I now love cabbage.
    And I think I may die over your Korean ribs. The picture is making me want to rob your house on rib night!

    Happy SITS day!

  17. Oh my word, the kimchi looks amazing!!! I am a little jealous that you’re so great at this cooking thing ;) I feel like I’m always making the same 5 dishes. Very inspiring :)

    Xxxx fran

  18. Wow….such great pics of some great looking food. Thanks – keep sharing! Thanks for a great post.

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