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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!

Equipment

  1. 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).
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Ingredients

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

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  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.

 

5 thoughts on “Start Fermenting

  1. 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!

  2. Austin

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