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As air travel is a necessity for most of we globetrotting fermenters, I thought I’d share my techniques for traveling with jars of pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut. Except when I’m lazy or careless, these techniques ensure a safe commute from point A to point B!
- Pack the glass jar or container to the top. Don’t leave any head space.
- Make sure the jar is water tight– no liquid should leak from the lid when you invert it.
- Wrap glass jars/containers in shock-absorbing material. Apply bubble wrap around the jar, leaving a few inches above and below. 12-inch wide wrap on a roll works well. Cut a 14-inch length to wrap a pint-sized mason jar, or 16-inch length for a quart-sized jar. Tape the wrap together. Alternate method: someone recommended using inflatable wine bottle protectors, but I have not used them myself. I didn’t purchase this bubble wrap, but rather saved it from things I’ve had shipped to me.
- Alternately, transfer contents to a plastic container first, then transfer back to glass containers when you reach your destination. If you want to bring your glass, empty and then wash and dry them, then fill with clean clothes like socks or t shirts (to maximize space) and pack in your luggage. A typical one quart jar weighs about 1 lb (500g).
- Double-bag it. Pack wrapped jars into two (2) gallon-sized zip-top bags, one inside the other. I alternate the seams, putting the zip side of the first bag at the bottom of the second bag (see picture). It may be a tight squeeze to get two quart-sized jars into a single bag. One quart- and one pint-size jar definitely fits fine.
- Check them into your luggage.
- When you retrieve the bag at baggage claim, check it right away to ensure everything made it and there were no incidents. You’ll probably know if there were, as the odors easily permeate the suitcases!
- Get them back into the refrigerator at once! (Unless they’re still fermenting, in which case, set them back up at your destination.)
- I don’t recommend traveling with liquids (i.e. kombucha) although I’ve never tried it.
- Consider traveling using plastic containers. I have used these quart sized screw top containers before. I don’t recommend fermenting foods in these containers, but for a half-day or so of travel, they should be okay. Just repack them into glass once you reach your destination.
- Don’t use a soft-sided case like a duffel bag.
- Don’t Attempt to carry them on the plane with you. I have not tried, however I’d rather not suffer the heartbreak of having some of my beloved jars confiscated, nor getting into an argument with TSA over whether there’s more than 3 ounces of brine!
- Don’t travel with full liquids (like kombucha, kefir, etc.) It’s better to bring a culture with you (a small double-bagged zip-top usually works great), and then start a new batch up at your destination.
Q: Isn’t that an awful lot of plastic to be using?
A: Yes it is, however zip top bags are quite sturdy and can be washed and reused many times. I generally keep using them (washing them between uses) until they tear or get punctured, or until I’ve stored something in them that made them irreversibly stinky or stained, or if I’ve stored meat in them.
What tips and techniques can you share about traveling with your ferments? Please leave a comment!