If you asked me 5 years ago, whether I make my own Gochujang, my response would have been something like – “No…..I don’t do that…that’s too much work.. oh, only our mothers did that.”
But here we are, in my 6th year of blogging; I have already attended two Gochujang making classes (in Korea last February) so that I could make it at home this year. During my recent stay in Korea, I got to taste some great homemade gochujang and deonjang and I realized store bought gochujang and homemade gochujang is just not the same. In addition, I have also discovered that not all gochujang sold at stores are the same.
KNOW what’s in your Gochujang!
Did you know that often a not-so-good gochujang has corn syrup, starch syrup and even hydrolyzed vegetable protein as part of their ingredients??? A respectable gochujang should only have chili pepper powder (gochukaru), fermented soy bean powder (mejukaru), sweet rice/rice/brown rice/barley/wheat flour, rice syrup, malt barley syrup or powder and salt. And even if it has corn syrup, at least don’t buy one that has corn syrup as it’s first ingredient. I mean..imagine.. how much corn syrup that is!! Sometimes some alcohol is added to stop the fermentation process but that’s it. So please select your gochujang carefully. In Korea, there are many great quality gochujang in the market but sadly almost none of them are sold in the US… or outside of Korea.
The only one I have found that is sold online that has a good list of ingredients is a bottled Gochujang by Chungjungone. (FYI, available HERE on my Amazon store).
You can make Gochujang only certain times of the year!
Gochujang is typically made in the colder winter months between the end of November to February in Korea. It is because the 4~6 month fermentation needs to occur in FULL SUN but BEFORE the very hot and rainy summer starts in Korea. For California, I thought February would be a great time since by then hopefully rain is getting lighter and there are more sunny days. So when I was getting ready to move back to the US in 2014, I bought and shipped Korean gochukaru (고추가루 red chili powder), mejukaru (메주가루 fermented soybean powder) and cheonilyeom (천일염 1000 day old sea salt) via sea with our moving stuff so I could make it in CA. And most importantly, I also purchased a Korean hangari/onggi vessel where I could ferment the gochujang in. This particular vessel was made by one of the few remaining Korean artisans who is deemed by the government to be part of Korean’s national heritage.
I had hoped to make it last Spring but because our shipment got stuck at sea for 3 months – due to some labor strike at the LA ports – when we got everything it was already too warm.
BTW, My husband just shook his head when I told him I had shipped these things last year so I could make gochujang this year, he said “you are just a little crazy.. ;)” HAHA…AM I?? Maybe.. I mean, I guess I have to be a little crazy about Korean food and about blogging to be doing this for over 5 years!?! Right??? 🙂 😉
Invite a friend to your Gochujang making party!!
Whenever you are planning to cook something that takes many hours, I always say – Invite a friend! That way you have company during the wait times and you have another set of hands which is especially handy for a blogger who sometimes wishes she had 3 hands!! And in my particular case, I also had another brain with great wisdom and tips when I needed it!!
For my gochujang making day, I invited my friend Judith. Since the very beginning of my blog, Judith has been my #1 follower with always the most wonderful comments and questions. Over the years we started conversing through emails and when we found out that we both live in the SF Bay area, we had to meet. And we have become total foodie friends since then. BTW, I will write more on another post about our first meetings.
But going back to gochujang, I am so happy that she joined me for the day – I mean I never thought I would meet someone who was as excited as me about making the very uniquely aromatic but amazing gochujang at home.
Difference between fine and coarse gochugaru (Korean red chili powder):
I meant to write about this long ago but well, better late than never!
- Coarse Korean red chili powder (Gulkeun Gochugaru 굵은 고추가루) is what is used the most in Korean cooking these days and over 90% of Gochugaru sold at markets are probably coarse. Traditionally coarse red chili powder was used in making all kinds of Kimchi except for water Kimchi (mul kimchi 물김치). Coarse gochugaru gives you brighter red color, gives you a more clean flavor with even a bit of a zing. It is also used to make jjigae, guk and namul.
