Fermentation is one of the easiest ways to preserve your garden's bounty, but it's also one of the healthiest methods. Here are some tricks for successful fermenting.
Truth be told, I was skeptical to start fermenting. Canning the harvest had my heart, and the word "fermented" just sounded gross. However, I decided to dive in after hearing that it was so easy. The steps only take a few minutes, so it doesn't take too much effort to create delicious fermented dishes.
Best of all, eating fermented foods and drinks, such as kefir and kombucha, introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system. Fermented goods balance of bacteria in your gut, acting as a natural probiotic. Probiotics are extremely beneficial, improving bowel health, aiding digestion, and improving your immune system.
Those are some serious benefits, so you want your attempts at fermentation to be successful. Here are my best tips for you!
Related: Treating Babies With Probiotics Benefits Their Gut
Only Use High-Quality Salt
Unrefined, high-mineral salt is the best pick for fermenting. Sea salt adds flavor, stops mold growth, and gives minerals to the lactic acid bacteria. You want to use the right amount of salt when fermenting because harmful bacteria can't tolerate too much salt. Using too little salt increases the risk of mold and bacteria, but too much salt stops the growth of good bacteria.
Fermenting at the Right Temperature
During active fermentation, the ideal temperature is between 68 to 72 degrees F. Milk ferments can tolerate high temperatures, upwards of 90 degrees F! The right temperature is necessary for fermentation to occur.
Use Clean Water
For the best results, use filtered water without fluoride or chlorine because both can kill lactic-acid bacteria. Many people swear by bottled spring water!
Raw, Fresh, Organic Veggies
It's important that you use organic vegetables because poisons kill off living things. Ferments are alive! Produce you get in the store that isn't organic has pesticide residues and that can kill the good bacteria that you want to culture in your ferments. Your produce doesn't have to be labeled organic, but you want to make sure it wasn't sprayed. You can talk to the farmers at a farmers market to determine what they use.
Also, your ferments will only be as good as your beginning produce. The veggies should be as fresh as possible. Fermenting something that is already in the process of rotting or mold will ruin your fermentation attempts.
Related: Should We be Concerned about Inorganic Mercury in our Food?
Use Glass Jars
Now, you need to use food grade storage containers, and ceramic crocks are a popular pick. They are useful if you want to store large quantities of fermented vegetables. Have you ever seen the crocks used in Japan to store kimchi? They can be hundreds of gallons!
However, in my experience, glass canning jars work just as well for fermenting. We use quarts and half-gallon jars. Both of these are readily available at local stores, and you can get them cheap at yard sales!
Check Your Ferments Daily
When you are actively-fermenting veggies, I make sure to check mine daily, keeping them in an easy-to-see place. I ensure the lid is tight, invert them to cover the interior surfaces with brine, and then reloosen lids. You can also purchase air-lock lids to let out the air. Checking your ferments daily ensure you notice if mold starts to grow.
Eat Out of Smaller Jars
The more air space in the jar, the more likely it is to develop mold growth. Once you start digging into those jars of delicious ferments, it's wise to repack them into smaller containers. If you have a half-gallon or gallon of sauerkraut, that will leave a lot of airspaces when you serve it for dinner!
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