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Cabbage heavy ferments will expand, and if the cabbage is on the drier side, it will absorb moisture. Both of these factors can lead to what looks like a loss of brine, and can lead to unsatisfactory conditions. It’s important that all the veggies remain submerged in the brine, so if that means you need to remove veggies, or add brine/water, you should do whatever is most appropriate.
Headroom is still a consideration to keep in mind. We recommend 4” of headspace, as you get to know how much expansion and bubbling action takes place, you can decrease that headspace to a certain point, but we recommend starting at 4” for dry brines, 2” for wet brines. Definitely keep your eyes on it and adjust as needed by either removing some cabbage and/or adding water or brine.
As you ferment more, you will be able to fine tune how much brine you will need with how much airspace, given your technique at preparation and ability to read the moisture content of the cabbage.
First makes sure that what you are seeing is mold and not kham yeast. A good way to do this is to read through the getting started primer and make sure it is in fact mold.
The lid creates an anaerobic environment where no oxygen is present so mold growth is extremely rare if the fermenting process has taken root.
Kahm yeast is not harmful, but it is off putting and can smell a little odd. You should remove it from the ferment so it does not impart a bad odor, but a little bit left in the jar is not harmful to the veggies or to you.
If it is mold, be sure to contact us so that we can help you troubleshoot what went wrong with your ferment, and of course toss it out!!
It’s very important that your ingredients remains submerged to properly ferment. Anything floating out of the brine is susceptible to mold since it is not submerged in the solution that provides the beneficial fermenting environment.
Weighing down your vegetables is an option using glass stones, cabbage leaf, marbles in cheesecloth, etc.
The point of the pump is to remove oxygen from inside the jar later as you sample your ferment.
While oxygen is present in the headspace of the jar as you place the lid on to begin fermentation, it is pushed out by CO₂ that the microorganisms release. The lid is essentially a valve that allows this build up of gas to escape.
At the later stages of the ferment, you would use the pump (1-2 pumps), after opening the jars when testing your batch to extract the oxygen that was introduced by removing the lid. This is when your batch is most susceptible to mold and the pump should be used.
To evacuate oxygen, place the the rubber end of the pump over the lid (with the pump handle in the pushed in/down position) and exert downward pressure so that the the rubber end maintains a constant seal around the valve. Then, pull up on the pump, this counts as one pump.
There are a few different signs that your ferment is ready for cold storage. The first thing you should look at is if the jar has gone cloudy. If it has, they are getting close. It is probably worth to test before 7 days though. Your specific environment will change the speed of the ferment, so if it is your first few ferments testing will help you get a better understanding of your personal taste as well as how long the ferment will take in your environment.
Bubbling is also a good sign and means that the lactic acid bacteria are creating the gases necessary for fermentation.
When you check, first smell the brine. It should have a pleasant vinegar aroma. Next, taste the brine, if it is still very salty then the ferment is probably not done. If the batch is not too salty, then taste it and see if it taste good.
If you are happy with the taste, move your ferment to cold storage. If it is not done, just put the lid on and give it a pump or two (but no need to over pump).
After a while you will begin to get a much more accurate idea as to how long different ferments take.
Kahm yeast is completely harmless and mostly tasteless at lower concentrations. High sugar and temperature (carrots, beets; +70 F), and low salt are common causes, but sometimes it seems like there’s no way to stop it.
You may want to try internet image searching “kahm yeast sauerkraut/kvass/pickles” etc to see if you can match a similar image. Mold is typically fuzzy or hairy, while Kahm yeast, which takes on a white/off-white flake, particulate, or bubble appearance is not.
Once the ferment has been moved to the fridge I remove the weighting device from my jar. It is still important however to try and keep your veggies submerged even once they are in cold storage. Sometimes, you can just add a little filtered water to ensure there is enough liquid in your jar.
There are no hard rules when it comes to cold storage and will depend a lot on what you are fermenting.
The length of time that your ferment will last will also depend a lot on what you are fermenting, fridge temperature, and what you used (salt, etc) for the fermentation process. Typically though, your ferment will last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. However, if you are in doubt it is always better to throw it out. Be sure never to eat a ferment that tastes or smells unpleasant.
Ideally, 60-80° F is best, with lower Kahm yeast development on the lower side of that range. Fermenting at higher temperatures is definitely possible it is just may not be as ideal for you. The ferment time will be quicker and the taste will be a little different, but those could be positive for you.
Vegetables cannot really be fermented in the fridge. Cold storage is what is used to slow/stop the fermentation process.
Unfortunately we do not. We developed the Easy Fermenter for fermenting food, but we don’t see why it wouldn’t work for other types of anaerobic fermenting. We have no experimented with it in other ways, but please let us know if you have found a great new fermenting use.
Most lacto-fermented foods will last months in the fridge. While the flavor will change slightly with time, your ferment will still be good to eat. Unlike canning, breaking the seal once in the fridge is not an issue because of the environment the microorganisms have created through fermentation. This allows you to transfer your Easy Fermenter lid and mason jar directly into the fridge without the need to re-bottle or ferment smaller batches.
Yes, a cloudy brine is perfectly normal and can actually mean that the ferment is almost complete.
Extra room (headspace/headroom) at the top of your jar is most important when dry brining. Dry brining causes expansion as the fermentation takes place, so it its best to leave at least 2-4” of headspace until you begin seeing how much expansion takes place. Once you have a few ferments under your belt, you will be able to fine tune how much headspace you should leave with your technique of packing jars.
Wet brining doesn’t cause as much expansion, but if you don’t have enough room, some foam may push through the valve. We recommend a couple of inches when you start out, and then you can adjust that value as you get more familiar.
Fermenting fruit can be a little tricky but you have a few options if you don’t want to use whey.
1) You can buy a commercial starter culture.
2) You can use the brine from a previous ferment – Saurkraut, pickles or most vegetable brines will work, but all will effect the taste of the ferment slightly.
3) You can use kefir water or kombucha but we find this can create a bit of a slimy ferment.
The nice thing about fruit fermenting is it only takes a couple of days to ferment a batch so it is perfect for testing different combinations.
A starter culture is a solution or freeze dried powder that has many millions of microorganisms already established, ready to go to work for you. Certain recipes, such as fruit based ferments or ferments which have a higher sugar content have a hard time fermenting with just salt.
You can purchase starter culture which will aid in the ferment, but you can also use a previous brine from an already fermented batch. You can also use whey or kefir water.
Many vendors online or at your specialty food store have starter cultures specific for what you are looking to ferment.
Filtered tap, distilled and reverse osmosis (RO) water can be used. Be aware there is some debate on how distilling and RO effects taste minerals are left behind in processing.
An activated charcoal/carbon filter is great too. You will want to make sure your water is free of chlorine and/or chloramines, or that your filtering process removes those compounds that are detrimental the mircoorganisms in your ferment.
If this is one of your first few ferments I would recommend tasting more often so you start to get an idea of how long the ferment is going to take in your specific environment. Anytime you want to test it out, just reseal by giving the jar a couple of pumps.
Fermentation is a continual process, and your flavors will continue to change over time, as soon as you are happy with the taste you should move your ferment to cold storage (fridge).