I love fermented vegetables! Absolutely delicious! Winters are hard on my health and I love having a stash of kraut or raw, fermented vegetables to add to my salads. Its a nutritional kick. Over the past years I’ve experimented with various methods, including the old-fashioned, open crock ferment!
The first time I witnessed the making of kraut was at a friend’s home. A large crock was filled with tamped and salted cabbage, onions and carrots. The vegetables were pushed under the brine by a plate that was weighed down by a jarful water. It was then covered with a towel and left to ferment.
I was reassured that though scum and mold would form, it could be removed and the contents below would be safe to eat. I adopted this method, but seeing and scraping mold off with my own hand caused questions to arise: “could it really, truly be safe?” I began researching mold growth in fermented food. And I’ve stopped using open ferments!
Whew! With a compromised system, I will not take risks with mold, particularly when open ferments are not necessary! All that vegetables need to ferment is found within the brine and produce. Air exposure invites other unwanted bacteria to work.
So let’s chat about a few ‘closed’ fermenting methods!
Fill a large, clean jar 3/4 full of prepared goods, pressing vegetables below the surface of brine. Take a new, freezer zip loc bag and open. Set open end of bag over mouth of jar, squishing out all air. Take a tight-fitting rubber band and place over bag and around the jar’s wall. Gasses will be released into plastic bag and ferment will not be exposed to outside oxygen.
Fill crock or jar 3/4 full of prepared goods. Press vegetables below surface of brine with a plate or small glass disc. Use a weight (smaller jar filled with water is a good choice) to hold plate down. Remove floating bits of vegetables. Pour olive (or any food grade oil) over the surface until there is 1/4 inch of oil. Do not disturb until fermenting process is complete. Ladle off oil and refrigerate contents below liquid.
Fill jar 3/4 full of prepared goods. As vegetables ferment and gas bubbles are released, the goods will ‘expand.’ If jar is filled too full, juices will overflow or jar may break from pressure. Fill jar and cover with a tin canning lid and screw down with a ring. Watch carefully. As pressure builds, lids will need to be loosened and re-tightened daily. After day 10, gasses will stop building. Let ferment continue up to 6 weeks or if for overwintering in cold storage, move to cool area once gas stops building. Leave lids intact.
The lack of air exposure in natural vegetable fermenting is becoming more obvious. Today, there are special lids to fit jars (found at perfectpickler & pickl-It) that allow oxygen to escape without return. There’s also the lovely German style fermenting crocks. The Schmitt is a crock with a gutter which the lid rests upon. The gutter is filled with water and the lid has a tiny notch through which inside gases can be released. It’s a water-seal! Love these and they are on the wish list!
I love the air-locking methods and use the canning jars. I have quarts, half gallon and gallon size jars with canning or glass lids. I’ve never (in the right temperatures) had a ferment go wrong in my jars, though they’ve been plentiful with other methods!
I like fool-proof methods, particularly when using good food from my garden! Which method (or if you love others) do you use?