I was reticent to begin fermenting. It is the process of taking everyday vegetables and fruits and through a very careful spoiling process it uses sugar/carbohydrates to create Wine, Sauerkraut, Kimchi and countless other fermented products. These fermented discoveries go back thousands of years in human culture and are embedded deeply and mastered by many different cultures. So not only are you preserving your hard earned produce. You are preserving the very culture that first survived by learning this skill.
Top 5 things you should know before starting to Ferment
1. Fermentation is kinda gross.
Fermentation is the controlled spoilage of food using bacteria. It produces slime, growths, and sour vinegary smells. This is something that you should expect and unless you see mold growing it is probably ok. Depending on who you talk to depends on what someone considers spoiled or fermented. It is certainly a fine line but very few have made themselves sick off of fermented food. The Lactic Acid produced by many of the foods is a fantastic preservative. A few people die from improperly canned food every year, but there have been no records of people dying from improperly fermented foods. This being said, if you see even a little mold growth on the top of your fermented foods, you can assume those mold spores are equally spread out throughout your batch and you’ll have to throw it all away 😦
2. If not for fermentation many cultures would have died out
There is no doubt that it was difficult to preserve food during meager times with no refrigeration. And there is no doubt that many different cultures discovered fermentation on their own through spoiled food. And there is evidence that our ape-like ancestors routinely ate fruits and vegetables that were half rotten/fermented. It’s why humans have an enzyme to process alcohol. Not so we can have better parties, but because our ancestors ate fermented fruits off the ground and it was beneficial to not die from alcohol poisoning.
3. Fermentation is actually much safer than many other food preservation methods
Mold from fermentation is harmful but botulism will leave you with a horrific death or with an illness that will make you wish you were dead. Botulism spores love no-oxygen and low acid environments which are created by traditional canning methods, however fermentation creates a high acid environment making botulism impossible.
4. Fermentation is an acquired taste.
It will probably take you a little while to get used to raw fermented food instead of fermented food that has been processed (such as sauerkraut) which are usually sold out of a can. It’s vinegary and sour which are certainly not tastes everyone enjoys. After a while people begin to prefer the taste of home fermented foods over store bought, so stick with it! It’s much cheaper and healthier for you!
5. Raw fermented foods are EXTREMELY expensive at the store and cheap to make at home.
You can buy $10 raw sauerkraut at the store, or you can make it yourself at home for about $2. You decide! It’s difficult for companies to sell raw fermented foods because they have to deal with live microbes. With all of the permits and hoops they have to jump through it makes their product very expensive.
5 Things to avoid when fermenting
- Metal- Metals other than stainless steel can get corroded with prolonged exposure to acidic substances. Also, many metals (especially copper) are natural antimicrobials. Since fermentation is the process of encouraging certain types of bacteria grow, metal is not a good option. Use plastic and glass.
- Sunlight- UV kills bacteria. Normally that is a good thing but not in this case!
- Too Hot or Too Cold Temperatures- Too hot will kill that bacteria, too cold with slow it down to the point where it won’t ferment.
- Lids that completely seal- Fermentation is always going to produce some sort of a gas. If you seal it, you had better refrigerate it or else it WILL explode!
- Chlorine (yes even the chlorine in tap water is too much). Make sure you either boil your water or let it sit out for a day before using it for any fermentation process.
THIS truly is the Fermentation BIBLE
Sandor Katz has spent his life traveling the world learning about how different cultures have fermented their food. He knows fermentation backwards and forwards and his entire book is worth reading from cover to cover.
1. Cabbage has more vitamin C after fermentation than before.