Spice Flush

If I have to wait until I get a nice photo of my kimchi to write about it, I now realize that I won’t have much of a blog.

I’ve looked at a few food blogs and I have to say, my photos won’t be as lovely or professional, that’s for sure. You wouldn’t know it, but I’ve even done some food styling. Yet time constraints seem to set every single dish in the middle of my white Roper stove, lit with a blaring overhead fluorescent. I could blame it on my cheap camera, but the fact is that I’m just not much of a photographer. I will have to rely on words to paint the picture. (When I asked my husband, the artist, why my pictures turned out so badly, he said, reluctantly and only because pressed: “um, I’d say because of focus and composition.” Translation: “They are bad in every way. Honey.”)

Hey, I’m just the cook here. It’s all I do and I get a lot of mileage from it. I don’t have any frivolous hobbies like photography. (I say with wounded pride.)

Right to the point then. Here’s my kimchi recipe. Hate to self-congratulate, but it’s among the best I’ve ever had. It’s plenty sour, maybe not as spicy as I might have liked, but I can correct that next year.

As is, it’s mild enough for Hank to eat. Yes, the baby likes kimchi. He grabs for it and crams it in his mouth, slupping up the shards of cabbage that stick to his chin. He eats and eats until he gets the flush. (By flush I mean the full-body warmth, starting in the head, which I think comes from the combination of spice and the fermented lactic acid … . whatever causes it, I love it and it appears the kid does, too.) Then he cries in apparent discomfort, which lasts less than a minute, and then he reaches desperately for it again. Think his mommy ate some kimchi when she was pregnant with him?

Uh, in a bowl, with a fork.


Spicy Ginger Kraut(or, Midwestern Kimchi)

5 pounds cabbage, freshly picked, thickly shredded
3 Tablespoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Korean red pepper powder (lacking this, I used half-sharp paprika mixed with cayenne—one-third cayenne and two-thirds paprika make a medium-spicy kraut, spicy enough for most, but not really all that hot. Next time I’d go halfsies on it.)
2 Tablespoons minced ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic

Mix everything together well with your hands. Pack into a clean, sterilized crock and cover with large pieces of whole (or mostly whole) cabbage leaves. Rub these with a little of the salt mixture to wilt. Cover with three bags filled with brine: (3 Tablespoons salt to every 1 1/2 cups water) and then a clean towel. Set on wooden risers to prevent mold growing on the bottom of the crock. Ferment at cool room temperature, about 65 to 70 degrees for about 10 days, or until pleasantly sour. Start tasting at 8 days.

Pack into sterilized quart or pint jars and screw on sterilized lids. Store in the refrigerator. Should last the winter. I tripled this recipe and it made 4 packed quarts.

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