Saturday, April 30, 2011

Making Kimchi with Our Mesophilic Culture

Mark Nienow and his best friend on a clear August day in eastern Montana (I'm kidding!)

Ingredients straight from the store

We get the best mail!  
Mark N. from Roundup, Montana made our day a couple of months ago when he mentioned to us that he was using our mesophilic cultures to make kimchi, a fermented vegetable dish used extensively in Korean cooking. He said there are other cultures, made specifically for kimchi, but they are very expensive, so he has been using ours with great success.

It's no surprise that Mark was able to figure this out- he's very familiar with the fermentation process.  He has made goat's milk yogurt and cream cheese, as well as his own beer (although he hasn't done that in a few years).  In one of his e-mails he remarked, "What would we do without bacteria?"  Indeed! 

Nappa cabbage soaking in salt water

Mark learned to make kimchi from a co-worker who had spent time in the military, stationed in South Korea.  It is very popular in Korea and in many other Asian countries where it is also known as gimchi or kim chee.  The exact ingredients vary according to the seasons (availability) and the regions of the world where it is made. 

Ingredients cut and mixed, ready for packing jars

Kimchi is not exactly mainstream food in the US, but it is becoming increasingly popular because of its legendary health benefits.  According to Wikipedia:

"The magazine Health named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth."

Packed jars with drain tubes in center
to help circulate juice and expel gas

"One study conducted by Seoul National University claimed that chickens infected with the H5N1 virus, also called avian flu, recovered after eating food containing the same bacteria found in kimchi. 

During the 2003 SARS outbreak in Asia, many people even believed that kimchi could protect against infection, although there was no scientific evidence to support this belief.

However, in May 2009, the Korea Food Research Institute, Korea’s state food research organization, said they had conducted a larger study on 200 chickens, which supported the theory that it boosts chickens' immunity to the virus." (Wikipedia)

Container tops pushed into jars to keep vegetables under juice

Mark first decided to make kimchi when he suffered a bad case of the flu last winter.  He knew kimchi would help to repair his digestive system and to prevent future illness.  He has been experimenting with it for several months now, but this is his latest recipe:  (click on it to see it larger)

Kimchee ready to ferment
The Inoculant - Lactobacillus

What kind to use:

Mark uses our CHOOZIT MM100 LYO 50 DCU which is a large pack of culture.  However, our small packs of  Mesophilic cultures (C1) and (C101) have the same bacteria, so they may be used as well.

How much:

He has been using 1/2 teaspoon per 4 gallon batch.  That would be the equivalent of one of our small packs of culture.

How to use it:

The culture is blended in with the liquid/spice ingredients and poured over the vegetables before packing in jars.  Mark is thinking about liquifying a little of the nappa cabbage with water and adding the dry culture a day before preparing the vegetables.  In you have any thoughts about this, you may contact Mark at

How it works:

The cabbage and other vegetables release water and sugars.  The Lactobacillus bacteria in the cultures use these sugars to make lactic acid.  As more and more lactic acid is made, the pH drops.  If you have a pH meter or pH paper, you can measure the change in the pH.  When it drops from 6.5 to 3.5, you know it's ready to eat. If you don't have a means to measure the pH, taste it after a couple of days and keep tasting it until it's the way you like it.

Notes from Mark:

Understand- this process I use to make kimchee is not set in stone and still being tweaked.  Regarding the drain tubes:
Although there is some additional liquid derived from the veggies as fermentation progresses, the majority of the excess liquid that forms at the top is due to all the gas forcing it to the top and not allowing anything to drain back down. In other words, the amount of gas formed overcomes gravity in relation to the liquid in a closed environment.
I made the drain tubes out of 1/2" PVC pipe with slots cut in the end with a table saw. The idea was that excess liquid at the top of the jar would gradually move back down to the bottom, unimpeded in the tube. I'm now thinking that I need a different type of tube that allows gas to exit easier, rather than water to flow easier- more of a screen tube that passes gas but still holds the veggies in place. This all became clear when I pulled one of the tubes and saw all the gas escaping from the hole left by the tube.

Mark welcomes any ideas to improve his kimchi-


Demetra said...

Someone from Missoula (Montana) who lives in Athens, Greece, reads a cheesemaking blog from Boston, and finds a post from ROUNDUP. AsTONISHing! And I love it. Note to Mark from a nostalgic Montanan: I am IMPRESSED! I thought my eyes/brain were playing tricks on me when I opened the blog post and found a posting from Roundup. I seriously thought I randomly ended up on the wrong page. Then of course we both know that Montanans are full of innovation, inspiration and surprises...

BEU said...

I'm feeling obligated to post the second comment since I, too, am from (Bozeman) Montana and enjoying this post! Homemade kimchi is a staple in our house (now in California), though I've never added a culture but rather let it ferment in a brine of its own juice and sea salt. I'm curious about this technique! Thanks!

Jeri said...

Thank you for your comments.

I don't know if Mark will be answering them here. If you have a question, it would probably be best to contact him directly. His e-mail address is in the

Sophia Sparklin, AIA, LEED AP said...

Hah, another Montana reader :). We'll try making some cheese and kimchi here in Great Falls. How is it different from Sauerkraut?