How to Ferment Vegetables | Tips and Tricks For Beginners
How to Ferment Vegetables | Tips and Tricks for Beginners

How to Ferment Vegetables | Tips and Tricks For Beginners

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So you want to learn how to ferment huh? Are you super pumped? You should be! Fermenting vegetables is fun and delicious. Which makes the best kind of hobby if you ask me! Before we begin to Ferment Vegetables, we need to pick up some supplies!

How To Ferment Vegetables | Fermenting Containers:

My suggestion is to use equipment that will allow for gas to escape, such as an airlock.

If you don’t allow gas to escape like with an airlock or cheesecloth, you’ll have to burp your ferments every day to every couple of days.

  • Mason Jars are widely used by most and a preferred container.
  • Crocks
  • Lids for Mason Jars – I really like these (they come with airlocks and glass weights!) Or you could try these if you like the idea of fewer parts! There’s also these

Other Tools:

  • Wooden Tamper – Some ferments need to be squished and packed into the jar, and you must use a utensil/tool that does not negatively react with the ferment, such as wood.
  • Glass Weights

Fermenting Kits

If you’re just starting out, you might just get a fermenting kit. It’s usually cheaper than buying everything separately. They usually don’t include mason jars though.

Fermenting Books

When I began my fermenting journey, I read a couple of books. My favorite overall is the Fermented Vegetables Book.

How Much Salt Should I Use?

Learning how to make a proper brine is super important. The amount of salt you’ll use will be different for each food item.

The best way to make sure you get the correct amount of salt is to weigh it. Also, using the same kind of salt the recipe calls for is IMPORTANT!

Did you know, Not all salt weighs the same??

I suggest using extra fine sea salt.

You’ll need a good kitchen scale to weigh your salt. They are pretty affordable though, so no worries!

Salt Brine Calculator | How to Ferment Vegetables

The more water you use, the more salt you’ll need!

Print the Salt Brine Calculators here.

Print Both Salt Brine Calculators Print Brine Calculator With Veggies Print “Just Percentages” Brine Calculator

IMPORTANT: This salt brine calculator is calculated according to extra fine sea salt. Without a doubt, if you use a different kind of salt these measurements may not work!

Salt Brine Calculator with Veggies
Print Brine Calculator With Veggies

The next table is just a handy chart without the vegetables. When you’re more skilled you’ll probably end up memorizing what brine percentage your favorite ferments get.

IMPORTANT: This salt brine calculator is calculated according to extra fine sea salt. Without a doubt, if you use a different kind of salt these measurements won’t work!

Salt Brine Calculator handy printout
Print “Just Percentages” Brine Calculator

Tips for Your First Ferment | Ferment Vegetables

  • Easy Recipe – Begin with an easy recipe, such as sauerkraut, carrots, or bell peppers (one of my all-time favorites!)
  • Failure – It’s a part of the process because there is a slight learning curve. When you have your first successful ferment, it will be really exciting!

How to Ferment Vegetables | Tips, and Tricks

  • Measure Correctly – Measuring ingredients precisely is important.
    Use Exact Ingredients – In short, not all salt is the same. If the recipe calls for EXTRA FINE sea salt, don’t substitute it for anything else.
    Wash Tools – Wash your hands and the tools in warm soapy water.
  • Use *Clean Water* – Fresh, filtered tap water. Or you can use fresh bottled spring water. Similarly, if you have really good well water, you may be able to use that too. However, it’s best to get it tested or filter your well water to use it for a ferment.
  • Rinse Produce – Make sure to rinse off the food before cutting into it.
  • CRISP Pickles – Keep pickles crisp, use a grape (edible), oak, cherry, or horseradish leaf.
  • Taste Testing – When you ferment vegetables, you might want to taste test them. However, only use stainless steel or wood.
  • Headspace – When you pour in the brine, make sure that you leave 1-2 inches of headspace. To clarify that means that from the top down 1-2 inches will be empty, no brine, no food, nada.

    We leave headspace because ferments can release gasses, which cause the liquid to expand or rise. No headspace can result in cracked containers, and/or spills, mold, and other mishaps.

Yeast, Mold, & Other Slimy Stuff

Ferments can get slimy, have a weird, fizzy taste, or smells. It’s best to train yourself with the knowledge of how to identify mold and yeast. These things can destroy a perfectly good ferment.

Learn about yeast called Kahm. I also wrote another article on Fermentools about Mold and Yeast and how to tell the difference between the two.

If you spot mold in a ferment, its best to throw the whole batch out. You can’t simply scrape the mold off the top.

Fermentation is a Product of its Environment

Temperature, time, oxygen, and ingredients (just to name a few) can affect the fermentation process. These environmental factors can be both negative and positive. Overall, they all play an important role in fermenting vegetables. For the most part, that’s why you will find many different conflicting ideas for fermenting.

There are so many variables. It’s possible to follow a recipe and it may not turn out how it was supposed to. For example, if it’s really hot or really cold, the ferment may suffer. Similarly, if your ferment doesn’t have enough salt content it may suffer with mold issues.

Also, take into account that food comes in many different sizes, colors, regions, and could have totally different growing conditions. For this reason, no ferment will be exactly alike!

Be accepting that with all these variables some ferments just turn out bad. Sometimes you have to throw away a batch. Yes, it’s a very sad hour but it sometimes happens. Learn from your mistakes, and take notes as you go!

Summary

In conclusion, my hope is that you learn how to ferment and you love it! Without a doubt, one of the best things I did for my fermenting journey was reading fermenting books. Firstly, I bought all the supplies. Secondly, I studied recipes and tried out some that I thought sounded good. Subsequently, fermenting vegetables kinda makes me feel like a mad scientist. Also, just to warn you… Admittedly, once you begin to love fermenting you’re going to wish you were rich and could afford to have a separate fermenting kitchen and pantry.

Your fermenting journey may be filled with failure, indeed I know mine was. Above all, just stick to your guns. Keep telling yourself you can do it. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy! In just a short time, you’ll be a master fermenter! Or as Kirsten Shockey would say a FERMENTISTA!

Finally, if you meet failure over and over again on the same ferment, just try a different one! It’s a good idea to try out a ferment with a higher brine percentage, since those are less likely to mold.

More Fermenting Books

More Fermenting Recipes

I have made so many ferments over the years. The recipes below are just a few that I’ve made. I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I do! Your fermenting journey begins now! What will you make first? I would love for you to tell me in the comments!

 

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I've got several tips to help you get started fermenting vegetables! Before we begin to Ferment Vegetables, we need to pick up some supplies!

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