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I've made Kimchi using this recipe (german link, but I think it should be a pretty standard recipe).

I let it ferment for a week at room temperature and everything looked fine (it was covered in water/brine throughout).

I put it in the fridge today (to keep fermenting for another 2-3 weeks), and after a couple of hours in the fridge it now looks like all the water has been removed (I assume it was soaked up by the vegetables).

I am worried that it will go bad now, as it's not covered in water anymore. But I am unsure what to do.

  • Is this normal? If not, what went wrong, and how can I prevent it in the future?
  • What should I do now? Refill the glasses with water? And if so, should I use salt water?
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  • was the container completely open? loosely covered?
    – Chris H
    Feb 28 at 15:44
  • @ChrisH I'm using a fermentation jar that has a lid with a gas release-thingy built in. So I'd say loosely covered? But I doubt it's evaporation, in case that's what you are thinking (as the water was there for 7 days outside the fridge, and then "gone" after a couple of hours in the fridge).
    – tim
    Feb 28 at 16:12
  • That the sort of thing I was thinking of, as the air in fridges can be very dry.
    – Chris H
    Feb 28 at 16:14
  • @ChrisH Interesting, I wouldn't have thought that it could go so quickly (especially considering the low temp). Though I'm also not sure how much exactly left; just that it's not covered anymore for at least the top couple cm. Now I wish I'd weighted the whole thing before putting it in the fridge, then I could say for sure. Anyway, do you know if I should fill it back up with salted or unsalted water?
    – tim
    Feb 28 at 16:23
  • I'll let the fermentation experts weight in on that (though if it didn't spill, the salt can't have gone anywhere). I was just trying to understand. If it was in a wide open container, going in warm to a very dry fridge, that would seem like a lot of evaporation, but with a lid, I don't think it was that, or not mainly
    – Chris H
    Feb 28 at 16:36

2 Answers 2

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Brain cells acquired, turning my comment into an answer:

The first thing you should do in a situation like this is to open the container and press the vegetables back down. As fermentation occurs, the active bacteria produce gas as well as acid. The gas will get trapped in pockets under the vegetables, and once enough pressure builds can lift the vegetables out of the brine. When the ferment is chilled, those air pockets will shrink, just a tiny bit. But due to friction or other forces, the vegetables might be stuck in place, and not be able to sink back into their original positions so easily. And so the brine "sinks" to fill the space instead, which causes the appearance of vanishing brine. Ideally, you shouldn't add anything to your ferment once it's under way (unless you're specifically doing a secondary ferment, which is totally different), so attempt to press first before you top off.

But if you do need to top off the liquid in order to keep everything submerged, always use a brine rather than plain water. Your fermenting vegetables are tightly packed, and adding plain water on top could give other undesired bacteria a chance to multiply before the existing salt/acid can diffuse through it. Not to mention that the plain water is going to leach salt away from the top layer of vegetables first, which is more likely to give you uneven results.

If your ferment doesn't call for a brine, a ~3% brine solution is generally reasonable, but if you dig a little you'll find plenty of recommendations.

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Pickling cabbage takes a minimum of three weeks. You will not have proper formation of enough lactic acid by the lacto basilicus micro organism in one week. This may have some health concerns or it may not but at the very least you will not have kimchi. Time is a very important factor in charcuterie

Also the process of osmosis is retarded if the water is cold. You are preserving the cabbage in the brine. You don't need to put it in the fridge. Also it seems your recipe weighs the salt in relation to the cabbage. This is not the correct way to do it.

You need to weigh the salt in relation to the volume of water in the brine 6 percent per liter of brine. This means 60 grams of fine salt per liter of brine. Weigh the salt, different brands of salt vary greatly in volume. This and three weeks fully emerged in the brine gives you sauerkraut/kimchi.

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    Thanks for your answer! Though I'm still looking for answers to my specific questions. Regarding your raised issues: The volume of water relates to the weight of the vegetables (the recipe doesn't call for any addition of water, it all comes from the vegetables; it seems that this isn't too unusual; some other recipes I found don't add any water as well). So I think that's why salt is given in relation to vegs, not water. Most recipes I found also don't call for storage outside the fridge for the full time (they say that it becomes too sour if fermentation isn't slowed down a bit).
    – tim
    Mar 2 at 7:25

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