Ready to start fermenting your own foods? Here’s 9 Tips for Successful Fermentation that have helped me along the way.
Welcome to Part 2 of my fermentation series. Be sure to check out Part 1: Fermented Foods 101. I am on a mission to show how easy it is to get started fermenting your own foods. And with just a few helpful tips, you can be on your way to creating your own healthy, gut-healing foods for you and your family.
9 Tips for Successful Fermentation
1. Anaerobic! Anaerobic! Anaerobic!
This is the number one thing to understand about fermenting foods. Having an oxygen-free environment is crucial for a healthy ferment. Anaerobic fermentation means “absence of oxygen” and the lactic-acid bacteria, responsible for creating a healthy, stable fermented food, thrive in a low or no-oxygen environment.
Exposing your fermenting foods to oxygen inhibits the growth of good bacteria while leaving you open to mold and yeast that thrive on oxygen. Anaerobic fermentation is achieved by having a completely airtight fermentation jar fitted with an airlock. The airlock first allow atmospheric oxygen a way to escape the container – pushed up and out. It also allows for the excess CO2 created by the fermentation to be released. This keeps the lactic-acid bacteria happy and healthy. Be sure to check out the fermentation jars I use at the end of this post.
2. Use Only High Quality, Unrefined Sea Salt, in the Right Amount
Use an unrefined, high-mineral salt. Sea salt adds flavor, inhibits mold, and provides important minerals to the lactic acid bacteria.
Using the appropriate amount of salt is important when fermenting foods. Bacteria that could be harmful to us can’t tolerate much salt, but there are healthy bacteria that can. Using too little salt can leave you open to molds and bacteria. Using too much salt can inhibit the growth of the good bacteria and shifts the chemistry to salt-cured instead of fermented.
Many vegetables (like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, and ginger) require a 2% salt brine. This can be achieved my mixing 19 grams of a good quality unrefined salt with 1 quart of water.
Some vegetables create their own brine as the salt extracts the liquid from the vegetables. The rule of thumb for cabbage, beets, radishes, and daikon is 19 grams of unrefined salt per 3 pounds of vegetables.
You can check out a handy brine calculator HERE.
3. Temperature Matters
The ideal temperature for vegetables ferments is 68′ – 72′ F. Milk ferments can tolerate higher temperatures – up to 90’F.
4. Cover Your Ferments
Cover your fermentation vessels to block out UV light because light destroys lactic acid bacteria. Simple wrap a towel around the vessel, making sure to leave the airlock uncovered.
5. Use Clean Water
Use filtered water without fluoride or chlorine because both kill lactic-acid bacteria. I have been advised not to use distilled water. Some folks like to use bottled spring water.
6. Use Only Whole Spices and Herbs
Dry and powdered spices and herb can spoil, leaving you with a funky ferment.
7. Watch Your Airlocks
Be sure to watch that the water does not evaporate out of your airlock, allowing oxygen to enter your fermentation jar. You can fill your airlock with half water and half vegetable glycerin to prevent this from happening.
8. Use Quality Ingredients
Use high-quality, pesticide-free ingredients (organic). Pesticides and herbicides will inhibit the growth of healthy bacteria and are just plain bad for us.
9. Leave it Alone!
Resist the urge to peak and open your ferments, especially in the first stages of fermentation. There are fermentation gases created during the first week of fermentation that perch on top the brine. These important fermentation gases serve many functions such as developing flavor, protection, stabilizing textures, etc. Opening the jar also leaves you open to molds, bacteria, and yeast that thrive on oxygen.
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Fermentation jars that I recommend
I have been fermenting foods for quite some time now. I have experimented with many different jars. And the best ones that I have found for making sauerkraut come from Pickl-It.com.
They have a wide variety of sizes to choose from. I have the large 5 Liter jar for making sauerkraut. I also have several 1 Liter jars for making smaller condiments and for storing my krauts in the fridge. They are easy to use, completely air-tight, and come fitted with an airlock.
You can check the fermentation jars that I use HERE.
For shorter fermentations like this fermented cucumbers (homemade pickles) and easy fermented carrot sticks, I like to use air-tight lids that fit wide mouth mason jars . They are super easy to use and work great.
You’ll want to add a weight on top of your fermenting foods so they stay below the brine. I use glass fermentation weights made specifically for that purpose. I know some folks get creative and use rocks or other clean/sterile items.
Hope that was helpful. Happy fermentation!
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