Little Duck have answered some of our questions...
How long should you leave your ferment?
There is no direct answer to this as it’s all down to personal taste. Ideally, you are looking for good flavour, clean acidity and for a crunchy vegetable. This will usually begin to occur after a couple of weeks. At this point you should start tasting to decide when you’d like to stop the fermentation process.
What are the best conditions to ferment in?
Ferments don’t like direct sunlight but other than this, you can ferment wherever you like. The cooler the area the slower the ferment, the warmer the faster. Once jarred your ferments can be stored in natural light, they don’t need to be hidden away in a dark corner or cupboard. Just don’t keep them in natural sunlight or under a hot light.
What happens when you want to stop the fermenting?
You can decant into an airtight container or jar and store in the fridge. Ferments will keep for months and more in the fridge.
What happens if mould starts to appear?
So long as the mould is white, it’s not harmful. This type of mould can, and often, does appear around the edges if your vegetables are not properly submerged or you’re using an open container. Take a metal spoon and carefully remove any white mould. If some of the mould separates and falls in, again don’t worry because as long as it’s white mould, it’s not harmful. If the mould starts to colour – remove it quickly. Once it starts to colour this mould can digest the pectin and lactic acid turning your crunchy ferments to mush. If left long enough then the vegetables themselves will come to taste like mould. If the mould does discolour you might want to start again.
What vegetables can be fermented?
Anything can be fermented. People often say the greener the vegetable the more potent it can become when fermented. You might want to stick with cold climate vegetables such as, cabbages, turnips and radishes – ultimately leaves, stalks and fruits can be fermented. Softer vegetables, such as squash or cucumber, will ferment at a faster rate.
Can you ferment decaying vegetables?
Vegetables just past their prime and beginning to wilt can be fermented, but anything beyond this should be avoided. You can buy up seconds or slightly wilting vegetables at low prices and these are good to ferment.
Should my ferment be bubbling and foaming?
In the first few days your ferment might foam – don’t worry just skim any foam off from the surface.
What should I do if it’s too salty?
Add water and dilute the salt, mix it about and taste. Repeat if necessary.
Should my ferments smell?
Fermentation is, essentially, controlled decay. It is normal for your ferment to create strong odours. These should be healthy smells rather than putrid smells, but you will learn to love the promise of health that such smells bring. It is up to the personal tastes of the fermenter to decide what is palatable. If you are using airtight jars then the odour will be much less noticeable, if at all. You can always burp your ferments out of the window.
What do I do if my vegetables go slimy or the liquid becomes viscous?
This can happen with some vegetables due to the nature of the vegetable, leave and then test again. It’s sometimes just a stage of the development and will probably right itself. If it continues then discard and start again.
Can you add spice and flavour?
Spice is often a good mould inhibitor. Experiment with adding chilli, ginger, garlic and onions; kimchi is a good example of this, and caraway is often added to sauerkraut. Mixing a range of vegetables and ingredients can help create interesting flavours – some people add seaweed to their ferments, nasturtium leaves are also a good enhancer and mould inhibitor. If using herbs, it’sbest to use dried – fresh herbs can break down too quickly.
TIP: Always protect your ferments with a lid of some sort, even if it’s a muslin cloth. You want to ensure no flies get into the ferment.
Words by Little Duck | The Picklery. Images by James Bannister.
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