Secrets of The Home Cooks: How Long Does Kimchi Last ?
Kimchi is Korea’s most popular and favorite food. No meal is ever complete without a serving of Kimchi on the table. Kimchi is fermented cabbage soaking in brine with chili flakes, garlic, and ginger.
This dish boasts of tangy, savory and sometimes fiery flavors. In fact, this dish is so popular that Koreans say “Kimchi” instead of “chee” when taking pictures.
Interestingly, Korean’s love for Kimchi went far beyond the dish’s mere presence during meals. A lot of Koreans make Kimchi in huge batches and keep them in specialized Kimchi refrigerators !
But did you also wonder how long does Kimchi last ?
Before we answer that question, let us first learn the process of making Kimchi and fermentation. These will help you understand why it takes some time before Kimchi goes bad.
How is Kimchi Made ?
Kimchi is made from the following main ingredients :
- Napa cabbage
- Daikon (radish)
- Sea salt
- Grated ginger
- Grated garlic
- Distilled water
- Korean red pepper flakes or gochugaru
- Carrots (optional)
First, you need to slice the cabbage, daikon, scallions and carrots. Massage salt to the cabbage leaves. Let the leaves stand for 2-3 hours until leaves are softened and wilted.
Meanwhile, make the paste by combining grated ginger, garlic, sugar, water, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Next, rinse and drain salted cabbage and toss with chopped scallions and carrots. Mix in paste and toss until leaves are well-coated. Transfer Kimchi to airtight jars, making sure that vegetables are fully submerged in brine. Seal tightly with lid.
Finally, allow the kimchi to ferment at room temperature for 1-5 days. Check the Kimchi daily for ripeness. It’s ripe when kimchi is starting to taste good to the palate.
Unripe Kimchi will smell disgusting and unappealing to eat. Don’t lose heart. Just transfer kimchi to the refrigerator where it will continue to ferment and ripen for 2-3 weeks.
The idea of fermentation explains why Kimchi lasts longer than other types of food. As soon as you pack the kimchi into jars and let it sit in its brine, fermentation begins to take place.
Initially, Kimchi ferments during the first two days in the jar and at room temperature. At this point, the naturally-occurring lactobacillus (good bacteria) breaks down the structure of the vegetables.
The same good bacteria also fights harmful bacteria. This makes Kimchi an excellent source of natural probiotics that improve digestive health.
At this point, Kimchi will also release gases and acids that make it smell pungent and taste sour. However, the flavor and odor of kimchi will start to mellow down after a few days.
When you transfer and leave kimchi to the refrigerator, it will continue to ferment but at a slower pace. Kimchi is ideally kept at temperatures between 2 to 7 degrees Celsius to enjoy it longer.
How Long Does Kimchi Keep ?
Different people have different opinions about Kimchi’s shelf life. One of the best indicators though is to look at the kimchi’s best before the date on the jar.
Commercial Kimchi may already have preservatives that help lengthen its lifespan. Most of these can keep for several months to a few years.
Homemade Kimchi can last for several weeks to months. Kimchi will continue to ferment even after several months, changing its taste over time.
If you don’t like the taste of over-fermented Kimchi, you might have to discard after three months. But some people also enjoy their Kimchi as it ages.
Additionally, it’s also important to remember that Kimchi will last longer in the refrigerator. This is also the very reason why Koreans use specialized freezer dedicated solely for Kimchi.
Low temperature slows down the fermentation process. This allows Kimchi to retain its flavors and textures longer.
On the other hand, keeping Kimchi at room temperature will quicken the fermentation process. This gives the tendency of rapid ripening that over-fermentation.
However, you will know that Kimchi is no longer safe for consumption if you notice smelly fizzy or molds growing (rotten kimchi). That’s the time to discard your old Kimchi and make a new batch.
Kimchi is delicious and tastes unique. It pairs well with just about any type of dish. It is even used as an ingredient in other Korean recipes. Store Kimchi in your refrigerator to let it ferment at the right pace and enjoy the flavors longer.