- Fine Korean red chili powder (Goun Gochugaru 고운 고추가루) is definitely needed in making gochujang and then for mul kimchi. Also used to make refined sauces and sometimes used for moosaengche when you don’t want to see the little chili flakes. Fine gochugaru produces less clean almost kind of a muddy taste and thus not usually used for fresh vegetables. But for stews and soups that is what you may want.
Traditional Korean chefs use a combination of both fine and coarse in jjigae and soups but if you are not a serious cook or if you are not making gochujang or mul kimchi, chances are you probably won’t need the fine gochukaru. Buy fine gochukaru ONLY if you are going to make gochujang or if you want to make pretty sauces.
** It is BEST to start the day before **
** You can buy all the ingredients below except for the Yeotkireum Garu from my store HERE. Look under Fermentation category. I even found a clay jar or onggi for fermentation.
BTW, you can still make gochujang without yeotkireum garu. See my new Easy Homemade Gochujang recipe for an almost instant way to make gochujang at home. ***
Traditional Homemade Gochujang Recipe
Makes: 4 quarts Prep Time: 6 hrs Cook Time: 6 hrs Difficulty: Medium
- 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) Fine Red Chili powder (Goun Gochugaru 고운 고추가루)
- 500 g (1.1 lb) Fermented Soy Bean powder (Mejugaru 메주가루)
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) Sweet Rice powder (Chapsalgaru 찹쌀가루)
- 750g (1.65 lb) Milled Malt Barley (Yeotkireumgaru 엿기름가루) – see my sikhye post for more info –
- 750g (1.65 lb) Sea Salt with bittern removed (Cheonilyeom 천일염) – should be 3+ yr old korean sea salt
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) Rice Syrup (Jocheong 조청)
- 5 litre (5.2 quart) Water
Will also need
- 1 Korean gochujang hangari (항아리)/onggi (옹기) = glazed clay vessel or pot that can hold liquid but is porous for it to breathe
- 2 large bowls (5 quart or bigger)
- fine sieve or medium grade (#50) cheese cloth
- 1 large pot (5 quart or larger)
- 1 fine mosquito net or fine mesh fabric to cover top of gochujang pot
- 1 string to tie mesh fabric
- coals, sesame seeds, metal bowl (optional)
- 1-2 DAYS BEFORE: Sterilize your ghochujang hangari or onggi (Korean glazed clay vessels) by pouring hot boiling water inside and out and drying them. OR you can use coals that have turned into white embers by putting them in a metal bowl and turning over the hangari on top so that the hangari gets filled with HOT smoke which will also sterilize the pot. I used both methods just to be sure. Here is a picture of how it was done:
The hangari will smell very smoky at first, but it will go away as you air it for a day or two. It is also the intention to have a little bit of sesame seed smoky flavor. If you don’t want this, just use hot water.
- THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak malt barley (all 750 g of it!) in 5 litre of cold water for 5 hrs or more.
- THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak sweet rice in water for 3-4 hrs or more.
- ON THE DAY OF: Strain soaked sweet rice through a colander and remove all excess water. Let water drain for 5 min. Grind sweet rice with a blender or chopper as fine as you can make it. Set aside. Alternatively I think you can buy ready made sweet rice powder and use that instead.
- Massage malt barley with your hands, by getting a handful and squeezing them in the water. Repeat many times throughout the malt mixture.
- Strain malt barley through a fine sieve or medium grade cheesecloth to just get the liquid and some fine white sediments. We just don’t want any little bits of husks. I used my Williams-Sonoma towel and it was perfect! *** Dampen cloth/towel by wetting it with water and wringing out before to speed up straining.
Malt barley (yeotkireum) in cheesecloth
Malt Barley liquid strained using cheesecloth
- Add sweet rice powder to strained liquid from 7.
- Leave mixture in the oven with a temperature of about 60°C (140°F) for 5 hrs. Stir a couple times during the 5 hrs if you can. I ended up not being able to since Judith and I went out to lunch and it turned out fine… 🙂
- Remove malt barley + sweet rice mixture from oven and cook on stove top. About medium high -> medium heat until liquid has reduced by about 20%. Stir often to prevent any burning and lumps. Let it cool.
