Kimchi in Jamaica, Kimchi Around the World!

Kimchi! It’s really so easy that you don’t really need a recipe. The bulk of it is normally cabbage, the chinese kind (but I’ve done it with regular green, and once with red, cabbage), but I also sometimes chop up and throw in cucumber, carrots, radishes, I’ve tried beets, apples, any other veggie or fruit that is relatively firm or fibrous that you want to try, for the most part. It’s also common to put in green onion.

Kimchi in Kingston
Kimchi in Kingston, with cabbage, callaloo, lots of ginger

The other part is the flavoring, I use tons of ginger, chili flakes, some garlic. You want this stuff to coat as much of the other ingredients as possible, so I like to mix the spices together w/ a little liquid, sometimes the juice from a lemon, sometimes a little apple cider vinegar, sometimes even a little sesame oil, and pound it into a sort of paste.

The most important part of the whole process is the salt water solution. When you soak everything in a saline solution, it undergoes anaerobic fermentation – there is no oxygen. So it doesn’t rot, like it would if there were oxygen, instead it sort of partly digests. That’s why you want to pack the kimchi down when you’re letting it sit and brew, to push out the air bubbles and prevent pockets of rotting.

OK, so chop up your cabbage into whatever sized chunks you want, put it all in a big ol’ bowl, sprinkle the whole thing with sea salt, mix it all up to get the salt around, and let it sit for a while. In a little bit, mix up a salt solution. About 2 Tbls per 6 oz Cup of water is a decent ratio, but once you do it a couple times you can just taste it as you go. Cover the cabbage with the salt water, weighing it down with a plate so that it is all submerged. Let the cabbage soak for 3-6 hours, or even overnight.

After the cabbage is good and soaked, drain off all the water into another container, but save it. Mix all your other chopped ingredients together with the salty cabbage (it should taste salty). Put in your spice paste and mix it all together really well so that everything thing is coated with the chili/garlic/ginger/etc paste. I think the traditional kimchi will use the fermented chili paste in the spice paste, that is where the red color often comes from in kimchi. I don’t have any here in Jamaica, however.

Now it’s time to pack the whole mixture into the container you’re going to use to brew. A big cylindrical ceramic pot is best, but I usually use a plastic one. Just don’t use a metal one. Pack the mixture nice and tight into the container, pour the salt water over it until it is all submerged, and weight it down so that it all stays under water. You can use a plate, if it fits in the container, or you can also fill a zip lock bag with left over salt water and put that on top. You don’t have to seal the container.

Let it sit for a day or two, give it a taste, and just let it brew until it’s as tangy as you want it. There is a line to be crossed, however – you can let it sit for too long and it ferments too much. When it’s where you want it, just stick it in the fridge to stop fermentation. You can pack into smaller jars if you want.

Blue Mountain Hike

Perhaps the most impressive Physical Challenge undertaken by this island hopper in quite a while, I climbed yesterday into the mountain-goat of a Jeep of a fellow diplomat and drove out of Kingston, accompanied by one of the Marines posted at the Embassy, and headed towards the fabled Blue Mountains in Jamaica’s interior.

Despite the nearly deadly and impassable road that snakes and cuts its way over boulders and through rivers and is sometimes mostly swallowed by landslides, we found ourselves playing Spades with a local Jamaican by the light of kerosene lamps, our stomachs full of peas and rice and curry chicken, at a hostel perched amidst a coffee tree grove, one of a few flat places part way up to the top of the Blue Mountains, which reach a respectable 7,402 feet.
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