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does kimchee go bad?

i brought back a container of homemade kimchee from a korean friend in chicago to california, havent dived into it yet about a month later. visibly, olfactorily seems ok...any warning signs i should be aware of? (it wasnt refrigerated for 6 hour flight)

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  1. i think the kimchee will out live us all

    1. kimchee is great! Although i wouldn't trust leaving the stuff out for long.

      1. I toss mine if I haven't eaten it by the time the harder pieces lose their crispness completely and become mushy - the daikon version is especially bad when the pieces become soft and mushy.

        1. Generally I go by taste, but there are some visual signs. If you are talking about Napa Cabbage kimchee, if the white of cabbage lose their whiteness and start to become soggy and 'dingy'-looking the kimchee is overripe and it's time to cook it.

          You can saute it with some bacon, onions and some spices to make kimchee bokum, make kimchee chigae or saute it into fried rice. Just google for recipes.

          1. You really want to eat your kimchi within a few weeks. After that it is simply past it's prime, but still good for soup or fried rice. My husband hates kimchi and won't even stay in the room when I eat it. But he loves my kimchi fried rice!

            I notice that when it's too old it starts to get kind of translucent and also a little bit floppy.

            You know what, why not call your friend who made the kimchi. She would definitely be able to give you some really good ideas of ways to use the little bit that's left.

            1. I agree with others here. When it's starts getting a little translucent, it's a little too ripe.

              What my husband does at this point: in a soup/stock pot put in kimchi + its juice, add some water (to taste preference) and uncooked pork ribs*, then cover and simmer everything until it's soft to your liking.

              If you want, right before you think it's done add fresh tofu chunks, then simmer again until the tofu's heated. Scoop stew into bowls, eat with rice. Very easy, and you're saving the ghost of kimchi past :)

              * I've had it with bacon or Spam instead of the ribs. Neither are as good, IMO.

              1. I like mine pretty ripe! Like getting translucent. To me it's not to old to eat until it starts getting fizzy!

                6 Replies
                1. re: prunefeet

                  I've been offered riper, aged kimchee as a delicacy.

                  1. re: prunefeet

                    I've had fizzy kimchi before. I prefer the stage that's past freshly-made, yet pre-fizz :)

                      1. re: nanklee

                        Maybe there's kimchi wine to be made ...... go where no Koreans have gone before !

                      2. re: prunefeet

                        I like fizzy kimchi the best! The fizz when you bite the fat pieces is my favorite part! besides the awesome flavor... I'm eating kimchi that is over a year old right now, but it's from KoMart. It's been open about a year but still tastes okay. I like it better when it gets more sour and pungent.

                        1. re: krsyindove

                          You are a kimchi eater after my own heart! Years ago I made my family's winter supply of kimchi in batches of about 140 pounds. I had an unheated backroom in the old farmhouse I was living in that I stored the barrel in and preferred digging in after the kimchi was fizzy and delicious.

                      3. Seriously, having realllllllly ripe kimchee is the only way to go. I would consider that applicable to all varieties of kimchee-- even ggakdugi, which is just one of the types made with radish. It's the only way the flavors can meld and actually cling to the vegetable. Freshly-made kimchee tastes rather flat, and the flavor of the vegetable comes too clearly after the spices are initially registered. Just about all kimchee is made with at least a little bit of sugar (to facilitate the fermentation), and since I have an aversion to savory foods that are sweet, I really can't stand the freshly-made stuff. If it's been about a month, it should JUST be getting good (depending on whether it's been sitting in someplace warm, at room-temperature, or in the fridge).

                        Of course, everything is relative, so you might not like more ripened kimchee. If that's the case, follow the others' suggestions and make kimchee-jjigae (I would suggest substituting the pork with a good sausage or even tuna) or fried rice. You could even make a pajun (pancake) with it.

                        Don't forget-- kimchee was "invented" to help people through veggie-less seasons. The stuff was MADE to last families for months.

                        LA Omogari uses only kimchee that's been aged for a year+ in its jjigae. Judging the jjigae by its flavor I have a feeling they might even add duenjang (fermented soybean taste) to it for added "funkiness."

