What To Do Before Fermenting At Home
Maybe you’ve wanted to ferment, but think,
“This seems risky. There are so many things that could go wrong. Why should I make fermented food, rather than just buying it at the store?”
Kimchi, sauerkraut, miso…These are just a few of the easy-to-make, tasty fermented foods that contain probiotics. But one of the biggest debates is which system is the best?
When setting up your fermentation station, organizing a clean fermenting environment is absolutely vital. In order to ensure safe, healthy practice, your fermentation station has to be top priority!
Read on to learn how easy it is to start fermenting safely at home.
WHAT THE CROCK?
Crocks are used to help prevent mold and lactic acid producing bacteria. That said, it doesn’t have to be a crock—it could also be a glass container like a mason jar. Whatever you end up using, make sure it has straight sides with limited possibility for oxygen.
When it comes to fermenting, oxygen is the well-known enemy. In an aerobic (oxygen) environment, yeasts can oxidize to form acetic acids—the same thing as vinegar. Sure, vinegar is a fermented product, but that’s not what we’re trying to make here. Also, if oxygen is present, candida-preventing yeasts—such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and all the gut-friendly probiotic bacteria—cannot prosper. If the oxygen is eliminated, these beneficial bacteria and yeasts can help clear your gut of harmful bacteria.
Don’t worry; owning a super fancy, expensive jar is not required. However, if you do use a mason jar or alternative option, setting up the jar properly according to your ferment is very important.
100% airtight jars can be harmful, as CO2 forms during the gaseous stage of fermentation. This can cause your vessel to explode! CO2 gasses must have a way to escape. If you feel comfortable setting up mason jars and making alterations, go for it! Otherwise, consider buying a high-end crock or jar with airlock sealing that can release the bi-product of fermentation.
The best jars have rubber gaskets, and my personal favorites have airlocks. This prevents mold spores from inoculating the ferment. I recommend spending more money on jars that will save you time and energy, while also ensuring quality of your ferments! If you’re an avid fermenter, it’s worth it.
OTHER KEY ITEMS YOU’LL NEED
Beyond the very necessary crock or storage item, there are several other tools necessary to create a safe, healthy, sanitary and proficient fermenting space.
- Knives: You’ll want a large, quality knife able to cut through thick foods such as cabbage. If you have a dull knife, sharpen it! If you don’t own a sturdy knife, invest in one. It could last you a lifetime and is totally worth the purchase! You also will want to have a small, quality paring knife for cutting smaller items.
- Cutting board: Plastic or wood is fine. If your wooden cutting board has black spots of mold on it, please throw it out and get a new one. We don’t want mold spores ending up in your ferment.
- Weights: Using anything from pickling pebbles to glazed ceramic weights helps keep your ferments compact inside your jar. I personally don’t recommend using rocks as weights because I’ve just had it fail too many times.
- Rolling Pin: You can use a rolling pin as a tamper for pushing your fermented goods into your crock. Or you can buy a dedicated tamper, made specifically for this purpose.
- A rubber band and cloth can be used to keep bugs away
- WHERE TO STORE SUPPLIES
When it comes to storage location, you want to make sure your ferments are in an area where they can evolve efficiently. You’ll want to keep you ferments in an area away from light, free from temperature fluctuation, and UV rays that can alter your food.
“How do I know if oxygen is in my crock? What are some signs of bad set-up?”
If it looks off, it probably is. Signs of a ferment gone wrong include:
- Brown cabbage
- Yeasty odor
VIDEO ON THE BEST CROCKS
I get asked a ton of questions about what kinds of crocks to use and how to avoid mold, so I made a video.
This mini tutorial explains my personal fermenting methods, shows off some of the most popular varieties of crocks, and lets you in on one of my favorite choices for making the best homemade probiotics with fermented veggies. Check it out!
Watch this mini lesson to learn more about the following:
- Something you have in your recycling bin that you can use right now
- Airlock vs. traditional style crocks and jars
- Size—does it matter?
- Where to score giant crocks, and the dangerous kind to avoid
- Which weights to use
- And my personal favorite system!
The process of fermenting may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually quite simple once you’ve gotten the swing of things. Also, it’s worth noting that homemade ferments generally have more than eight times the amount of probiotics as an entire bottle of store bought supplements!
The real question is why would you NOT make your own!
Comment below and let me know
What ferment have you been wanting to make at home?