When I was younger a family friend visiting from New Jersey would occasionally bring us a jar of Kim Chee. I remember my dad would open it over the sink because it was so effervescent. I felt it fizz on my tongue when I began to chew. It was an understandable acquired taste, yet years later I found myself reminiscing in the health food store and purchased a jar of basic Kimchi. Unlike what I had growing up, It was more tart, not fizzy, but still good. That’s what I was buying for about a year up until I moved from upstate NY to Colorado.
In Colorado I found a great Asian grocery store nearby. I payed them a visit to get some kimchi, but every option was laced with MSG. Still, it was something different so I bought it. It was much fishier than expected, but tasted much better than anticipated. But the addition of MSG still seemed unsavory (because it turns me into a pantry devouring zombie). It was time to make my own kimchi.
I found a recipe online and returned to the Asian grocer, this time for ingredients. My first batch was left to ferment in a glass that previously contained a mass quantity of pickles. The jar would hiss and squeal randomly throughout the day, and when that stopped I put it in the fridge and called it done. It was an inferno of cabbage due to some insanely hot crushed red pepper. It was delicious if rinsed off before consumption. I cooked with it using it like a napa cabbage hot sauce. When I finally polished off that giant jar I knew I would have to make more.
Since then I have refined my technique a bit more, but I’m still learning and having fun creating. It’s moved past fermenting cabbage and onto beets, cucumbers and carrots. Hard cider and hot sauce. Now that I’ve begun it’s hard to see why I would ever stop.