Kimchi is fermented spicy cabbage that is used extensively in Korean food. It’s a delicious addition to many recipes and is a favorite all over the world. You can make it at home or buy it from a store. In both cases, you need to know how to store it properly. And these things can get tricky when you are dealing with fermented foods.
The first thing you need to know about kimchi is that it has a high acidity that keeps bacteria from growing inside it. But this is still not an item you want to leave out in the open because that spells considerable trouble and rather quickly too.
Whether you want to make the most of its shelf life or extend it, you want to ensure that your kimchi is safely stored in the refrigerator. It does have the capacity to go bad if you leave it at room temperature. That’s because this will increase the speed of its fermentation by a lot, and within a week, your little jar of kimchi will be a little jar of unwanted mush.
What’s the Best Way to Store Kimchi?
By now, you are clear that kimchi should be kept in the fridge if you want it to last a long time. It is not a shelf-stable item since it has a lot of good bacteria in it to ensure the fermentation of the cabbage.
So, storing it at room temperature is a clear no-no. If you are dealing with store-bought kimchi, it is helpful to know that it is stored at a steady temperature of 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
Making sure that all of the components are thoroughly submerged in the brine is the key to successful kimchi storage at home. The cabbage should be pressed down or seasoned on top to achieve this. And each time, you have to do it before the kimchi is sealed again.
In fact, you should always use clean utensils while making kimchi since unfavorable microorganisms might ruin the finished result. This is true for the majority of fermented foods if not all of them. Additionally, damp utensils provide a risk of food illness and can grow mold, ruining the entire jar of kimchi, no matter how big or tiny.
And if at all possible, try to open the airtight container as little as possible to keep air from entering it. It may bring unwanted organisms into the jar, which can spoil the kimchi. If you have made or bought kimchi in bulk, you can take some of it out for a week’s use and keep the larger jar safe and protected.
It is best to consume opened kimchi in about a week or less while keeping it in the refrigerator when not in use. This will maintain the crispy texture of the cabbage.
What’s Kimchi’s Shelf Life?
When you store it safely in the refrigerator, kimchi can last for about three to six months. During this time, it will keep fermenting, which is why it starts turning sour over time which is not out of the ordinary.
After that, the cabbage will start breaking down. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is spoiled. If you don’t like mushy cabbage or sour kimchi, get rid of it after the first three months in the fridge.
If the jar of kimchi was never opened, you could expect the fermenting process to take a long time. That could be up to a year. But once it is opened, you want to go through it as soon as you can.
If you have opened it, kimchi can last for a week at room temperature. But this is not recommended because keeping it at a warmer temperature exposes it to the risk of spoilage. The fermentation that will take three to four weeks in the fridge will happen in three to four days when left outside.
When to Get Rid of It?
If there is mold in the kimchi, you will be able to see it. That’s a good time to get rid of it. Another good time to let it go is when the kimchi starts smelling funny. This is a naturally pungent food item. But if it starts to smell or taste like alcohol (or really sour after about six months), it’s time to throw the kimchi out.
There is no guarantee that kimchi won’t go bad just because it has been in the fridge, especially if you have not taken the necessary precautions while storing it. The way you know this is you will see dots on the surface that could be green or blue or black. If it’s fuzzy (and even if not), you know that it is mold.
It can cause allergic reactions or even lead to food poisoning. So, don’t be tempted to try out the non-moldy parts of the jar. In fact, on kimchi, you really shouldn’t even smell it because those pores can activate breathing troubles.
Now, if you have added oysters or fermented fish to the mix, you want to be extra careful. That’s because when seafood is pickled, it has the tendency to be even more punishing in terms of causing illnesses.
The Bottom Line
Typically, a large jar of kimchi can sustain outside the refrigerator for about a week. If you have a smaller batch, you should keep it in the fridge. If you submerge it all in the brine and don’t open it too frequently, kimchi can last for three to six months. Also, make sure that the jar is clean so that there is no unwanted interaction with bad bacteria.
Now, the simplest rule for checking if your jar of kimchi is good is to throw it out if it looks iffy. If it is sour as alcohol, get rid of it. And if it has spots that are like mold, don’t even smell it. Just get rid of it.
Further Reading: Food Storing Guide: Storage Times For The Refrigerator And Freezer