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.
- 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.
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
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