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Food Fermenters

Food fermentation is easy and rewarding, put that garden to work and start fermenting your next meal today!  Our Food Fermenters can be used to ferment most anything, from fermented beverages like kefir & kombucha to fermented vegetables, hot sauce, kimchi and even sourdough starters! We also have a giant selection of yeast & bacteria like lactobacillus cultures that we sell for beer & winemaking that work perfectly for fermenting other foods and beverages. Add a little brewer’s yeast to that sourdough starter and enjoy a fresh bread friday!

Want to learn More! about Food Fermentation? Click here, to check out our articles on making Hot Sauce & Kimchi!

 

Food Fermentation

Food Fermentation

By Tim Murray
 
There are lots of fermented foods: kimchis, mustards, pickles and even desserts.  But by far the most popular is hot sauce.  Sure you can take some chili peppers, onions, garlic and other ingredients and grind them into smithereens to make a pretty good hot sauce. But ferment those same ingredients first and you’ll have a hot sauce that zings with layers of fruity, funky and fabulous flavors.
 
Don’t worry, you can do it!  Lacto-fermenting your food isn’t as hard as it sounds and you’re unlikely to harm your friends.  It’s a pretty simple process of combining veggies, salt and time.  But where’s the yeast? Well the lacto, in lacto-fermenting, refers to lactobacillus bacteria.  These critters are naturally found on your veggies, fruits and other foods.  They are friendly bacteria, and given the right environment will happily transform your chilis from good to great.
 
The key to a good lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic saline solution with plenty of food to eat.  Lactobacillus bacteria don’t need oxygen, but many of their food spoiling competitors do.  So keep your veggies under a brine to keep the nasties out.  Let’s look at the things you’ll need to do this successfully:
 
A Vessel: You have lots of options here from ornate crocks to simple mason jars.  What’s important is that your vessel fits your environment and the size of your batches.  A pint or quart size mason jar works for most home cook ferments.
 
A Lid: In the process of fermentation, the bacteria will emit carbon dioxide (CO2).  You need a lid that let’s this CO2 escape without letting oxygen in (remember, we don’t like oxygen, the nasties do).  There’s a plethora of gadgets out there to solve this problem.  But if you’re just starting out, or enjoy the more frugal route, then go with the burping method. Simply seal your vessel with a standard lid, then 24 hours later unscrew it, release the CO2 and screw it back on.  At the height of fermentation you may want to burp more frequently, but this method is generally effective.
 
Salt: Salt is pretty cool and it does amazing things. For our purposes it helps the lacto bacteria triumph over the nasties.  Natural salts are best here, but whatever you do stay away from iodized salts. Iodine is antimicrobial - not exactly what we want here.
 
Water: The only thing to avoid with water is chlorine since, like iodine in salt, it can inhibit fermentation.  You likely won’t need a lot of water, so just go with a store bought distilled or run your tap water through a charcoal filter prior to using.
 
Temperature: Let’s keep it simple; room temperature is fine. It’s also best to avoid direct sunlight.
 
Time: If you like absolute answers, skip to the end of this section. There is no simple formula to know when your ferment is done.  Warmer temperature ferments will generally finish faster than cooler ones, but there can be exceptions. So how do you know when it’s done?  Use your eyes, nose and mouth to tell. When a ferment is done, the brine will be cloudy.  Finished ferments smell acidic and pickley. And the taste, well that’s up to you.  If you like the taste, it’s done! Understandably, some of you need more definitive proof that your ferment is complete.  Well, a finished ferment will have a pH below 4.6.  So if you have a way to measure pH, there you go.
 
Putting It All Together
 
Of the many varieties of hot sauce, I enjoy Carribean style sauces for their bright, sweet and fiery flavors - perfect on top of fish and rice, with a cold crisp lager, a beach, warm sun and a cool breeze.  This recipe is one of my favorites.
 
Hot Sauce Recipe

Habanero Carrot Hot Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:
  • ½ pound carrots (I prefer yellow to match the color of the chilis, but any carrots will do)
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 6 habaneros, seeded and sliced (use fewer chilis if you like less heat)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup brine (1 cup unchlorinated water with ¾ tablespoons of salt)

Steps:

  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the brine, in a bowl and mix well.  Then, pack tightly into your fermentation vessel.
  2. Pour in enough brine to cover the vegetables completely.  Screw on your lid.
  3. Place the vessel out of direct sunlight and allow it to ferment. Don’t forget to burp the jar!
  4. Once fermentation is complete, puree everything, even the brine.  If it’s too thick, you can add some additional brine to thin it out.  Store in jars or hot sauce bottles in the refrigerator.  Stored cool, the sauce should last up to 12 months.
Variation: you can add fruit to the mix when you blend your sauce to create a sweeter and fruitier version.  Pineapple, pear, plum and other sweet fruits all make for interesting variations.
 

Making Kimchi At Home

By Mark (Ciderman) Johnson

Homemade Kimchi

I have always liked Kim Chi since I first tried it, in the 1960’s in Berkeley, CA, when I first ate at a Korean restaurant, but I could only eat a little bit because it was too hot.  Then, in 2013, for health reasons, I went on a special, very restrictive diet.  One of the things I could eat was fermented foods, as long as I did not include any of the restrictive foods in the fermentation.  Kim Chi has none of the restricted foods in it, except for the red pepper.
 
One day, I noticed at my local Whole Foods, something called Baek Kim Chi, it had no red pepper in it.  I bought a package and took it home to eat.  I also bought several varieties of sauerkraut.  I really liked the Baek Kim Chi, but I thought it was very expensive.  I figured I could make it, so I went on line and started searching for recipes.
 