- Once liquid is cooled, add fine gochugaru, mejugaru and sea salt.
It made me happy just looking at them, smelling the beautiful and familiar smells – the spicy gochukaru tickling my nose and then the very endearingly stinky deonjang smell from the mejukaru taking me back to my childhood..to the days when moms made everything at home.
- Finally add rice syrup (jocheong 조청) – add more or less to your taste.
- Mix everything well, you won’t need to go the gym today (at least for your arms anyway). Wow.. My arms are kind of sore from mixing!! Make sure everything is all mixed thoroughly. It is OK if you see little granules of sea salt because they will dissolve eventually. Your gochujang mixture should look something like this –
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the bowl overnight. Taste it next day and it should taste pretty good already. Add more syrup or salt to your taste. Mix everything well one last time.
- Transfer gochujang into the prepared, sanitized clay pot (hangari 항아리). Wipe the top and side edges clean. Sprinkle top with sea salt to help keep any bad bacteria from growing on the surface.
- Leave in full sun for 6 months. The sun helps to kill any fungus from forming on top. Cover the top with a fine mosquito net or mesh that will keep the bugs away but let the sun in. Tie the net with a string so it stays put. For me, I was lucky enough to buy a glass lid for my onngi/hangari (clay jar) in Korea that lets the sun in, keeps the rain out and allows air to circulate through meshed sides. A great invention!
And I hope to share with you how my gochujang turns out under the California sun in the next 6 months.
The salt crystals are like little diamonds~~ love love love..♥♥♥
Well, I know this is probably not something you can make easily and you need various special ingredients and vessels but I thought I would share it with you so that at least you get to experience and know what is involved in making the amazing gochujang the traditional and authentic way.
PS – If you REALLY want to buy the Korean Hangari/Onggi in the US, I found a fabulous artist Adam Field who was actually making Onggi in the US. How incredible is that?!! He learned how to make them from Onggi masters in Korea through a 10 month apprenticeship at Incheon! THANK YOU Adam for bringing it to the US!!
Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s!!
- 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) Fine Red Chili powder (Goun Gochukaru 고운 고추가루)
- 500 g (1.1 lb) Fermented Soy Bean powder (Meju Karu 메주가루)
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) Sweet Rice powder (Chapsal Karu 찹쌀가루)
- 750 g (1.65 lb) Milled Malt Barley (Yeotkireum Karu 엿기름가루)
- 750 g (1.65 lb) Sea Salt with bittern removed (Cheonilyeom 천일염)
- 1 kg (2.2 lb) Rice Syrup (Jocheong 조청)
- 5 litre (5.2 quart) Water
THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak malt barley (all 750 g of it!) in 5 litre of cold water for 5 hrs or more.
THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak sweet rice in water for 3-4 hrs or more.
NEXT MORNING: Strain soaked sweet rice through a colander and remove all excess water.
Grind sweet rice with a blender or chopper as fine as you can make it. Set aside.
Strain malt barley through a fine sieve or medium grade cheese cloth to just get the liquid and some fine white sediments.
Add sweet rice powder to strained liquid from above.
Leave mixture in the oven with a temperature of about 60°C (140°F) for 5 hrs.
Remove malt barley + sweet rice mixture from oven and cook on stove top.
Start at medium high -> medium heat until liquid has reduced by about 20%. Let it cool.
Once liquid is cooled, add fine gochukaru, meju karu and sea salt.
Add rice syrup (jocheong 조청) - add more or less to your taste.
Mix everything well.
Transfer gochujang into the prepared, sanitized clay pot (hangari 항아리).
Sprinkle top with handful of sea salt.
Leave in full sun for 6 months.
The sun helps to kill any fungus from forming on top. Cover the top with a fine mosquito net or mesh that will keep the bugs away but let the sun in. Tie the net with a string so it stays put. Cover with a lid when it rains and at night time to keep moisture out.
Please check out my blog post for more details on how to sterilize the pot 1-2 days before.