Among all, the biggest reason Koreans feel emotionally attached to kimchi must be kimjang 김장, the tradition of making and sharing large quantities of kimchi to ensure that every household has enough to make it through the winter because kimchi is an important source of nutrition during the cold days when food is scarce. It takes place between the end of November and the beginning of December when the average daily temperature stays below 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) with the lows below 0 degrees Celsius (30 degrees Fahrenheit) – If the temperature is too high, kimchi ferments too quickly, and if too low, it will freeze and may turn sour.
This labor-intensive task really brings the Koreans together because it involves families, relatives, and even communities, and they share activities that include washing, salting, and seasoning of the vegetables. Once finished, they are stored in earthenware jars in the ground buried just up to the neck level to prevent the contents from freezing. At the end of the day, kimjang is a collective practice that strengthens Korean identity while providing the opportunity to understand the importance of sharing and living in harmony with nature, the very reason UNESCO recognized it as an intangible cultural heritage in 2013.
KIMCHI IS SCIENCE – KIMCHI REFRIGERATOR
Inheriting the cherished kimjang culture we’ve just learned about, the “Kimchi Refrigerator” 김치냉장고 has become a staple appliance in Korean households today. That’s right, there is a refrigerator made just for kimchi! At first, the idea of having a dedicated kimchi refrigerator in addition to what you already have in the kitchen might not make much sense, but when you see the science behind it, you would nod your head in agreement.
First, its functions are not limited to keeping it cool to prevent spoilage. Rather, it is a sophisticated machine programmed to precisely emulate the optimal environment for storing and fermenting kimchi. They are designed to meet the specific storage requirements and fermentation processes unique to many different types of kimchi by providing colder and more consistent temperature as well as more humidity and less air movement than a conventional refrigerator, eliminating the need for burying them in jars in the ground.
- Jangdokdae 장독대 is an area outside the house dedicated to storing a series of jars called jangdok 장독 (or onggi 옹기 / hangari 항아리), a Korean ethnic earthenware used to ferment or simply store preserved foods, such as kimchi, ganjang 간장 (soy sauce), doenjang 된장 (bean paste) and gochujang (red pepper paste) or grains. The word dae means “place” or “support,” so jangdokdae means “place for earthenware,” and it’s found near the kitchen. Sunshine and ventilation are key aspects of the location choice so that foods can be preserved well and kept fresh, often lasting more than several years. The similar storage area in the royal palaces was called yeomgo 염고 and was supervised by a court lady called janggomama 장고마마.
Don’t have jangdok’s at home? You can get ready-to-eat jang’s from Amazon instead.
CJ Haechandle Soybean Paste, Korean Doenjang, 500g (1lb) Ideal for doenjang jjigae 된장찌개.
Chung Jung One O’Food Medium Hot Pepper Paste Gold Sunchang Gochujang 1.1lb (500g) A must-have, as it can be used as a base for soup and dipping sauce, or tteokbokki.
Hence, the Kimchi Refrigerator is a good example of how traditions evolve with the advancement of technology. At this point, I believe we can all agree that Koreans really got kimchi down to a science!
If you really want to take the authentic traditional route, you can get this traditional 28.74ounce(850cc) Korean Traditional Earthenware Fermenting Jar Jangdok with Lid