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: PseudoNerd

                          i am glad someone else posted this, i felt a little ashamed after my testament to the longevity of Kimchee. As far as i am concerned, the riper the better. When first introduced to kimchee i was told it was common for people to pack it into earthernware jars and bury it in the back yard for months before eating it. This information sealed my desire to try it. I have never looked back, unless i smelled that particular odor of the lid coming off of a ripe jar of kimchee. let it fester

                          1. re: frankiii


                            Do you make your own, or do you bury store-bought jars?

                            1. re: frankiii

                              This reminds me of a funny story--a friend's aunt was hosting her niece and some Korean friends for Thanksgiving and decided to make kimchi. She read that it was supposed to be buried in the earth, but didn't bother putting it in a jar first! The look on their faces when she served it at the table...

                              In general, kimchi ripeness is a matter of taste. Koreans will say of kimchi, "It's too sour" or "It's turned," so the concept that it's not quite edible any more does exist, but there's no hard and fast rule. I'm not an expert on kimchi making, but I think the storage in jars in the ground was done in the winter, which would be similar to refrigeration, not just continual fermentation.

                              1. re: AppleSister

                                I can confirm from various relatives and friends' parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents that burying kimchee in the ground was done only in the colder months in Korea. The fermentation process was slower b/c of this, as frozen ground/tundra is a colder and more consistently temperate environment than most modern household refrigerators.

                                As for kimchee going bad, when it starts to have an alkaline/fizzy/unpleasantly tart taste to it, it should be used in a soup/stew/fried dish asap. Most Koreans I know have an aversion to freshly-made kimchee, and prefer a version somewhere in the range between crisp and soggy. If it still tastes like cabbage with chili powder and other seasonings on it, it's not reached the right level of fermentation.

                                1. re: Eugene Park

                                  Not colder necessarily, but more consistent and more importantly, never allowing the kimchee to freeze, even if above ground temps are below freezing. It would work similarly to a root cellar, I suppose. Very clever way to preserve veggies all winter.

                                  And yes, since the kimchee is buried before most of the fermentation takes place, the cold temps would prevent it, and thereby keep until fermentation begins again when unburied.

                                  Certainly tastes vary, but most commonly Koreans don't wait for the ultra rank sourness kicks in.

                              2. re: frankiii

                                My MIL still makes her own fantastic kimchi and buries it in the back yard, digs it up months later. I wish I lived near her! My KoMart kimchi is in the giant jars, since I live so far from where I used to get it, last year I just bought four giant jars but different kinds, then wanted to taste them all when I got home. They're okay open as long as you keep all metal away from it and pack what's in the jar down below its juice level when you get some out. Stuff lasts until it molds, which mine hasn't done yet.

                            2. Good to hear that there are no kimchi poisoning cases. I'm eating a bowl of rice and 9mo old kimchi right now :)
                              Not so crisp, but I must admit I like the strength of the flavor and the fizz!

                              1. okay people, i am seriously afraid of the cucumber kimchee i got today.

                                the jar leaked on the way home, and burped when i opened it.
                                ten minutes later is still fizzing its little heart out in the sink.
                                it's like the vesuvius of kimchee.

                                i inspected the fleshy seeded part, which was also fizzing.
                                reminded me of a slug vs. salt.

                                i'm too afraid to eat it!
                                meanwhile, the cabbage one i got is fine.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: dinaofdoom

                                  That tends to happen, if you just bought it today it is still fine....it's just releasing a lot of gas!

                                  I have had old kimchi many times and it's definitely an acquired taste. A year is nothing btw, when it gets to be 2 - 3 years old is when your taste buds are really tested. It starts to taste a lot like cheese at that point.

                                  1. re: bitsubeats

                                    thanks for the info, bitsubeats.

                                    i am used to the gurgling/fizzling of the liquid, but what really concerned me was the way the cucumber was basically decomposing in front of me.
                                    since i always get the cabbage kind, i'm not sure if this is particular to cucumber or not.

                                    1. re: dinaofdoom

                                      Nope! This has happened to me with kkakdugi before. How's the cucumber? Is it mushy or still crisp?

