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Kimchee question

I don't recall buying kimchee before, or if I did I certainly don't recall this happening: I just returned from the store with a jar of kimchee. Well sealed with the plastic rim on it, refrigerated, well before the "buy by" date. When I opened the jar, the juices immediately started bubbling up and the contents inched up out of the jar a bit. Is this common? A bit disconcerting...but I realize this is a fermented product so perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised.

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  1. Whoa! I'm the one that is never afraid of food going out of date or of spoilage, but I would not eat that kim chee if pressurized gasses burst out of the jar when you loosened the cap.

    1. Not a good sign. I wouldn't chance that one.

      1. It can happen with homemade.
        With our kimchi the juices will often overflow the container if we filled it too full before sealing, or forget to release the pressure occasionally during the start of the fermentation process.

        I think it happens a bit more often if rice powder is used in the recipe.

        But since this is store bought it may also have been left out too long after being sealed, or refrigerated, warmed, refrigerated again during transportation. I would be very hesitant to use it.

        7 Replies
        1. re: hannaone

          I agree. The homemade jars are sometimes overfilled and I recently had one of these overflow upon opening, but it was fine. I would not take the same chance with a store bought product.

          1. re: hannaone

            Hmm, I always have this happen with my homemade, but I guess I am really bad at overfilling it. I didn't realize commercial kimchi should not do this, I just assumed it is part of the fermentation process. I would defer to the knowledge of the some of the other experienced Hounds on this one, and probably toss the thing.

            But now I have a question. If the kimchi has been made and packaged in a factory, I'd be worried about the the gas. But how about when you buy kimchi from a local grocery store, made by the owner's grandmother? Does this fall into the Homemade it is ok category? Or do I have to worry about spoilage?

            My dad, who was a microbiologist, has said that kimchi never goes bad, it just gets older. I'll try to clarify it with him again. But what are we worried about pathologically speaking? Clostridium? Anyone know?

            1. re: moh

              My problem with store bought (factory made - not house made) is I don't know how they made it. It is probably safe, but since I don't know what else they process in the same plant I'm not comfortable with it.
              (Probably just control issues on my part :-p)

              1. re: moh

                botulism is the pathogen.

                <edited> my bad. Clostridium botulinium is the pathogen, botulism is the disease syndrome associated with it.

                1. re: weezycom

                  Weezycom, I was wondering about Clostridium, but I recall my dad saying that kimchi is way too acidic to support Clostridium. I also recall that all the canning manuals I've read warn against canning low-acid food without proper processing because of the risk of Botulism, but that higher acid food had much less risk.

                  I am waiting to speak to Dad again about the kimchi thing. He was out when I called. But mum seemed to think that a little bit of bubbling was just fine, and part of the process. She said it meant it was sour from over fermentation. She did mention that if the kimchi exploded when she opened the jar, she would not eat it.

                2. re: moh

                  No clostridium botulinum is not a danger if fermented food

                  It can't live in with all the other bacteria
                  It is a danger in canned food because you kill the other bacteria and it remains

                  Also it would die in the salting proses of making kimchee where you remove water from the cabbage

                  1. re: moh

                    Also kimchi is not canned its fermented
                    It's like champagne except with bacteria

                3. I've had store-bought kimchi gurgle on more than one occasion; I didn't realize that was risky. I thought it was simply a by-product of fermentation and ate the kimchi and lived to tell the tale.

                  1. I used to purchase King's Hawaiian Kimchee, it almost always bubbled. Probably happened dozens of times over ~10 years. As the kimchee aged, the flavor would change, when first opened (and bubbled) it was tart (?), after a week or so, it was flat. Bubbling happened with both the 12oz jars from Safeway and the 32oz jars from Costco.

                    King's is no longer available in the stores I shop.

                    1. This used to happen to me on occasion with in-house store-made brands that I would buy in LA (not a major overflowing or anything, just releasing built up gases and some kimchi juice would spill over a little). Now that I live in Boston, where virtually all our kimchi is trucked in from elsewhere and is usually not particularly fresh, I encounter it a lot more often. I try to keep an eye out for jars that don't look like they've been overfermented, and check when I pick them up whether they are already seeping/overflowing a bit. I think a moderate amount of overfermentation is usually safe (though with the sensible caveats above about how and why it got overfermented-- in my case, it's just because I live in a remote corner of the country, not because it was probably sitting out unrefrigerated for a long time). I've only once had one that I hesitated to use even for cooking.

