How I made Mak Kimchi

My craving for some fresh Kimchi was so strong, I decided it was high time I learn to make it myself.

First, I dove into researching traditional Korean Kimchi by watching youtube videos and reading blogs.

After reading Maangchi’s post on Mak Kimchi and watching her video, I carefully studied the photos Maangchi posted of certain ingredients just in case they were not labeled with English and in case the owner did not speak English.

Then I made a list and my husband and I headed out. Left off my list was the salted squid. I just can’t do it! Mine is pure veg.

Hubs and I had a great time in the Korean Market. For starters, the shop was about as big as my living room, but surprisingly well stocked.

Secondly, the owner was shocked that I, a tall blonde American girl, was so eager to make Kimchi!

“What? You really going to make Kimchi, you really eat it?”

Yep.

“What? You sure you can do it? You no made it before?” Yep. I can do it. “Waaaaaaaaaaa?”

She was soon joined by another sweet Korean lady who was shopping. They both escorted me all over the shop giving me loads of Kimchi making advice and soon the owner just took my basket and filled it up.

When I asked for sweet rice flour, she led me to that section where the shopper quickly exclaimed “Waaaaaa? No no, that too complicated for you, you no need it, put it back.” She snatched it from my hand and put it back. Ok, one less step, fine by me.

The shop owner happened to be making a GIANT VAT of kimchi. As I watched, she julienned an enormous carrot in seconds with a sturdy mandolin slicer. WOWWWWW…. I wondered if this is a magical skill only small Asian women can conquer.

I conquered the crap out of this carrot!
I conquered the crap out of this carrot!

I admitted that I’d bought two really cheap mandolins in the past and had given up and trashed them both.

She proceeded to sell me a very expensive mandolin. “You get this one, last you lifetime! You get this other cheap one, it break, no good, get nice one! Same one I use!”

Ok.

Bam! Radish!
Bam! Radish.

The shopper asked me why? “Why you make kimchi, you really eat it?” I told her I wanted it for my health, beauty, and for its healing powers.

Her eyebrows raised as far as they could possibly go as she said “yes, we Koreans eat Kimchi, why we so skinny! Americans so big!”

My husband and I laughed as I responded she was right, the American diet really is terrible. She nodded in amazement and said “Korean food good, best food!”

If Korean food is always this colorful, sign me up.
If Korean food is always this colorful, sign me up.

At last, we gave our cheerful farewells and left with some ginormous heads of Napa cabbage and a bag of other goodies.

Today, I dove right in to making what I thought would be one total gallon of Kimchi. The store owner though I was nuts “waaaaa? You really want so much?” Why yes I do. Half a gallon for me, half for my parents. I’ll eat it every day.

I started by gathering all of my ingredients, bowls, and tools. And check out the size of the cabbages!!

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DSCN1547 I cut up all but half a Napa cabbage because I ran out of room in my two big bowls. I poured in about half a cup of pickling salt, rubbed it around the cabbage, and filled the bowls with water. Then I stirred and massaged the cabbage more to distribute the salty water. That sat on the counter for over and hour with periodic massaging.

Cabbage in salt water.
Cabbage in salt water.

While the cabbage was soaking I got busy slicing carrots, the giant Korean radishes, leeks, green onions, and an apple. Those hung out in a bowl together while I made the Kimchi paste my processing about a cup of garlic cloves, one large onion, and a couple inches of peeled ginger root.

I combined that white paste with two cups of Red Pepper Powder, which is really more like fine pepper flakes and so aromatic and bright. I also added less than 1/2 high quality fish sauce at this point.

DSCN1556Finally, I rinsed the cabbage leaves three times to wash off the salt. I actually washed so much off that after tasting the final product, decided to add in about 1.5 T of Sea Salt. Hopefully it turns out just right after fermenting for a time.

The paste was gently massaged into the cabbage. Lastly, I added my big bowl of perfectly jullienned veggies!! It was a symphony of color.

DSCN1560I had to taste it…. more than once. It is DELICIOUS!

The final step was filling jars. I pressed the kimchi down into each jar until they were tightly packed and the juices rose above the veggies. Then I carefully wiped the rims and capped each jar. They will sit for about 24 hours to ferment before going in the fridge. But first I’m going to eat a bowl for lunch.

I ended up with two gallons!
I ended up with two gallons!

As a bonus, we ended up with a huge pile for our garden’s compost heap and a smaller bowl full of goodies for our chickens.