It turns out, that Baek Kim Chi is kind of a special occasion Kim Chi.  I did find a recipe and I modified it a bit so I could make a lot of it one time and put it in mason jars and keep it in my beer refrigerator.  It will keep two years or so, continuing to ferment very slowly and becoming a little more tart, the longer it is kept, while continuing to keep the fermenting bacteria alive.  But it is best to eat it within a few months.

Baek (White) Kimchi Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 2 5 lb. Nappa Cabbages.
  • 1 1/3 cup Korean Sea Salt
  • 1 ½ lb. Korean Radish or Daikon, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 ½ cups Buchu (Asian Chives) cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 12 Jujubes, seeded, cut into thin strips (I used fresh, I prefer dried)
  • 7 fresh chestnuts, peeled and cut into thin strips. (Optional. Use packaged or skip if not in season)
  • 7 TBS pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 red bell pepper (1 cup worth) cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips.
  • 2 large Asian Pears (7 cups worth) peeled and cored.
  • 13 Garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cup onion
  • 4 tsp ginger
Making Kimchi At Home Step 1
 
Directions:
  • Trim off any damaged leaves, cut off bottom to clean.  Cut cabbages in quarters, remove cores.
  • Cut quarters in half depending on how large and then cut into about 1.5 inch pieces
  • Place pieces in very large bowls.  Rinse each batch in cold water and drain thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle the leaves with 1/4 cup sea salt and mix, then sprinkle with another ¼ cup sea salt and mix again thoroughly.  (For about 5 lbs. of cabbage.)  Also do the second batch the same way.  Let them sit for 1 ½ to 2 hours, turning them over about every 20 minutes.
  • After salting, drain the cabbage, rinse 3 times with cold water and drain as much water as you can. Set aside.  Volume will be reduced about 50%.
Make Vegetable blend:
  • Combine radish, carrot, jujubes, Asian chives, chestnuts, red bell pepper and pine nuts in a bowl.  Mix together.
  • Divide mixture in half and mix into each bowl of salted Napa cabbage.  Place one batch into cleaned and sanitized fermenting vessel to free up one large bowl. Set aside.

Making Kimchi Step 2

Make Seasoning mix for brine: For ten pound of cabbage, I did two batches.

  • In a blender, blend half the pear, onion, garlic, and ginger until it is creamy.

Making Kimchi At Home Step 3

Make a brine: 
  • Mix 6 cups of chlorine free water and 4 tablespoons of sea salt (Iodine free) in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.  Stir it well until the salt is fully dissolved. 
  • Put one batch of the creamy blended seasoning mix into a very fine mesh bag.  (A large hop bag will do.)
  • Press it down submerged in the brine so the seasonings seep through.  Squeeze it a bit with the spoon, and stir the brine for a while to get all the flavor out of the puree.  Don’t overdo it as you want to keep the fiber from going into the brine too much.  Remove the bag.

Making Kimchi At Home Step 4

Make the Kimchi:
  • Take the bowl of seasoned brine and pour it over the cabbage in the fermenting vessel.  With a non-reactive spoon stir and mix the brine into the cabbage and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Repeat the same procedure for the second 5 pound batch and put it into the fermenting vessel.
  • As an alternative, I do something that is not necessary to making Kimchi.  But I like to be sure I am going to have a good fermentation.  So I add probiotic cultures to the brine.
  • In this batch I added one packet of Dr.  Mercola’s Culture for Vegetables for each five pound batch. I have in the past used The Vitamin Shoppe’s Ultimate 10 + probiotics, removing the powder from the capsules. After thoroughly mixing the brine and the vegetables, I take the four large cabbage leaves and cover the cabbage pieces completely so only the large cabbage leaves are visible under the brine at the top of the fermenter.
  • Next place the sanitized weights on top of the large cabbage leaves and press down slightly make sure brine covers the cabbage leaves by at least one inch. If it doesn’t just add unchlorinated water to make sure it is covered at least an inch.
  • Put the lid on the fermenter.  Place the fermenter on a tray that can catch and hold the liquid in case of an overflow.
  • Place the fermenter in an out of the way location where the temperature will remain between approximately 70F to 85F. 
  • Fill the airlock channel of the fermenter with water above the gas escape cutouts.
  • I allow the fermentation to carry on for about a week.  If you like it less sour, it can be checked from 1.5 to 3 days to see if the brine is to your liking.  The warmer it is, the faster it will ferment.
    Once you are satisfied with the flavor profile, it can be refrigerated in the fermentation crock to slow down the fermentation.  Or it can be packed in sterile mason jars first, and then refrigerated.
Packaging Kimchi in mason jars:
  • Clean and sanitize the jars in a dishwasher or boiling water for 15 minutes.  I don’t use StarSan because it can kill the live culture. (That is its purpose.)
  • Get the plastic lids for the size mason jars you are using.  (One can use the metal lids and bands, but the Kimchi needs to be eaten as soon as possible as the acid can attack the lids and bands.)
  • Use the Ball canning funnel to make life easier.  Use a nonreactive large spoon to spoon the finished Kimchi into the jar through the canning funnel until jar is just over half full.
  • Use a wooden tamper / masher to tamp down the Kimchi firmly.  Then continue filling the jar and tamping until the brine overflows the jar.
  • Remove the funnel.  Make sure brine covers all the vegetables and that there is at least ¼ inch of headspace.  Place the cover on the jar.
  • Rinse the jar with cold water and dry.  Then place jars in refrigerator.  Be aware that the jars may over flow as they continue to ferment.
So that is it for how I make this kind of Kimchi. One thing to mention is that you will probably have a quart or two of liquid left over after packaging the Kimchi.  This liquid is packed with live probiotic cultures.  One tablespoon will probably provide more probiotics than 5 or 6 capsules one buys as a supplement.  Also, one can use it as a starter for another batch of fermented vegetables.  I wonder what it would do to sour a beer?