Before you start!
If you’re wondering why kimchi tastes different from batch to batch or why we do this review, check out our post on how seasonality affects kimchi!
From our experience making kimchi, we see flavour profiles based on the time of the year. In Winter for example, we expect lower quality napa cabbage because it is harvested towards the end of the season, when it is picked either too green or too young. However, this is not all bad news because Winter is the best time to ferment. The low temperature creates an ideal fermentation environment that offsets the lower produce quality.
We ferment our kimchi for 10 days. We closely monitor the acidity level, so we know when it is safe for consumption (acidic enough to kill off bacteria that cause botulism).
As we have predicted, the cabbage we used for our winter batch is only satisfactory, and it’s definitely greener than usual. When it was the time to ‘crack the barrel’ of the new batch, I was away that day and couldn’t test the kimchi. I entrusted the tasting to my business partner, Rachel.
And then I received a text message from Rachel….the kimchi has a slight bitter taste.
My heart sunk… If the kimchi quality doesn’t meet our standards, there is no way I am sending this out to stores or clients. Should I throw away a whole batch of kimchi? As a small startup, this loss could cost us a business.
After taking some time to clear my head, Rachel and I decided to wait out a week, to see if the flavour would improve. We were putting our future at the hands of mother nature. Perhaps, the magic of fermentation would solve our problem
As you could guess, it was an intense week for both of us. After the week had passed, we dug into the same jar of kimchi again. AND WHAT A RELIEF! The bitter green taste is gone! All that was left was nice crunchy kimchi with a great umami flavour.
After doing some research, it appears that the cause of lettuce and cabbage bitterness is from a substance called sesquiterpene lactones. For you avid gardeners, you might have heard the term ‘bolting’ before. This is when the vegetable changes from a vegetative stage to a reproductive stage (flowering). During this time, most of the plant’s energy is directed to flowering and seeding causing it to lose flavour or develop a bitter taste. This aligns with our observation of the lettuce that we received for this batch.
(A) Bolting Napa Cabbage comparing to (B) Non Bolting Napa Cabbage.
Citation: Kalisz, Andrzej & Cebula, Stanisław & Siwek, Piotr & Sękara, Agnieszka & Grabowska, Aneta & Gil, Joanna. (2014). Effects of Row Covers Using Non-woven Fleece on the Yields, Rate of Bolting, and Quality of Heading Chinese Cabbage in Early Spring Cultivation. Journal- Japanese Society for Horticultural Science. 83. 133-141. 10.2503/jjshs1.CH-064.
By fermenting our Napa a little longer, we think that Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) breaks down or transforms sesquiterpene lactones so the kimchi is no longer bitter. If I had taken more chemistry classes in university, perhaps I would understand better why this is happening (If you know, please share!). In any case, our crisis is averted. Our winter batch is as good as it gets.
This batch review is from Elizabeth from Culinary Cents (IG @culinary_cents, Check out her blog for lots of awesome recipes!) and Phil our volunteer tester. We’re drawing this conclusion by taking an average score given by both of them, then we add the total score to get the star of the batch.
|Lower Score||Higher Score|
|Umami||Bright flavour||Well rounded flavour|
|Aroma||Pungent Smell||Subtle smell|
|Visual||Brown spots, discoloration||Nice bright colour|
|Flavour Complexity and Balance||One dominating flavour||Well rounded flavour|
|Food Pairing||Better Alone||Better with Food|
Testers’ favourite is
Baechu Kimchi Original Kimchi, with a score of 23.5 out of 30.
“ It’s well balanced, perfect on its own or with a meal, not too hot but enough spice to let you know to pace yourself. The flavour floods your mouth with richness and the multitude of ingredients.”
2nd place comes to Spicy Kimchi
“This product packs the heat! Not in a bad way at all but it lets you know it’s come to play. It’s again a fantastic mix of ingredients, carrot, green onion cabbage and the occasional hint of ginger, It’s a snack, it can easily go with meals and be right at home.”
“Bright and spicy”
3rd place for Vegan kimchi
“ It’s not so hot on the palate but there is a satisfaction to that. The vegan nature of the ingredients changes the experience ever so slightly but not in a bad way at all. Very satisfying and a joy to eat. I can see this becoming part of my orders going forward.”
Score chart for Winter 2021 Kimchi Evaluation
|Original Kimchi||Vegan Kimchi||Spicy Kimchi|
|Flavour Complexity and Balance||4.5||3||3.5|
All of them are on par in terms of food pairing compatibility. What food goes best with kimchi? Why don’t you experiment on your own while we still have some stock left. Hurry! We have already sold more than a third of the batch!
What are you thoughts on our Winter 2021 kimchi? If you haven’t tried one, we might still have a couple jars left in our store.