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My children were perfect angels, letting my husband take over their schooling for the day while I was busy making the Kimchi.

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Ahhhh, all in a day’s work!

Pantry Inventory – What’s in Your Pantry?

For about three years, my husband and I have done our best to stick to a grocery budget of $100/week. For a family of six, that is not a lot. It’s quite a feat actually. A few families do it on less, and a lot of families spend way more each week.

However, I’ll admit we frequently go over by about $20 or $30. It’s my fault because I’m a creative cook and sometimes I just have to make something so I call my husband and tell him “I MUST have heavy cream, limes, and chicken.” Or whatever I feel like making that day.

I’ve also been guilty of taking money designated for hair cuts or diapers and using it on groceries. We use mostly cloth at home so I will always have diapers.

But it seems things get tighter and tighter as time goes by and now I have to take a closer look at what we eat and how long we can make it last.

This last week was my golden opportunity as we went lean for a few weeks to save up grocery money for one big shopping trip. My husband currently works at Wal-Mart and once a year we can do one transaction at 25% off.

Since we were already done with making and buying presents, we bought two carts full of groceries. It is more important to eat than to have fancy presents, right?

Because we wanted to use cash saved for groceries, we did not splurge on anything unplanned and stuck to the list. We spent $425 on groceries and ended up with $20 cash leftover! Should have bought some more ground beef!

This was by no means a trip that will last us for months, but I’m hoping it puts me ahead on the budget if I see how long I can go without shopping for groceries, except for things like eggs, milk, and produce.

Once home, I spent the day preparing freezer meals. A few of the recipes came from my amazing friend Jen. Thanks Jen! One is my mom’s famous lasagna, and the others came from Pinterest, which you can find on my board Feezer Meals.

In the last two weeks I also put in the freezer 1 big and 1 small Turkey Pot Pie and a large family size portion of Sweet Potato Chili.

Once those were in the freezer downstairs, I took inventory! It was fun and I’m proud I finally did it. Do you know exactly what is in your pantry? Luckily for me, my husband is an expert at facing foods so we have these big shelves and it looks like a small grocery store down there. Next year we’ll have a garden and hopefully I will be canning and freezing a LOT of produce. We have perfect canning shelves, but they are full of kids’ clothing bins and other junk right now. I must purge some more over Spring to make room for more food storage.

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Instead of listing every single thing we have right now, I’ll give you and idea and add a photo.

We have several boxes of cereal, 2 canisters of oatmeal, many boxes of pastas. I have home canned tomatoes and peach pie filling. Jellies, peanut butters, and canned vegetables.

We have about 27lbs dried pinto beans and 30 lb of white rice and only 4 lbs of brown rice. I reckon if we ate only rice and beans for dinners, this would last us 5 weeks.

There are several flats of canned vegetables. These come in handy when we run out of fresh stuff in the fridge and it’s several days before I can make it to the store. It will do.

It’s not at all healthy, but I have many boxes of mac and cheese and a flat of Spaghettios with Meatballs. Some days, those two things are my saving grace at lunch time.

At any given time, we have several loaves of Bomdiggity Bread. I rarely buy bread at the store anymore.

FREEZER!!! We are in big BIG trouble if we lose electricity and lose our freezer foods. We have 14 prepared meals in there, frozen fruit, bags of french fries, pie crusts, pies, roasts, bagged raw chicken, and butter. A huge portion of our shopping trip was spent on meat. It would be heartbreaking to lose that.

Does that mean it’s time I learn how to make things like salt beef? Oh Yum, sounds so good……not.

In closing, if you follow this experiment, I will let you know how long these groceries last and what creative meals I come up with as the pickings get slim. It’s like my own cooking game show of Pantry Raid. My kids are not allowed to be picky. And it’s a good thing they all love rice and beans.

As this is the very beginning of the experiment, it will not be the most accurate assessment. We still had a few cans in the pantry, some meat in the freezer, frozen fruit, and other things. The test will be to see what I spend on fresh fridge items over the next 4 weeks and what I spent on the next big shopping trip.

My idea is to save by not making so many small grocery shopping trips. I must put my blinders on for the Dillons Ads! I really love grocery shopping. Is that weird?

Stay tuned for more recipes, pantry stocking tips, and grocery budget ideas! And please please comment on what you do to save money while keeping meals interesting. Let me know if you inventory and what your system is.

Contrary to what many of my friends believe, I am not organized and I love hearing new ideas.