Jul 31, 2023Aeran Schmid

It is one of the healthiest and safest ways to preserve food! And yet so many people are still not fermenting. Why? Probably because they have never tasted the goodness of homemade ferments.

What is fermentation?

Probiotics are all the rage and many people are buying them in a pill, but you can make foods full of healthy probiotics yourself. Fermentation is the process of good bacteria converting sugars to lactic acid, which preserves food through lowering the pH level. Lacto-fermentation is how sauerkraut, fermented pickles, and yogurt are preserved. The healthy bacteria that is needed to preserve fermented foods are naturally present on your vegetables. You just need to control the environment to make sure they flourish instead of the bacteria that causes decomposition.

Why the concern about fermentation?

No one thinks twice before consuming yogurt bought from a store, but when you serve your guests homemade sauerkraut they look at you as if horns are growing out of your head. And yet these foods are made by the same process. This is probably because some people don’t understand how shredding cabbage, adding salt, and letting it sit on your counter would result in a safe and delicious food product, but it indeed does.  

How do I know if my fermented vegetables are edible?

If you do not have any friends who ferment, you might be a bit nervous about making your own fermented vegetables.  How will you know if your ferment tastes and smells the way it is supposed to? Don’t worry. This process is one you will learn to do by experience.

Here are a few general guidelines to get you started:

  • If it is growing hair like a Sesame Street character do not eat it. 

Fermentation is not the growth of mold. If you see anything fuzzy growing on your ferments your product probably did not ferment properly. Just to be safe you should dispose of that item into the compost. Although many experienced fermenters are known to scoop off the fuzz and still consume the product, you should probably play it safe if you are a fermenter newbie. 

  • If it is reminiscent of a rainbow do not eat it. 

Rainbow colours are another sign your ferment may have gone awry. The colours of the vegetables

  • If it’s bubbling like a carbonated drink you have got it right.

Ferments will bubble or boil in their jars. This is perfectly normal and may give you a feeling like you ferment is alive. It’s ok. Your ferment is alive! With healthy bacteria that are doing their work for you.

  • It smells spicy and vinegar like.

This is another great sign! A product once fermented should smell almost spicy or acidified. Many people relate this smell to something similar to vinegar.  It should have a pleasing acidic taste and be crunchy not slimy. It should taste good!

What to ferment?

Many food items can be fermented. It is so easy to ferment and very few supplies are necessary. You will need a high quality salt that is not iodized such as pickling salt or sea salt. You will also need a clean vessels such as mason jars. Then you are ready to select your vegetables to ferment:

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