                      1. It's perfectly normal and for me, at least, it's desirable, because I like my kimchi a little on the sour side. But eat it quickly because it will sour and once that happens, it's only good for chigae or something similar.

                        1. It''s fine. Absolutely normal for it to do that.
                          The Kimchee I buy almost ALWAYS bubbles out a bit (quite frankly I'm more concerned if it _doesn't_)
                          It is an actively fermenting product..
                          I have been buying and eating Kimchee for more than 30 years.
                          Just enjoy it...and it'll get even better when it ripens a bit. I like it best around two weeks after purchasing it...it gets much more tart.

                          1. Eat it, or give it to me.

                            1. I envy those of yo who make your own and have not experienced this! I would say that this happens closer to 50% of the time but maybe I am purchasing a second (or third) class brand.

                              Edit: What brand is this?

                              1. The kimchi I buy almost always does this too. In fact, I've stopped buying it as it tastes a little too fermenty to me. But the very same brand is delicious when it doesn't bubble. Unfortunately it is impossible to tell the difference before opening the jar. I would normally never eat something that bubbled in a jar, but I too assumed it was normal and have lived to tell.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: waver

                                  Again...the bubbling/gas escape is normal and harmless.
                                  The sourness of the kimchee itself is strictly a matter of taste. The Korean grocer I first bought it from many years ago was so amused that I always selected a "fresh" jar (I could tell by the color of the cabbage...white=newer, a bit translucent=ripened.
                                  He turned my head completely when he gave me a sample of a well-ripened one (he made it a point to say that they sold it both ways) and one taste and I was hooked.
                                  So now, I rarely eat it until it has bubbled some. Sometimes I've sped the fermentation process along by leaving out on the counter for a day (with a bowl underneath just incase of overflow!)
                                  The "fresh" just tastes bland to me. My Korean friends are split on this...but most of them seem to like it well ripened as well. To each his own.

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    Thanks to all for the great input and interesting discussion. I'm definitely feeling kimchee-enlightened. And I'll try not to fear the bubbles next time around.

                                    1. re: The Professor

                                      I guess I'm not sure whether I like it fresh or when it has eventually stopped bubbling...? Its the actual bubbling faze that has the effervescent taste (texture?) I'm not too fond of. Maybe I'll try leaving it on the counter.

                                  2. I've learned a lot from you all above. But I make and eat my own kimchee. I'd be a bit wary of anything store bought in hte US that bubbles and oozes simply because food is regulated so much there that I'd think it illegal and dangerous to be able to open anything but soft drinks and have it fizz and bubble.

                                    1. Sam's right to urge caution. If the kimchee is bottled, and branded, then by law it will state on the label whether it is pasteurized. (Or, I've seen some products that say "gently heated to 160 degrees"). There are a few companies distributing kraut/kimchi that is emphatically non-pasteurized (health benefits of active lactobacilli), but they must be handled carefully down the retail chain because of the buildup of gasses. Again, labels will indicate.

                                      If it is pasteurized, and it pops and fizzes upon opening, throw it out. That's a new microbial action, possibly a result of contamination.

                                      If it's from a bulk tub, or clamshell pack, then it's probably not pasteurized and still fermenting, probably made by a happy clucking complement of local Asian grannies. That's the stuff I buy.

                                      1. I always get the bubbly kimchee. Mmm! Ferment-y goodness!

                                        1. Kimchi does not go bad and it's very versatile. Once it starts getting too sour for you, just make some kimchi chigae or mixed it in your fried rice. Yum!

                                          1. As others have said before me, it's the fermentation causing the expansion, whether in storebought or homemade, and kimchi is supposed to ferment. It may have been a period of exposure to higher temps that activated a little extra fermentation action, but I wouldn't worry about it causing illness. (Though at that point, it might have been more ripe than you prefer...)