How To Ferment Vegetables Easily & Safley

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When I first started looking into fermenting my own vegetables I was left with more questions than answers.

I read that it could be dangerous and everyone seemed have different length of time for fermenting. 

In this guide I am going to share what works for me and helps me make delicious fermented vegetables every time.

Equipment Needed To Ferment Vegetables

empty-mason-jar

Fermentation does not necessarily require any highly specialized equipment. Depending on your skill and needs, you can choose anything from a glass mason jar to expensive ceramic crocks. Most people choose canning jars, especially for their first time. 

A smaller container helps you make a smaller batch at a time, so you can experiment and see which recipe you enjoy the most. Typically, any glass jar is suitable; you may find it under different names, such as Mason, Bernardin, and many others. Other equipment you may want to use includes:

  • Fermentation weights put pressure on your vegetables and keep them covered in the brine; this prevents mold or yeasts’ development.
  • A lid with a seal (if the jar does not already have one); others prefer lids with airlocks that allow fermentation gases to escape, but no air comes in.
  • Once you have experience, you can invest in a high-quality water-sealed crock for fermentation to make larger batches.

How To Prepare Your Vegetables

Different preparation methods, such as grated, sliced, or chopped, suit different vegetables as the method can speed up the fermentation process, but it is ultimately up to your preference. Hard vegetables, such as cabbage, can be grated, especially when preparing sauerkraut. However, traditional kimchi uses Napa Cabbage cut in quarters. 

Chopped veggies take longer to ferment compared to finely sliced or grated vegetables. This is suitable for cauliflower, carrots, and others. Most recipes will call for chopping – if not, you can simply chop or slice to suit your preferences.  Slicing veggies is ideal for firm vegetables, such as jalapenos, beetroot, and others. 

Finally, if you have small vegetables, such as green beans, radishes, and others, it is best to leave them uncut. Cucumbers are typically left whole when pickled, as well. Here is a shortlist of the best veggies to ferment, but nearly every veggie can go through this process:

fermented-vegetables-in-jar
  • Carrots
  • Cucumubers
  • Cabbage
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Snap Beans
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi (Known as german turnip)

Salt, Whey, or Without Salt?

One of the most popular choices is sea salt, followed by Himalayan (pink) salt. Pickling salt is usually highly processed and refined, so it’s not a good choice if you want natural salt. Kosher salt contains anti-caking agents, so you should avoid it. Finally, iodized salt (table salt) is not suitable because iodine prevents beneficial bacterial growth. I have also used fish sauce for some recipes.

Salt draws the moisture out of vegetables and makes them crunchy, and prevents unfriendly bacteria growth. Salt speeds up the process, while fermenting veggies without salt is also possible, and it will be quicker. However, your veggies may be subject to mold. An alternative to salt is celery juice and other substitutes rich in minerals. 

Finally, you can use apple cider vinegar by adding it to your brine. This will turn the process into an acetic fermentation, so it is not as beneficial as the fermentation that encourages lactobacilli probiotic growth. 

Water You Should Use

When fermenting vegetables, you do not need to be concerned with the amount of minerals in the water. All you need to check is that the water does not contain chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride. Using the wrong type of water can be detrimental to your fermented vegetables; for example, chlorine kills good bacteria. 

You can boil tap water to remove chlorine only, so it’s best to find out what the tap water contains before using it by requesting a water quality report from your water provider. You may also use well water (if it was tested for microbial contamination), spring water, or bottled water – for the last option, check the label for fluoride.

How To Store Everything

Once you submerged your veggies in the brine and you placed the lid, you need to leave the jar in a dark area at room temperature (68-72 ° F or 20-22 ° C)– such as the darkest area in your kitchen (for about five days) or a pantry or basement (about three weeks if it is colder). The fermentation process does not really stop at any point, but cold storage slows it down.  

Since it depends on temperature and other factors, you can know for sure by examining the jars. The main signs include:

  • Bubbles through the jar.
  • Sour or vinegary, but pleasant smell; if it smells like rotten or bad food, discard the vegetables.

You can taste and smell the veggies several times until they reach your favorite flavor profile and consistency. After this, put them into your fridge to slow down the fermentation process.

Is It Safe To Eat My Fermented Vegetables?

If the vegetables develop any bad, rotten, spoiled or alcoholic smell or taste at any point, you must discard them. If you notice a white film on top of the liquid when you open the jar, this is normal. It is a by-product of the fermentation process, so you can clean it and eat the vegetables. Sediments on the bottom or cloudy brine are also typical signs, indicating the presence of good bacteria. 

Using a PH strip can help you determine your batch’s PH level, and it should be between 4.0 and 6.0. However, this does not indicate the presence of harmful bacteria. There are several signs that your fermented vegetables are not safe to eat:

  • Slimy texture.
  • Bad taste or pungent, unpleasant smell.
  • Fuzz and visible mold, including black, pink, or green.

Eating spoiled or rotten food is very dangerous. The taste of fermented veggies can be vinegary or strong, but it should not be unpleasant. Salt, clean water, and an airtight lid can prevent the development of harmful bacteria, especially since the presence of mold is a sign of oxygen exposure. Also, leaving the veggies in a very hot environment can spoil them.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it, not so daunting after all. Just follow these steps and you will have some probiotic rich fermented vegetables in no time at all.

If you have questions or suggestions be sure to let me know in the comment section below.

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