Gochujang

Korean fermented chilli paste

We’ve been waiting for a rainy day to attempt this. After surprising each other with Onggi for Christmas it feels like the time is right to attempt Gochujang.

Korean Onggi fermenting pots

Err, Onggi?

A Korean earthenware pot. They’ve been made pretty much the same way for about 5,000 years or so. If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it, right? Onggi have lots of uses including water storage, dry food storage but predominantly fermentation. Korean soy sauce is traditionally produced in Onggi. The porous nature of the iron rich clay pots adds to the ferment and encourages the ripening and breathing of the fermenting food within. The pores in the clay draw out impurities and encourage air flow. Thus keeping everything from decaying.

Our first ever batch of Gochujang will be split between a traditional Onggi and a glass Kilner jar. A bit of an old vs new, East vs West comparison. Surely the glass will allow more UV to hit the paste…but glass is certainly not porous. Hmm, how different will the products be? We’ll be reporting back in a couple of months.

Next, what is Gochujang?

It is a fermented chilli pepper paste from Korea, made to 400 year old recipe. It is a burgundy red, hot, pungent paste used to marinate meat, enrich soups & sauces and generally add all round yumminess to a lot of Korean dishes. Uber umami. Traditionally it is made in Onggi and left out in the sun to ferment, occasionally stirred. Commercially produced Gochujang is readily available in familiar red boxes in Asian supermarkets and online. Not sure it compares to the homemade stuff. Let’s find out!

How do you make Gochujang?

OK, after copious amounts of food channel watching and internet research here are the top two sources of inspiration and information we will be using:

Good Food Channel’s John Torode Korean Food Tour: seeing and tasting Gochujang Onggi made in the traditional style

Korean born, New Yorker, Maangchi’s amazing Korean food blog. Gochujang recipe

And here is the list of somewhat crazy ingredients us UK Birdhousers have had to source to get this wonder paste up and fermenting:

  • 2 litres of water
  • 227g barley malt powder
  • 2 1/2 cups sweet rice flour
  • 2 cups rice syrup
  • 1 cup fermented soybean powder
  • 400g hot Korean pepper powder
  • 1 cup Kosher salt

And now what to do…

  • Mix the 227g barley malt powder into the 2 litres of water. Use a whisk to get the lumps out.
  • Strain into a large saucepan and gently warm. You want a temperature that is warm when you stick your finger in but not hot.
  • Add 2 1/2 cups of sweet rice flour.
  • Now leave it to sit for 2 hours. It will separate out slightly and have a layer of clear, sweetish liquid on top.
  • Bring to the boil and heat over a medium heat for between 1-2 hours. You want it to reduce by about a 1/3. Stir occasionally to stop it sticking.
  • Add the 2 cups of rice syrup. Stir in well and leave to cool completely.
  • Add the 1 cup of fermented soybean powder. Whisk gently to clear any lumps.
  • Add the 400g of chilli powder. Really hoping to harvest and dry enough chillies to produce homegrown Gochujang. Maybe with smoked chillies? Just a thought.
  • Finally, add the 1 cup of Kosher salt. Stir again to remove any lumps.

Transfer to the vessel of your choice.

Cover the opening with a muslin to allow air circulation. Rest the lid on top. Keep on a sunny windowsill. Open the lid whenever the sun is shining.

Leave for 2-3 months (sigh, it’s going to be soooo long) Stir occasionally to mix the dark crust in.

Must research which Korean recipes we’ll be trying first.

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