Naturally Fermented, Korean Chili Paste I really love Korean food, it is spicy, salty and easily nutritious. In the past couple years Korean food has been mainstreamed in the media primarily through the PBS series, Kimchi Chronicles. I own a copy, and watch it frequently. I don’t have cable so for me to say that is pretty huge. Korean food is a classic comfort food that is soul soothing, and fiercely satisfying for people who love bold flavors … and meat. Yes, and YES Please!
In 2011, Man-Meat was still working his “real job” in New Jersey. He worked with a wonderful Korean woman named Jina that caught wind of my blog and started sending him home with all sorts of goodies to give to me. One of the first things she gave me was a 5 pound jar of gochujang. I was a little intimidated at first but quickly fell in love with it. I scooped up a bite … coughed like a pothead for a moment and immediately started experimenting with it. Over the course of a few months I learned how important gochujang really is in Korean cuisine.
I worked my way through korean food, classics, I even eventually mastered my own technique for Homemade Naturally Fermented Kimchi. I would say I have worked my way through Korean food pretty well, I really love Kimchi, I really love korean cooking.
Like most countries, Korea has really industrialized their food system. Mass producing low quality food for profit is not just an American thing. Although mass produced, some foods such as Kimchi are still traditionally prepared, gochujang however seems to primarily be sold heavily processed and packed with low grade wheat, soy and corn products. I started with this recipe well over six months ago, and I am sharing it now because I wanted to insure that it was, and is exactly what I wanted it to be. This recipe is for traditional, naturally fermented gochujang. It can be used in soups and saute’s, it’s a fabulous marinade, without any doubt I assure you that this indispensable condiment is great to have on hand. This homemade gochujang is well worth the wait, it is far beyond the realm of what gochujang should be. I love using it to make homemade kimchi, I especially love it with cauliflower-rice or kimchi fried rice.
- 1 cup Potato Starch
- 1 cup Un-refined dry sweetener of choice, see note
- 3 cups Korean Hot Pepper Powder;
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
- 3 tablespoons salt (this is to inhibit bacterial growth)
- 2 cups water
- In a medium sized sauce pot combine all of the ingredients. Whisk together until smooth.
- Over medium-low heat whisk the mixture until it has thickened. Be careful not to scorch it!
- Once the mixture has cooled scrape it into a standard mason jar or a fermentation crock. (I used a traditional Korean clay cooking pot to start, but transitioned it to a 4 cup mason jar. The smaller “mouth” of the jar leaves the mixture exposed to less air. Less air means less mold, or risk of spoilage.)
- Somewhat tightly tighten the mason jar lid and ring around the jar. I use a regular metal ring/lid combo for all of my fermentation projects.
- Allow the gochujang to ferment for at least 30 days at room temperature.
Once fermented you can refrigerate it for a very long period of time. I have been using it by the spoon full then recapping it and putting it back in the cabinet.
After the Ferment: To smooth the paste into a cohesive, silky texture blend in some honey. This balances out the flavor as well as improves the texture.
- Every few days for the first few weeks vent the mason jar by carefully opening it to release the gas that may build up. If you skip this step you may never see trouble, but you may have a jar explode. I had this happen with a fermented pepper sauce once… my cabinet looked like the scene of a crime. Specialty fermentation crocks are available, they allow the gas to vent but they are absolutely not necessary.
- Warm-Room temperature is great for early fermentation, 70-80 degree’s is perfect, a floor cupboard near your oven is a good example. After 30 days you can transition your gochujang to a dark cool place that is around 65 degrees. The flavors will balance out the best in a cooler area. A floor height cabinet near the fridge or sink might work. In my house we have no heat in our kitchen or bathrooms so low kitchen cabinets and bathroom closets are ideal.
Mold & Scuzz I am asked now and then about mold growing on ferments. What do you do if mold, or dodgy looking scuzz appears? I have been home brewing and fermenting for a few years, my house is naturally a mold factory. Low humidity in my house is around 35% , an average summer day it can be 70% but typically it is much higher. If I could sell mold, I would be a gazillionaire.With that said: What do you do when there is fuzz, scuzz or mold ??? … I personally, myself, not necessarily you but me, just me… scrape it off. If the mold is black and particularly foul smelling the food may have spoiled. Typically you can tell when something has actually gone bad, it will not have a sweet and sour smell to it. Natural, good ferments always have a sweet, vinegary smell to them. Spoiled, or what I call “dead ferments” have a smell that is sulfuric and rank like a dirty baby diaper. I have had a few ferments go horribly wrong, but all in all I rarely have anything that is completely shot. With this gochujang I had a little bit of fur grow when I was using a wide crock. I picked it off, transitioned it to a mason jar and I had no more problems.
Note, On “Sugar”– Use Date Sugar , Coconut Palm Sugar, Whole Cane Sugar or any natural sugar you like. Keep in mind although these “sugars” are used, this chili paste will be fermented for a long period. The sugar will be consumed most of the way. The only jolt of sugar there will be is from the honey that you finish the paste with.
I am not a doctor or nutritionist, any opinions or advice on this webpage are solely my own thoughts and what I say should not be substituted for the advice of a medical professional. The FDA guidelines for canning and fermentation are available on their website.