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Oct 31, 2012 04:37 AM

Same batch of kimchi, different results

I made a batch of homemade kimchi for the first time, using a recipe that called to leave the kimchi fermenting at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. It's been 3 weeks, I've been checking it almost dayly and submerging any bits of floating cabbage, and my 3 jars have different results. Two of them have a lot of liquid on the surface, and one of them seems more like tomato paste. One of the liquid ones is funky, like alcoholic funky, and the other one smells like when it was fresh, with a good spicy smell. The one that looks like tomato paste is something in between. The temperatures here have been kind of crazy, one day very hot the other one cool and rainy, very cool windy nights, veru hot nights... and I worry about the fermentation process. Anyway, I haven't tasted them yet. I'm usually an adventurous eater with a very strong stomach, but since I'm 7 months pregnant, I'm kind of uncertain... Are these results ok? Did the jars ferment differently? None of them seem moldy in any way.

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  1. Does the one with the alcohol smell also have the most liquid in it?

    7 Replies
    1. re: inaplasticcup

      Yes, and the liquid floating atop is more translucid.

      1. re: anaelisagg

        Ok. Well, I live in Southern California, and the longest I've had to leave my kimchi out to ferment is about 10 days, and that's in the coldest weather we get, which is mostly not that cold.

        A couple more questions I should have asked in the beginning (sorry):

        - Did you mix the entire batch all together and then jar it?
        - How much water, salt, cabbage, and sugar does the recipe call for?
        - Did you put your jars in a consistently dark place to let it ferment?

        That said, I'm with sweetpea in that fermented kimchi does tend to have a slightly boozy and sour smell, and I personally wouldn't worry too much that there's anything in there that would harm your baby. But I think they had a great idea to ask someone else to taste it for you if you don't want to risk it. :)

        1. re: inaplasticcup

          The recipe is from the book Tart and Sweet (kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler), and I made it with 1 big cabbage, 1/4 cup salt and no sugar. An yes, I mixed the whole thing and then poured it into 2 sterilized jars. They started to give a lot of liquid over the days, however, and I had to divide it once again, now in 3 jars instead of 2. The book only specified the temperature, not the light. They sat on the kitchen counter, with no direct sunlight or even bright daylight. But they were not in the dark. But thank you both, Inaplasticcup and SweetPea! :)

          1. re: anaelisagg

            That sounds like a lot of salt for one head of cabbage and definitely not enough sugar.

            You need sugar to feed the microorganisms that produce the lactic acid that ripen the kimchi. And also putting your jars in a dark place, like inside a cupboard, will also help along the process.


            1. re: inaplasticcup

              Also, I'm thinking that maybe when you divided the kimchi the second time, you didn't first stir everything together to redistribute the seasonings and juices? Because that might explain the different results - different levels of salt/sugar/liquid in each jar...

              1. re: inaplasticcup

                I think you're right about the sugar content. There were a lot of carrots, and ginger. The cabbage head I used was huge. The recipe specify 2-3 medium cabbages. And I did only half the recipe. But the fresh suff was delicious. I think it's probably under fermented, now that I think about the sugar thing. But since the temperatures here started to raise a lot (I'm in Brazil), I'm thinking about playing on the safe side and putting the jars on the fridge already. And you're right again: I didn't remember to stir everything together again before dividing. :P Well... let's taste the stuff then, and see what happens. :)

      2. re: inaplasticcup

        I've never made kimchi before, but I'm a big fan of the stuff. I've bought many different brands over the years and no two are the same, that's for sure. I would like to think that 2 jars from the same batch would be the same, though. Can you say with confidence that each jar contains pretty much the same amount of each ingredient? Is it possible that one jar has a bit more salt or a bit more cabbage, for example? Salt draws out the liquid in the vegetable matter. The more fermenting liquid there is in a jar, the more bubbles it will produce. Those gases will smell beer-like and mildly alcoholic. Using the same logic, if one jar wound up having a bit more chile flakes/powder, it would have red, pasty appearance, sort of tomato sauce-ish. Also, I DO think that the temperature fluctuations can affect the rate at which the fermentation occurs. Kimchi is meant to withstand harsh climates. I think it can handle whatever nature has to offer, weatherwise.

        If you're concerned about sampling each jar because you are pregnant, perhaps you could enlist a taster to sample each and give you feedback. Really though, fermented foods have health-giving properties. The kimchi shouldn't harm you or the baby. If, as you say, you can typically eat most anything, I imagine a bite or two from each jar won't give you much trouble.