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Hoping to get some advice about kimchi making. My last batch was put in a gallon jar which quickly overflowed while fermenting. I kept packing the cabbage back under the juice during fermentation. Once I put it in the fridge the volume seemed to shrink leaving the cabbage exposed again. There is very little juice left so I put a zip lock bag with salt brine in it (in case it leaks) in the jar to keep kimchi submerged. Has anyone else tried this or had this problem? Any other suggestions for storage? Thanks
I've tried many ways of kimchi storage, and I have had the same trouble as you have.
I will address them for you one by one;
-overflowing is caused by fermentation mixed with too little space on top of your kimchi.
If you put unfermented kimchi into a container you'll have to keep in mind that it will be fermenting and expanding in the future.
So instead of filling the container to the brim, it is better to leave at least an inch unfilled.
Overflow problems can be partly solved by putting a weight on top of your kimchi, and you won't need to keep pushing your kimchi under by hand.
When your kimchi expands it is because the little gas bubbles that form with fermentation get stuck between the cabbage leaves and push those leaves up.
When you use a weight the little gas bubbles won't be able to push the cabbage leaves up anymore because of the extra weight on top of your kimchi.
So the little gas bubbles just give up and exit via the surface of the liquid.
As I said it will partly (and for the most part) solve the overflow problem.
Some expansion will still occur because of bubbles in your kimchi juice, so having an inch of space on top is still important.
-choice of container;
I would personally not choose a glass container unless it has a water lock like the pickl-it jars.
If you use an ordinary glass jar that seals almost or fully airtight, the fermentation gas won't have any place to go and you risk blasting the lid of your jar or breaking the jar itself.
A pretty good and cheap way to store kimchi is by using plastic containers (maangchi uses them in her kimchi video).
They don't seal airtight so they won't explode.
If you use them along with a weight on your kimchi, you are on the track to success.
They have 2 traits that aren't desirable though, they can make your whole fridge smell like kimchi because they aren't airtight and because outside air is allowed in the fermentation is faster than with a specialty container.
If you choose a ceramic/stone traditional pot without a waterlock you'll have the same problems as with plastic containers.
Specialty containers are containers specially designed for fermenting products.
They come in plastic, glass (pickl-it type) and ceramic/stone/pottery type.
The plastic ones have "one-way valves" letting gas out without letting air in.
The glass and ceramic/stone/pottery types have a waterlock that has the same effect.
-loss of juice;
when you take kimchi from room temperature to a colder place like a fridge the fermentation halts, stalls or greatly slows down.
This will cause the mixture to settle down and shrink.
Because you lost some juice with the overflow problem, this may indeed cause your cabbage to become exposed.
As maangchi mentioned in her video, it is best to keep your cabbage submerged otherwise mould may start to form (or kimchi will spoil in a bad way).
I don't know if your kimchi is still savable, if it hasn't gone bad yet you could save it by pouring in fresh clean water to re-submerge the cabbage.
If the salt brine bag you used was enough to submerge the cabbage you may not need to add the extra water. Also more juice will form naturally.
-choice of weights;
A salt brine bag is a good option, and I have seen it around on the internet before.
I have two traditional fermentation pots made out of pottery/ceramic and they are glazed all over. They come with a waterlock and glazed pottery/ceramic weights.
I prefer these types of weights over the brine bag method because they won't leak and I can keep rinsing and re-using them.
A good alternative is a plain smooth stone/rock.
My mother says she used smooth stones (found in the fields) to weigh down fermenting cabbage. This should be safe as long as the rocks/stones aren't porous.
I went straight from using simple plastic containers to using traditional waterlocked pots.
I researched the costs and benefits of different containers, and came to the conclusion that Pickl-it jars are way too overpriced whilst traditional pots were actually quite reasonably priced and nice to look at as well.
For the same price I could get my hands on a plastic specialty airlocked container, but I chose the pots based on looks.
Traditional pots are heavy though, and because of their thick walls take up more space than the plastic specialty airlocked containers.
This may be a good reason to choose plastic containers.
I will try to include an image illustrating what a waterlock looks like, and what the plastic airlock looks like.
This is a cross section of a traditional pot with a waterlock;
second is what the inside of a specialty plastic airlocked container looks like;
third is what the above container looks like with the lid on;
and fourth is what a traditional pot with waterlock and weights looks like;
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