I had hoped to write about my successful homemade experiments with both makjang and kochujang. Makjang, an “instant” dwaen jang or soybean paste, ended up growing a layer of nice white fuzz. I probably could’ve salvaged it, but why risk it? I made another attempt and will follow up with a post on that later.
On the other hand, my homemade kochujang was a success. Kochujang is a fermented hot red pepper paste and is an essential Korean ingredient that is used in soups, jigaes, and sauces. As well as dishes like my Sloppy Jaes and ddukboki!
Each region or province in Korea had their own version of kochujang. And each household within that region had its own kochujang. Now this condiment is widely available at Korean grocery stores. They’re usually found in red plastic containers or stout wide-mouthed jars. The colors range from a deep dark brick red to a bright red and the consistency is usually that of a thick jam or toothpaste.
This batch came out a tad bit on the salty side, but since the maturing process takes a bit of time and attention, I probably won’t make another attempt until next summer or fall. For now, this batch totally works once I make small adjustments to my recipes.
The process is long, tedious, but simple. Don’t be surprised if you start to develop a relationship with your jar of fermented paste…and give it name (Little Guy)…and start talking to it.
Back in August, I mixed all my ingredients and crossed my fingers. Every sunny day I brought my Little Guy outside on the back deck and brought him back in every night. On cloudy and rainy days I left the Little Guy on my kitchen counter. I coddled the Little Guy everyday for about a month and a half. He was my baby.
It was worth the wait. The flavor is much more complex and deep, very much unlike the store-bought syrupy sweet goo. The homemade kochujang has a smoky heat with a bit of tang and a texture that is thick and pasty. I can’t wait to try all my recipes with my homemade kochujang.
Yields about a quart
1 – In a bowl, combine the malt powder and water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand overnight in a warm place. I kept mine in an electric rice cooker on the “keep warm” setting.
2 – Strain the mixture into a heavy stockpot, add the sweet rice flour, and dissolve well. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat until its volume is reduced by one-third to one-half. 2a – Cool and set aside.
4 – Sprinkle half of remaining salt on the bottom of a clean, dry jar so that it covers the surface of the jar.
6 – Leave about 2 inches of space at the top. Cover the jar with a gauze or cheese cloth. I folded the cheese cloth three times and secured it with a rubber band. It’s mostly to prevent debris and insects from getting into the jar. Cover with a lid. It does not have to be airtight.
7 – This is the tedious part. Sun-dry every day and cover with an earthenware top at night or just bring the little guy in. Do this everyday. Let the paste mature and ferment for at least 30 days.
8 – By the time it is ready, the salt has transformed into a hard crust. Scrape and discard the salt and only remove as needed.
9 – Can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Notes: This initial batch came out a tad bit salty so I plan to adjust the recipe to account for that by using less salt and trying Kosher Diamond Salt which is less saltier than Morton’s.
Also, I used to be able to order barley malt powder through HMart.com, but I’ve discovered that Bob’s Red Mill also produces it.
This half-gallon jar from Crate and Barrel worked perfectly for me.