Lesson One: Equipment for Basic Fermentation
For the purposes of this course, we are keeping our equipment needs light. While you can invest in things like fermentation crocks the truth is that you can easily start with most things with just what you have at home.
A glass jar (we like clip top jars with the seal removed to ferment most things. They are inexpensive, easy to use and clean and can be easily sealed once fermentation has stopped and you want to pop them in the fridge).
A rolling pin for bashing veg and stuffing them into jars
Salt or sugar
Vegetables and Fruit
Yep. That is it. One of the benefits of fermentation is that it is really easy to start right now.
Salt is often a crucial element in fermentation. That is because the salinity of the water creates an environment where LABs can thrive. You will need to add some salt to your ferments to help with fermentation and while I like things quite salty, there is an element of taste here - you can usually get away with a lower amount of salt than the recipe calls for if you need to limit it for health or taste reasons.
For most types of lacto fermentation, you may also need a fermentation weight of some kind. As we discussed previously, most moulds and “bad bacteria” need oxygen to grow. By keeping your veg under the surface of the liquid, you are ensuring that these do not grow. You can do this in a number of ways. I use discarded cabbage leaves for most of my cabbage based ferments like sauerkraut and kimchi. For other pickles, I also ensure things are packed tightly. You can also use a smaller jar that sits in the mouth of your fermenting jar or another handy trick is to use a plastic bag filled with brine (in case it leaks into your pickle). You can also buy fermentation weights.
However, you may still find that a small layer of mould does grow on your ferments. That is totally OK. Just scrape it off and move on.
Choosing Fruit and Veg
When it comes to choosing your fruit and vegetables, buy the best you can, but don’t stress. While we use organic methods here at Gartur Stitch Farm, it isn’t always available to everyone and the benefits of fermentation can be seen with any fruit and veg. That said, there can be problems with getting fermentation going if you are using irradiated veg. In the UK, this isn’t a practice that is used regularly, but imported foods such as ginger are often irradiated. In countries like the USA where irradiation is a more common practice, you may not get the levels of fermentation you would hope for.