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I’ve been using Maangchi’s whole kimchi recipe for about a year now, with excellent results AS LONG AS I FOLLOWED HER DIRECTIONS. Maangchi’s flexibility about some things (“use/don’t use oysters”, for example)is one of the things I like best about her teaching. That’s how my Mother taught me to cook- some things about a recipe really are a matter of personal taste.(“4-6 CUPS(!!!) of crushed red pepper” ??? hmmmmm…)
But some things are a matter of CHEMISTRY: and here, MaangchiTakes No Prisoners.Some things she simply instructs one to do without question, just like my Mother. Unless I wanted to make cannon balls, would Mom let me leave the baking powder out of Mother’s Famous Biscuits? Certainly not!
The last time I made kimchi I more or less did just that, except that the “finished product” was a lot more lethal than a cannon ball.
This is what happened:
Having carefully, arduously, and According To Directions salted and rinsed (yes, three times) my cabbage, I tasted it as usual. I detected the slight saltiness always present at this stage. This never having resulted in an over-salted batch of Kimchi, my fateful next step is inexplicable even to me: I DECIDED TO ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THE SALT. Having heard Maangchi repeatedly say how important salt is to the fermentation process, I can only plead insanity in defense of that decision.
I wasn’t without an accomplice in this endeavor- my husband the Chemical Engineer asserted that were I to place the heads in a water bath for a couple of hours the salt would “equalize”, and I could pour off the water, thus reducing the salt in the cabbage.
So I did.
I took my perfectly “wilted” heads of Napa and put them in a pot of cold water. A few hours later, I was delighted to find that the water had, just as he said, taken on a slightly salty taste. I tasted the cabbage and-Mission accomplished!- it was less salty, although it somehow seemed crisper than it had been when I placed it in the bath. I dismissed this as impossible, even when it proved much harder to stuff than usual. Hadn’t I just “brined” it? TWICE??? Well, no. As it turns out, that second fateful water bath had not only removed the (necessary) salt, it RECONSTITUTED THE CABBAGE. I had made two mistakes that were to prove fatal to the chemical process of fermentation.
It was as if I had taken two fresh heads of Napa, cut them in half, and stuffed Maangchi’s paste between the leaves. Ever “De Queen of Denial” (surely it’ll ferment anyway!), I put the heads in the kimchi crock and waited for fermentation to begin.
And waited…and waited…and waited………..
I’d still be waiting if I hadn’t finally thrown it away due to a presumption that two inches of fuzzy mold was not an indicator of proper fermentation. Not to mention the stench.
If you’d like to avoid this and other disasters my advice is that you listen to Maangchi, and your mother. If they say you can change something, go right ahead; but if they don’t, well ……..DON’T!
Interesting “science” project(?).
Since I’m new to the ways of Maangchi’s Recipes, I decided to make the “pure” form of Maangchi’s Recipes. The 2nd and 3rd batches I improvise and add what I like and omit (more like substitute) some things, but because Maangchi’s recipes turn out fantastico, I pretty much stay true to her recipes. :)
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