Changnyeong, South KoreaKimjang (김장) is a traditional activity where pickled vegetables such as napa cabbage, radish, perilla leaves and etcetera are being preserved during the winter season. Kimjang usually take place during late November to December. Family and closest relatives flock together to prepare and produce a large quantities of fermented napa cabbage (배추) or popularly known as Kimchi (김치) for the whole year consumption.
Normally, every Korean household has their own space for kimchi in their fridge or, I guess most of Koreans possessed a Kimchi refrigerator exclusive only for this particular side dish. In my Korean dining experience, Kimchi must be served even with the absence of other side dishes.
DID YOU KNOW?
- KIMJANG is listed as UNESCO’s representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- KIMCHI can prevent stomach cancer.
These are few facts about Kimchi and Kimjang. There are tons of amazing health benefits of Kimchi once you try to browse the internet.
My husband’s granparents raised and financed their children’s education through farming. They cultivate different kinds of vegetables and fruits. They own a huge parcel of land somewhere in the outskirt town of Changyeong. Even up to this day, despite their old age, they continue to plant crops for their simple way of living.
Homemade Dried Soybean by my grandparents!
The Seok family (mother-in-law’s side) have this annual Kimjang activity where everyone is responsible for filling empty kimchi boxes respectively. The date was all set and everybody was ready to labor and stuff countless of napa cabbage using my grandmother’s (외할머니) homemade Kimchi sauce (양념).
They are huge, right? What you’re seeing was a small percentage of cabbage used for our Kimchi fermentation.
It was raining non-stop, so I was told to stay inside the home and refrain from helping them. This was the first step in making Kimchi. You have to wash them repeatedly. After that, rub a rock salt between each leaf, then soak them overnight in a large basin. Before stuffing them with sauces, you have to wash all over again those cabbages to remove and cleanse them from saltiness.
Before we get to arrive at my grandparent’s house, the Kimchi sauce was ready and done, so I have no idea how it was made. It was placed inside in a large container and with limited hangeul skills, I didn’t bother to ask since it would be harder for me to grasp the explanation. Another thing, grandma (외할머니) is using a Gyeognsangdo’s dialect (사투리), even for Korean urbanites find it difficult to understand.
Before noon starts to strike, my mother-in-law (어머님) alone started stuffing the cabbages with sauces and filled two empty boxes. After lunch, we both did the work and by late afternoon, my aunt(이모님) came to help and start filling her boxes too. I guess, I labored for more than 5 hours, but my mother in law stopped me and told me to rest. They continue to work and ceased to have dinner. It was almost 10 when everyone’s boxes were all full.
The next day, my two uncles (외삼촌) and their wives arrived for Kimchi-making. Since our boxes were full, mother in law and I just assisted them instead.
After all the hard work, the best way to eat your freshly made Kimchis is pairing with a boiled pork. A traditional food after the Kimchi-making activity.
As a daughter in law (며느리), my job in stuffing the cabbage does not end there. While everyone was busy doing their own thing, I felt the sense of responsibility to do something else. I helped grandma in setting the food in the table. I washed dishes every after the meal, cleaned and wiped the floor. I served as their runner when they need something. It was hard being the youngest among others and as a daughter-in-law itself. It requires you to do the tasks more than everyone. My left arm was extremely painful but I endured and chose to zip out my mouth. There were times I had to lean the wall just to suffice the agony of my left arm. I could say, one of the hardest work I’ve ever done.
On a positive note, another learning experience, and add-up skills acquired. I became more patient, hard-working, and less complaining. I bonded well enough with the Seok family and my husband’s little cousins. Despite those odd moments of labor, I can eat Kimchi multiple times while rubbing the cabbage with sauces and the taste was way delicious, though. The reward of those hard labor was when I received lots of appreciations and a white envelope with a yellow paper from grandpa (외할아버지) kkk, and lastly, I can eat my Kimchi and proudly say, HEY! I MADE MY OWN KIMCHI. haha
Let me hear your Kimjang stories or have you tried Kimchi? Do you find it delicious? Comment below!