Here is everything you need to start fermenting at home. Spoiler: it’s not much, and you probably have most of it in your kitchen already!
- Vessel: Glass or ceramic containers, ranging from pint-sized mason jars, to one-gallon-glass pickle jars or 2-3 gallon or larger ceramic or glass crocks. Food-grade plastic containers are okay, too (although some are concerned about plastic leaching into the food).
- Weigh it Down: Find a heavy, waterproof object (like a lid or plate) that fits inside the opening of the container. This weight will act to keep the food submerged under the brine. Sanitized rocks, glass jars filled with water, or zip-top bags filled with water work well. It’s Fine Under the Brine!
- Take Cover: Tea towels or swatches of cloth and rubber bands and/or twist ties should be used to secure your ferments. Avoid cheesecloth, as flying insects can penetrate the loose weave and infest the goods beneath.
- Small Batch Fermentation Kits: If you’re ready to step up your game, there are some pro-tools out there to make fermenting almost hassle-free! They provide a weight and a clever way to cover the fermenting vessel and reduce maintenance.
Here’s a video review series we did comparing some of these small batch tools.
- 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! You should generally store finished ferments in the refrigerator, which acts as a fermentation super-slow-mo.
- Sea salt. Most vegetable fermentations require salt, which acts as a microbial inhibitor, regulating which microbes are allowed in and which are not. It’s best to use unrefined salts like sea salt; also mineral-rich brands like Celtic, Himalayan, etc. work well. Avoid iodized table salt– it contains iodine and/or anti-caking agents, both which can inhibit fermentation.
- Water. Find a high quality water source. Most municipal water sources have residual disinfectants (chlorine or chloramines) even when they come out of your tap, so it’s best to filter it somehow. There are many different filtering technologies out there, everything from reverse-osmosis (RO) systems, to simple charcoal filters (e.g. “Brita” pitchers).
- Vegetables. Whenever possible, find ingredients that are:
- Seasonal- In-season produce is cheaper and more abundant, and it’s in keeping with traditional food-making wisdom
- Organic- tastes better and studies have shown that it contains more nutrients; pesticides (which are more commonly found on conventionally grown produce) can inhibit the growth of good bacteria and yeasts
- 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)
Recipes for Beginners
If you’re brand-spanking new to the whole fermenting thing, congratulations, and welcome to the club! Here are some simple “wild fermented” recipes to get you going. They don’t require a starter culture.
ONLINE COURSES (Fermenters Club Academy)
Check out our ever-growing list of online courses which take you on an in-depth journey on how to make various fermented foods.
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 and the James Beard-award winning The Art of Fermentation are written by our friend Sandor Katz. The first is a great entry-level book. The second is wonderful, too– it is more narrative and goes more in depth on cultural fermentation traditions as opposed to a straight-up recipe book.
We also like Branden Byers’ The Everyday Fermentation Handbook as a good starting point.