This weekend, I made kimchi. And the thing about kimchi, it’s a slow process. There’s no fast-food-fermentation; there’s no cheating the time it takes. Time is literally an ingredient – and an essential one at that.
First, like many whole food dishes, it takes quite a bit of time and chopping to prep everything. All the garlic, ginger, radish, carrots, and napa cabbage. Then there’s several hours that you need to let the cabbage sit with salt. There’s no getting around this quiet time to soak in sodium and release whatever it needs to.
Once a few hours has gone by, it’s time to put it together. This is the stage where all of your parts meet and form patterns of layers.
Maybe you’ve been doing this for years, or maybe this is the first time you’re trying. If you run low on garlic, ginger, carrots, or radish, it will be fine. It will just be different, and you will continue to layer because you need to fill the space. In addition to the vegetables and herbs, the other essential is the Korean hot pepper powder. This is personality. This is the crucial flavor that makes kimchi distinct from other culture’s fermented cabbage dishes. You get to decide how hot or mild it is.
And the liquid you see at the bottom of the jar? This is life experience – the emotions, the raw stuff you carry. You will start with some from the beginning, with the salted cabbage, and you will gain much more as you ferment. It needs to filter through all your parts to help the process. You need to flip the jars so that it reaches all the spaces. You need to turn it upside down. Over and over.
And you need to let it sit. Take more time and notice the magic in the air.
Sometimes it just takes 24 hours to change. I’m venturing into the 48 hour range with this batch. Some people ferment kimchi for a week (or even longer). But already at 30 hours, you can see such a noticeable difference.
Maybe you are a fermenting wonder, too. And you just need a little more time.