Ask the Goats is a semi-regular Monday feature in which we, the goats, attempt to answer your food preservation questions. Got a question? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I would like to can kimchi so that it can be preserved without refrigeration and for longer periods. Is this possible? You have no information on your site.—Robin A.
A. Alas, no. All sources I’ve seen say that while it’s safe to can sauerkraut and fully fermented cucumber pickles, it is not a good idea to can kimchi. Although I have yet to find an extended explanation, there seem to be two separate issues. First, there’s the practical problem that kimchi is generally too fragile to withstand the heat of a water-bath processor. Fresh kimchi is delicious; boiled kimchi, not so much. But putting aside the texture, there’s also the question of acidity. In fully fermented foods, like sauerkraut, the lactic acid produced by the bacteria is strong enough to bring the acidity below a pH of 4.6—the magic number necessary to make a food safe for water-bath canning. The shorter fermentation period in kimchis, however, is usually not strong enough to ensure such a high pH.
There’s one other thing to consider. If you’re eating fermented foods for their health-giving properties, keep in mind that canning will kill the good bacteria along with the bad. Killing bacteria is, after all, the point of water-bath processing.
And finally, yes, you really should refrigerate your kimchi. I just had to throw out a batch that I’d been storing in my 55°F basement. I had hoped that the temperature would be cold enough to inhibit the growth of molds, but such was not the case. The kimchi at the very bottom of the jar was still edible, but the rest of it had an off-taste from mold spores that had dissolved in the brine. Another jar of fully fermented pickled green tomatoes, on the other hand, had been more successful at fending off the molds. Presumably the higher acidity level had something to do with it. Chalk it up to lessons learned.