Homemade Gochujang

It’s been a great year for the garden pepper crop. Expect to see a lot of projects here focusing on use of the many types I grew, starting from seed, this season. One that I tried this year was a Korean hot pepper. I picked up the seeds at my local H Mart. The packet is simply labeled “hot peppers.”

Turns out they are gorgeous peppers. I only grew two plants, but they produced a lot of peppers. As a result of this bounty, I set off to make my own gochujang, the spicy, sweet, salty Korean fermented chile paste. I use it all the time, and have been meaning to try making it myself.

I consulted the Maangchi blog to get some idea of how to make gochujang. My process is similar to the one she has there, with some adjustment to the batch size, process, and that I was dealing with peppers from my garden. If you don’t already follow the Maangchi blog, I highly recommend it.

I was going to see if I could figure out how to make gochujang from fresh peppers, as opposed to the traditional way of using pepper powder. I need to give that some more thought because 80% of a pepper’s weight is water. Using fresh peppers would require the water in the base to be compensated, and would make the boiling part tricky, prone to burning on the stove.

Making gochujang is similar to making beer, a bit cruder than the brewing process, but there is a grain mash, boil to concentrate, addition of adjuncts (fermented soy and peppers (duh!)), and the fermentation itself. Unlike hot sauce or other lactic fermentation, this one is aerobic. It is left open to the air.

To get started, I needed to accumulate a lot of peppers. This recipe makes roughly a gallon of gochujang. It is roughly 1/4 of the Maangchi recipe! It took about 3 gallons of dried chile pods to get the amount needed.

I harvested the peppers from my garden, and dried the whole pods in my food dehydrator. Using scissors, I cut the stem end off, and then jabbed the scissors into the open pod to loosen and shake out the seeds. I dropped the seeded pods into a blender, and ran it on top speed when it was filled. I repeated this process five times to get the 400g of chile powder needed here. Once all five batches were processed, I returned all of the chile to the blender and ran it again to make sure it was a fine and even consistency.

The powder is beautiful! (And as a side benefit, my sinuses are very open!)

Gochujang

250g Barley Malt Powder
2000g (2L) water
450g sweet rice flour
650g rice syrup
225g fermented soybean powder
400g Korean pepper powder
200g salt

Add the barley malt powder and water to a large pot. Heat to 150F. Stir in the sweet rice flour. I used a whisk to avoid lumps. The whisk also makes a good holder for the temperature probe. Maintain 140-160F for 45 minutes. This allows the enzymes in the barley malt to convert the starch in the barley and rice flours to sugar.

After 45 minutes, bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for about 90 minutes until the mixture is reduced at least in half. Cool slightly and stir in the rice syrup, soybean powder, pepper powder, and salt.

Transfer to fermenting vessel. I have a nice onggi I bought in Korea, but you can use any non-reactive container. Cover the top with cheesecloth and place in a sunny window.

The fermentation should be somewhat cool, not too hot. It will take three or more months to complete its fermentation, so be patient. Of course you can eat some along the way. It is actually pretty good before it’s even fermented! Once it’s done fermenting, I will post a picture of the results.

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