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Aug 6, 2011 10:49 AM

A Two Part Question: Kimchi in Cloudy Glass. Help?

I've made my first batch of kimchi this past week, and am planning to use it tonight, but a few things have been nagging at me. I believe I might have made a mistake during the process, and I'm hoping some of you can help either put my mind at ease, or help me avoid botulism.

The first (potential, stupid, mistake): when I sterilized my jar, the glass was completely clouded when I pulled it out of the water. It felt as if there was a powdery residue on the glass. I checked online, and could not find any answers. It was the *only* jar I had that was big enough for the batch, so I wiped it with a clean towel, and proceeded to pack the jar with the waiting kimchi. Regret has been steadily building. Why did the glass cloud? Was it dangerous for me to then use it?

The second: After twenty-four or so hours of fermenting, I opened the kimchi to give it a stir, packed it back down, and put it back in the cupboard. Bubbles were forming on that first day, but when I checked it the next day, there were none. So, I've started to worry that the fermentation never really reached fruition. I let it ferment in the cupboard for two and a half days, but it never again developed any bubbles. It smells a little sour, but still vaguely cabbagey. It might be my imagination, but I thought it smelled more pungent after that first twenty-four hours, but less so now? It does appear to still be building up gasses (I just opened the jar to smell it, and there was a telltale hiss). Does this sound at all like a common experience?

If anyone could answer either of these two questions before I poison my household, OR give me reassurance that I can safely proceed with my dinner plans are I would be very grateful.

Thank you!

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  1. I doubt anyone can reassure you, I know the big old doubt cloud would be hanging over my head.

    There's alot of vinegar in kim chee and salt too. Using proper measurements, you won' t need to worry. I saw my kim chee bubbling and it freaked me out, I was assured it was fine, but that I could put it in the fridge. I did, it slowed it down but it still made good kim chee. If you feel that weird about the glass being clouded (which could be a number of things) perhaps you might toss it and start it over...

    2 Replies
    1. re: chef chicklet

      See, everyone says that their kimchi bubbles, but when mine stopped after just that first day, I was worried that I had gotten too much air into the jar when I stirred it, or something. Hmm.

      I think I'm just going to stick to the plan of eating a few bites tonight, and then play the waiting game. If I'm still well enough to make myself worry over every little thing per usual, then I'll happily (and proudly) give the boyfriend his first ever taste of kimchi.

      Thanks, you two. I have a better perspective on this now.

      1. re: chef chicklet

        My kimchi doesn't have any vinegar added - i believe that many versions don't. I've read that the sourness comes from lactic acid produced by bacteria in the fermentation. The idea of the salt is to create an ideal environment for lactic acid-producing bacteria to dominate. That's what causes the pH to drop and ensure that harmful bacteria can't grow well in kimchi.

      2. Hey, lily!

        As to your glass jar question: How did you sterilize your jar? If it was with boiling water, perhaps the cloud was really just steam or light condensation due to temperature differentials? The Man also thinks that it might have been an issue with minerals in your water supply (hard water). Neither of those issues would give me cause for concern. FYI, I only wash my jars with soap and hot tap water. BTW, is your glass still cloudy?

        As to your second question: Sounds like your kimchi's fermenting just fine. Sometimes the bubbles are super fine, and the visual cues of the fermentation process are hardly noticeable until you're well into super funky-ripe kimchi on a hot day. Then you'll see lots of bigger bubbles.

        For what it's worth, I personally wouldn't think twice to eat the kimchi. It's really hard to grow foodborne sick-making organisms in that much salt (and the acid that results from ferment).


        7 Replies
        1. re: inaplasticcup

          Thanks for answering, and calling on the master brewer for help to boot. ;)

          It definitely wasn't just steam. I was thinking about hard water. My water doesn't have an eggy smell, but I do get a fine white accumulation of particles on my shower head. The cloudiness was actually something I could feel with my fingertips, a powdery sort of film. I was able to clean out the inside, and then I wiped the outside after I had packed and sealed the kimchi in, but I'm wondering if traces of minerals left inside could have thrown off the fermentation? I would suppose not.

          And I actually added a little bit of extra salt. I had to split the cabbage into two different bowls to wilt, and the one in the plastic bowl was still clinging to its water, while the one in the glass bowl had a nice pool of liquid at the bottom, so I threw in an extra tablespoon or two into the stubborn one.

          I do have a pretty strong stomach, though . . . ;)

          1. re: onceadaylily

            I'm so intrigued by the apparent effect of plastic on the leaching process! FYI, a little water helps the process along if your cabbage doesn't seem to want to cooperate.

            If you decide to brave it, LMK how it tastes! :)

            1. re: inaplasticcup

              I was surprised as well. But the bowls were different shapes, so, while I divided the salt, chalked it up to having more cabbage in one bowl than the other. But it was a good amount of liquid in the first, and just a little wet in the other.

              Also, I read that cleaning the cabbage hurts the kimchi (by destroying the needed bacteria on the leaves)? Is this true? Because my napa was dirty, and there were a few bugs. So, yeah, I rinsed the leaves before I chopped them.

              Sometimes I hate google.

              1. re: onceadaylily

                Haha. lily, do you also self-diagnose via webMD???? :P

                You know what just occurred to me? Maybe you had mostly stem/rib parts in one bowl and mostly green leafy parts in another. The leafy parts don't have as much water in them to start with.

                1. re: inaplasticcup

                  Heck no, that's what chicken bones are for. I just throw the bones. I'm very old fashioned.

                  This kimchi is already waaay effervescent, and quite sour. I've only had it on the fresh side, in a roll, with pork and pickled vegetables, with some kind of sauce. As I stood there, pins and needles coming alive in every inch of my mouth, it hit me like a thunderbolt . . . I just wasn't ready for that. I was not ready for the ripe shite. I guess that answers my fermentation question.

                  This stuff is definitely getting cooked.

                  1. re: onceadaylily

                    That is quite thrilling to hear. Makes me want to try too....

                    1. re: onceadaylily

                      Ripe shite. LMAO. That's definitely the cooking kind, girlfriend! :)

                      How'd you like it freshly made?

                      PS - YAYYYYYYY!!!! It's fermented alright!

          2. When you sterilized the jar, maybe there was something in the boiling water from the pot in which you boiled the water. This could have left a residue in your kimchi bottle. Anyway, I and probably all self-respecting Korean kimchi makers would never sterilize jars or kimchi pots, but rather wash them in hot water with a good detergent. That's all you need.

            After preparing the pre-fermented kimchi, I pack the bottle with it and make sure that the liquid from the initial preparation covers the cabbage ingredients which should be about an inch from the top of the bottle.. Then I just let it sit in the jar for a couple of days before sniffing it which might indicate fermentation along with some nice bubbles. You don't have to stir it ever and it might even interfere with the fermentation if you do stir it. After a couple of days, If it is still unfermented, I let it sit for another day or two. The warmer the climate, the quicker the fermentation.

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