New to the whole fermenting thing?

Here are some tips on what you’ll need to get started. Most people start with something simple like sauerkraut.

Equipment

  • Vessel: Glass or ceramic containers, ranging anywhere from 1 quart mason jars, to gallon-glass jars or 2-3 gallon or larger ceramic crocks. Food-grade plastic is okay, too if that’s all you have (Some are concerned about plastic leaching into the food).
  • Weight: Find a lid or plate that fits inside the opening of the container (this will keep the food safe under the brine). Weights like sanitized river rocks, smaller glass jars filled with water, or zip-top bags filled with water work well, too.
  • Sea salt or kosher salt. Most unrefined types like Celtic, “Real” salt, Himalayan, etc. work well. Avoid iodized table salt.
  • Tea towels or swatches of cloth and rubber bands and/or twist ties (to secure your ferments). Avoid cheesecloth, as several types of flies can penetrate the loose weave and infest your food.
  • Storage (post-fermentation): Mason jars, glass jars and bottles with lids of all shapes and sizes (pint- and quart-sized mason jars are the most versatile). Save all your glass food jars!
  • Clean, filtered water– as high quality as you can afford.

Ingredients

Whenever possible, find ingredients that are:

  • Seasonal- In-season produce is cheaper and more abundant, and it’s in keeping with traditional foodmaking wisdom
  • Local- locally grown ingredients taste better, and are picked closer to their most ripe; it also helps the wild bacteria and yeasts get a leg up (since they’re already used to the local conditions)
  • Organic- tastes better and studies have shown that it contains more nutrients; pesticides can retard the growth of good bacteria and yeasts

Books

There has been an explosion in the number of fermentation books being published the past few years. If you’re a beginner, we recommend:

Wild Fermentation by our friend Sandor Katz.

Katz also wrote the James Beard-award winning The Art of Fermentation which is a fascinating historical and cultural narrative that does contain a lot of techniques and recipes, too. However it is written in narrative form rather than a strict recipe book.

We also like Branden Byers’ The Everyday Fermentation Handbook

6 thoughts on “Start Fermenting

  1. Becky

    Are there any Fermenters groups in The Florida Keys?
    How ’bout South Florida.
    I live in Marathon.
    Would love to hook up with people in the Keys.

    • Austin

      Hi Becky,
      We’ll keep an eye and ear open for locating other south Florida/Keys fermenters. Thank you!

  2. Mikki

    You are now famous! Saw you in the latest addition of Sunset. I’ve been fermenting for about two years but use whey. Have you tried whey and if so, do you see any difference than just salt alone? I’ve done several demos for my local WAPF chapter, one on beet kvass and the other on lacto-feremented mayo and ketchup. I will explore your site more and give some thought to starting a club here.

    • Austin

      Hi Mikki,
      Thanks for looking us up online! I have used whey to start a veggie ferment, but frankly have not personally found any difference in quality versus a purely “wild” ferment. If you have salt concerns, I think using whey allows you to not have to use as much salt. I know folks who swear by it, though.

      We’d love to see you start a club in your area, especially with your demo experience.
      Thank you!

  3. bajabarb

    Buenas Dias from Baja California! I retired down here because of the easy life style that is Mexico. I subscribe to Sunset Magazine and was very excited to see your article. One great feature of Mexico marketplaces, there are now many organic farmers. Baby boomers are settling in Baja, and wines, cheeses, olive oils and herbs are becoming quite popular. I’m ready to get started… you should see all the cabbages, variaties of chiles, onions, and other vegetables I get to choose from. It’s exciting! Baja Barb

    • Austin

      ¡Hola Barb y muchas gracias!
      Is that an invitation? 🙂 We’d love to road trip down to Baja to check it out. Seriously, we’re just up the road!

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