Kimchi is a great side dish to for most meals, and very easy to make. Fermentation can take a while for full flavors, but you can help speed things up.
Kimchi is a Rich source of good bacteria, which has great health benefits for your gut. The time it takes for the Fermentation process to finish can vary, and depends mainly on two things. The salt content of your batch, and the temperature that it is Fermenting in. For example, if you make your batch extra salty, it will take longer to fully ferment. The same applies to if you leave your Kimchi to ferment in low temperatures. This will slow down the Fermentation process.
How do I speed up the Fermentation process?
Most Kimchi batches left at room temperature will finish fermenting within 1-2 days. If you follow any traditional recipe, and correctly rinse off the salt from the cabbage before adding your chilli, garlic, ginger, and Fish Sauce paste.
If you would like to speed this up, then you can either raise the temperature slightly to speed up the process, or take even more care and time to remove any excess salt from your cabbage. This will lower your overall salt content, and should allow the Kimchi to ferment faster.
How can I raise the Temperature of my Kimchi batch?
If you are planning to try and speed up the fermentation process, it should be done with some care. Bad bacterias enjoy higher temperatures, and there is a risk of killing the good ones off in your batch.
Another idea is to try a heat mat used to germinate plants. You can set the temperature on these to provide a consistent warmth. Again, do not Heat your Kimchi batch as this will kill off the good bacteria. A slight increase in temperature though should speed up the fermentation.
Is there anything I can add to my batch to speed up fermentation?
You can buy fermentation starter cultures that contain Lactobacillus plantarum culture. These will greatly speed up fermentation. They produce high levels of lactic acid which will prevent any bad bacteria from growing.
That being mentioned, if your batch is mixed together correctly, and your kimchi contains enough juice to cover the top of the batch when compressed down, you should not need any help. If you are in a rush to get a batch finished however, they are an option.
Does the vessel I ferment in have an effect on the process?
I am fairly new to this, but I would say yes. I have done some research, and sealing the Jar or container is important.
The air in your room contains all kinds of dust particles, and other items that can contaminate your kimchi. Keeping these out whilst the Fermentation process happens is very important. I use a Kilner Fermentation Set, which has a water lock and ceramic weights to keep your batch below the juice line. The water lock takes the guesswork out of this, and I can be safe in the knowledge that my kimchi is sealed, but able to release any gases that have built up.
When I am happy with my batch (normally after 5-7 days) I then decant it into two Clip Top jars. One of these I will add to the fridge, which dramatically slows the fermentation process. This is then consumed and used for cooking. (Kimchi Omelettes are a new family favourite!) The other Clip Top jar is placed in the pantry, which is a lower temperature than my kitchen counter, and left to ferment a while longer. A warning about the Clip Top jars, is that they will need Burping once a day. Just open the lid a bit, and release the gases. I have read stories of people losing the tops from their Kimchi batches. A messy affair.
Will speeding up the fermentation change the flavour?
Yes. Generally if you leave your Kimchi to ferment for a longer time the flavor will become a little bit more sour and tangy, and perhaps even have a fizz to it after a long time. If you speed up the fermentation process, the chances are you’ll be eating your Kimchi within 2 days. This will have a fresher more subtle taste. Either way is great. As mentioned above I normally have my batch at room temp around 21-22 degrees celsius for a week before slowing the process down in the fridge. This is the flavour I like, and I love to cook with. Try experimenting by splitting your main batch into 2 or 3 smaller Jars or containers, and leave them for different times. It may turn out you are a Month minimum Kimchi fermentation lover.
Will my Kimchi contain more good bacteria the longer it ferments?
Generally no. The fermentation process is normally complete after a couple of days. During this process the good bacteria such as the lactic acid bacteria will have formed, and will then just continue to stay alive, ready for when you want to eat them.
The key players in the fermentation process of Kimchi among the lactic acid bacteria are:
The flavour will develop over time, and will be ever so slightly different every time. Another reason why Kimchi is my new favourite fermented food.
Can I use the juice from my first kimchi to speed up my second batch?
I have seen it mentioned that adding the juice from your first batch of Kimchi to your second, can help to speed up the fermentation process.
Whilst it may help to add flavour to your new batch, and perhaps even some consistency between batches, I’m not sure that it would speed up the process.
The juice taken from your first batch would indeed already contain all the good bacteria that the fermentation process creates, but these do not act as a catalyst for the new batch to create or form new good bacteria. I highly encourage experimentation with this however.
Kimchi is considered a hygienically safe food because contamination's and bad bacteria are almost completely taken away during the preparation and thereafter the fermentation process.
That being said, always be sure to do a visual inspection, smell and small taste test of your Kimchi or any home fermentation for that matter before consumption. If there are any signs of mold, bad smells or strange tastes, be sure to discard the entire batch.
Kimchi is an easy way to create Probiotic food
Fermenting food has been around for thousands of years, and is an easy way to make your produce not only stretch a little bit further, but also give you greatly increased health benefits over just eating the raw vegetable for example. Try a batch for yourself. It’s addictive.
Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of Grow Zone and growing Food all winter. See my full About Page here.
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