Ferment Foods in Small Batches – A Great Way to Preserve Your Harvest!
Ferment food in small batches for a versatile method of home preservation! This is very helpful for homesteaders, foodies, and anyone who wants to preserve small harvests of veggies and fruits. Lacto-fermentation adds probiotics to your foods and increases the availability of the nutrients. It is also a method of food preservation that requires no electricity, refrigeration, or cooking. It’s a great skill to have if you:
- would like to increase the nutritional content of your veggies
- would like to learn a new method of food preservation
- plan to live off-grid
- wish to practice age-old homesteading skills
- want to be prepared for long term power outages
Lacto-fermenting is the process by which beneficial lactobacilli alter vegetable matter, preserving it and making it easier to digest. These Lacto-fermented foods are reputed to have more available vitamins, enzymes, antibiotics, and cancer-fighting compounds than the raw foods they were made from.
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Small Batch Versatility
Sometimes I ferment food in a large crock, then transfer it to mason jars stored in my refrigerator. My grandmother used the same method to make pickles in her old ceramic crocks. I love having a big batch of pickles ‘curing’ on the counter in the summer…it makes me think of my Gram.
There are pros and cons to fermenting food in large crocks. If you have a large family, or you eat a lot of fermented vegetables, the crock is a great way to preserve in big batches. It’s also pretty cool to use the same vessel used by our ancestors.
However, our family of three doesn’t go through enough lacto-fermented pickles, sauerkraut, and other veggies to make this the best method for us. It’s also very nice to have the ability to make small batches of several different recipes at the same time without having big crocks sitting all over the kitchen, basement, or root cellar.
How to Ferment Food in Small Batches
To create small batches of Lacto-fermented foods, you will need:
- non-reactive containers
- non-iodized salt
- food to ferment
- a weight to keep food submerged
- cheesecloth, plastic wrap, or a lid and airlock system to keep your ferment clean
Most recipes will call for prepared vegetables (shredded, chopped, sliced, or pounded), non-iodized salt, spices, and possibly water and vinegar. In some recipes, the brine will be created by mixing the salt with the prepared vegetables, then mixing and mashing the food to extract the natural juices. Sauerkraut is one such recipe.
Other recipes will call for a brine solution made with water and salt, and possibly vinegar. My brine-cured pickles are made this way. Once you have your produce ready, you’ll need an appropriate container to keep them clean and submerged in the brine until they are ready to eat.
I’ve made pickles and other Lacto-fermented vegetables using a glass bowl, plate, plastic wrap, and sea salt. If you have a non-reactive container and some plastic wrap, you can get started on this project today!
Be aware that the brine may drip onto your counter and the ferment needs to be checked often to make sure the veggies aren’t floating to the top. As long as you pay attention, this is an inexpensive way to start fermenting small batches of your harvest right away.
You can also create a system from your own canning jars, an airlock from a homebrewing store, a rubber gasket, canning lid with a hole punched for the airlock and gasket, screw band, and a weight to hold the food under the brine solution.
You can see the basic set up in my photo of Spicy Carrot-Kraut, in which I used in a fermentation system from a company called Fermentools. This method of fermenting is pretty simple to set up and needs very little attention once the airlock is in place.
Helpful Hints for Fermenting Foods at Home
There are lots of recipes online now for home fermented veggies. Be sure that you follow the recipe and remember the following tips for a successful fermentation:
- Use non-iodized salt. Iodine kills bacteria.
- Keep it in the dark. Sunshine kills bacteria.
- Different kinds of salt have different weights per volume. You may wish to buy a food scale for accuracy. (Some recipes use grams, percents, or specific volumes of salt for their recipes.)
- Very cold temps slow the growth of lactobacilli.
- Keep it submerged – food that comes into contact with the air can spoil.
- Use non-reactive materials – to prevent off-flavors.
- Don’t use your fingers – use a spoon to remove food from ferment to check on its progress.
- If it smells rancid or food is slimy, toss it out!
Once you learn to ferment your own pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchee you’ll have trouble stopping!
Do you ferment food? Do you have a system that you use? What is your favorite recipe?
Disclaimer: I received products to review and to give away from Fermentools. I have enjoyed using their products and I think you would like them too.
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