                                      1. re: bitsubeats

                                        it's really mushy.

                                        i talked to my korean friend, who has a lot more korean culinary experience than me, for obvious reasons.

                                        she said in her family, they always ate the cucumber kimchee right away, because it tastes better and crisper when it's "new".
                                        the turnip and cabbage kimchee is the kind you want to age for a while and get all funkified.

                                        she thinks the cucumber one is bad and i should return it.

                                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                                          gross, mushy cucumber kimchi is bad! I thought it would be okay if it was still crisp, but yeah that's one kimchi you want to eat fresh. When it's old the cucumber turns transparent and has a weird texture.

                                          I agree, return it. Sorry about the previous info I gave you! I thought it was crisp :/

                                          1. re: bitsubeats

                                            yeah, i checked it again last night and the cukes were totally falling apart.
                                            they have a no returns/exchanges policy and it's not nearby so i'm just chucking it.

                                      2. re: dinaofdoom

                                        This doesn't sound right. Cucumber kimchi is different from the other kimchis in that it's usually a fresh preparation where the vegetable isn't salted extensively like with cabbage. Like you said, it's consumed right away - usually within 1-2 weeks or it will oversour quickly and and possibly even rot. Cucumber kimchi is the only kimchi I've ever encountered that will grow mold. If it's just burbling and there's no mold have a taste. If you enjoy it eat it. :)

                                        Edit: If it's really mushy then it's probably beat.

                                        1. re: joonjoon

                                          joonjoon, i should probably post pics of this nasty cucumber kimchi of ill repute.
                                          it's totally rotten.
                                          meanwhile, i have been chowing down on the cabbage version (made by the same people, with the same dates) and it's delicious.

                                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                                            Yes I would love to see this monstrosity! I understand if the place is too far but it would be ridiculous of them not to accept returns on spoiled food. >(

                                    2. re: dinaofdoom

                                      It is supposed to. A real Korean store will put extra plastic bag over it to prevent blowouts on the way home. Fizz is good in this case. Same with natural pickles in general. Actually, even fizzy grape juice, grapefruit juice, sticky rice are wonderful foods.

                                    3. Interesting question like does cheese go bad?

                                      Throwing away kimchi to korean is just south of throwing away rice. I've never seen it done other than by myself. Kimchi can go sour and very over ripe and it becomes pretty hard to eat. However a long as it has som texture, you can cook it and eat it no problem. I have had napa and kadu (raddish) kimchi so long that it became really soft (like the veggie had been boiled in water way too long). Note even cooking was going to fix that so I threw it away.

                                      However, i haven't done that in about 5 years. Happy to say we us every bit now. Kimchi chigae, kimchi bokum, kimchi jun are just some of the strategies for using them.

                                      as for leaving it unrefridged for 6 hours, no problems.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Soup

                                        I discovered this cool little Korean "deli" in Central Jersey today. It's not a Korean market, like you think of in NYC. This place was like a Pret a Manger meets a gourmet Italian market. But instead of prepared sandwiches and frozen raviolis, it had all kinds of prepared Korean food, for immediate consumption and take-home. Among the goodies I took home is a half-gallon of oyster kimchi, which the owner recommended. He told me it was made yesterday and ready to eat. I'll let you know how it tastes.

                                      2. I know this is an old thread but I just bought another gallon of cabbage Kimchi at the Asian market. My older kids and I love this stuff. This brand is always super fizzy with a wonderful mouth sizzle. The use by date on the lid says July 2012 but it will not last that long.

                                        1. I just came here to check because I've had a jar of kimchi in my fridge for probably at least 6 months. Was thinking about tossing it but after reading this figured I'd give it a try. Definitely stronger and a little fizzy, but still tastes good.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: phatty

                                            Sounds like its just hitting it's prime, as far as I'm concerned. Ripe kimchee is the best.
                                            In fact, when I buy a jar, I leave it out of refrigeration for a half day or a day to hasten the ripening.
                                            I usually go through the stuff pretty fast, but a few times I had a jar that was months old. I ate it with no hesitation whatsoever (and no ill effects either).