Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kim Chee

I'm making my second batch of kim chee today.

The first batch was last spring. We split the seasoning packet in half -- thinking one quart of kim chee was plenty -- and enjoyed the curious process. The kim chee overflowed when we opened the quart jar to try it. It's a fermented product, like wine or beer, but much faster. Toward the end of the quart, we were a little tired of it. I thought I might not ever make a second batch.

Time goes on. Midsummer, I bought a jar of kim chee. A pint. We finished it quickly. A couple weeks ago, the thought of making another batch began to dwell in my mind. I couldn't find good napa cabbage my first runs to the grocery store. Three days ago, I did.

Yesterday, I started the salt water soak. Today I rinsed the condensed cabbage, mixed it with the seasoning, and stuffed it in an antique blue wire-seal Mason jar. It smelled wonderful, and I can hardly wait for it to be ready tomorrow.

One day to wait for the kim chee alchemy. The pressure of the sealed jar and the heat of the red pepper will transform bland cabbage into something daring and piquant. You have to love yeast, it makes so many good foods out of dull ingredients -- beer, wine, bread, kim chee. Grapes, I suppose, are not dull -- merely sweet and innocent. Wine is headier, more sophisticated.

It stores better, too.

I've been under pressure and heat myself recently. With our reduced income, my father's illness, and the refining edges of my normal charity work and poker beats, it's been quite a time. I'm hoping the work I do on myself will serve as divine yeast, and re-inspire me as something tastier.

As for the kim chee -- to paraphrase Voltaire -- once, an adventuress, twice, an addict.