Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Fermenting vegetables at home: how, why, and some recipes

leave a comment »

Most recent revision: 14 March 2023 – red-potato ferment.

6 Nov 2021 – I can tell that fermenting vegetables, like making tempeh (also fermentation), is going to be an ongoing learning experience, at least for a while. Such projects seem best documented in a single post that I extend and revise as I learn — cf. my posts on my diet, on making tempeh, on implementing Covey’s 7 Habits, on personal budget planning and control, on cast-iron skillets, and so on. (Such posts generally end up on the “Useful posts” page.)

Fermented vegetables are particularly of interest because a research study at Stanford University (no paywall) showed that including fermented foods in one’s diet has real and measurable health benefits.

In particular, fermenting diced raw potatoes (to use in salads, eat as a snack, or add to a bowl of stir-fried veggies) was of particular interest to me. I’m a type 2 diabetic, and I’ve found cooked potatoes tend to spike my blood glucose. I do now eat Stokes Purple® potatoes (for reasons explained in this video), and to minimize the blood-glucose hit, I roast them whole (in the skin, which contains significant nutrients) and then refrigerate them to make the starch resistant. They are long skinny potatoes, so generally I eat them cold and as though they were bananas (since they are somewhat sweet). 

Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium along with other minerals and vitamins, and it annoyed me that I had to be so careful in eating them. (Their potassium is mostly in the skin, BTW.) But raw potatoes are totally resistant starch — they have zero net carbs. (It’s the cooking that breaks down the starch into easily digested sugars.) So the idea of fermented raw potatoes was particularly appealing to me: no impact on blood glucose, I get the nutritional benefit, they are both prebiotic and probiotic, and they’re tasty — plus they’re a cinch to make and are ready in just a few days. — The second batch of fermented raw potatoes was particularly good and much better than the first attempt. A third batch is now underway. 

So this post is now the designated post for documenting my experience and lessons learned in fermenting vegetables. It includes some recipes. Below is the table of contents for this post. Some entries are links, and those take you to the actual posts briefly described in this post. 

• Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar
• Equipment
• Three Informative videos
• Starter Culture
• Fermentation starter
• Advice pages on vegetable fermentation
• Mold: What to do about it and how to prevent it
• Loosening packed shredded vegetables
12-minute podcast on nutritional aspects of fermented foods
• Do the probiotics in fermented foods survive digestion?
Beets & Leeks
• Second run at Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar
Cabbage & Red (Onion, Apple, and Radish)
• Two Pro Home Cooks videos on fermenting vegetables
• Experimenting with the Carrot Cake in a Jar recipe
Leek kraut with tarragon
Red kraut 
Good sauerkraut video and a new batch of red-cabbage kraut
Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut 
Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut reprised
Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera
Ferment Melange
• 24-Hour Ferment: Carrots, Apples, & Dried Barberries [failure]
Kale & Cabbage (& Other)
Beets & Leeks reprised, with changes
Raw potatoes (!)
The Big Red One (and lesson on mixing as I go)
Cayenne pepper sauce
Brussels sprouts and red cabbage — and using brine
Christmas ferment (red cabbage and green kale)
Beets & Leeks once more
Basic Beets
Potatoes with onion & tarragon
Redskin potatoes

Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar Recipe

Right after all added to jar.

[This section is first because this is where the whole thing began. I saw this recipe, I was intrigued, I made it and liked it, and then I started seeing what else I might ferment. – LG]

Today (5 Sept 2021) I made this recipe from Cultured Food Life. I assume “shredded” means “coarsely grated.” I experimented with dicing the apples rather than grating them. Didn’t work — grated is better. This recipe contains my modifications: doubling walnuts, dates, spices (except cloves), and vanilla.

2 cups carrots, shredded
8 whole dates, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt or French sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole apples, shredded 
1/8 teaspoon Cutting Edge Starter Culture

If you’re using the packaged starter culture, put the right amount (1/2 packet for 1 qt or 1 liter, or 1 full packet for 2 quarts or 2 liters) in 1 cup of spring water. (Tap water is often chlorinated, which works against the culture. I’ve also read that distilled water doesn’t work well at all.) Let that sit while you prepare the vegetables. 

The recommendation of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt is because of their mineral content — refined salt lacks those minerals. The specific recommendation was for Celtic sea salt, but in Canada I found Paludier Fine Grey Sea Salt, which seems to be the actual thing sold under the Celtic brand name, but it costs less than half as much as Celtic sea salt. So look around at the various grey sea salts and see what you can find. Coarse is cheaper than fine, but fine dissolves better, so I stick with fine. I now use Kirkland sea salt (from Brazil), which is quite inexpensive. 

Prepare everything except the apples and put that into a large bowl. Mix well using your (clean) hands. This allows you to feel when the diced dates are stuck together and break them apart. 

Once all that is mixed well, grate and add the apples and mix those in. (This sequence gives the grated apples less time to oxidize. I have used Royal Gala, Envy, and Honeycrisp. What I want is crisp, crunchy, and sweet, with a nice red peel.)

Once the apples are mixed in well, add the cup of water that contains the activated starter culture and mix well to ensure the culture is evenly distributed. Fill the jar — don’t pack it tightly; fermentation works better if it’s not packed too tightly — and put a fermentation weight into the jar, then add brined spring water to bring the liquid level to the bottom of the fermentation weight, and cap with a fermentation airlock. There should be an inch or two of space in the jar: vegetables will expand. 

Use bottled spring water, because chlorinated water will inhibit the growth of the microbes. Tap water is almost always chlorinated. And add sufficient salt to make a brine — if you add plain water, you will dilute the concentration of salt.

Instead of a packaged starter culture, for this first batch I just used about 1 cup of juice from sauerkraut from the refrigerated section (i.e., unpasteurized sauerkraut in which the culture is still living, unlike sauerkraut on the shelves with canned goods) and then added enough water to cover the vegetables (and that should have been brine — I didn’t know). You can also use the whey drained from a yogurt (plain yogurt: just milk and culture, nothing else) that has an active culture (i.e., a yogurt that is not pasteurized). Drain it through cheesecloth. What remains in the cheesecloth is yogurt cheese, very tasty, and the liquid that drains away is whey, which contains a lot of the active lactobacillus culture.

However, there are significant advantages to using a starter culture, and that is what i now always do.

I recommend using a wide-mouth 1 quart (or 1 liter) canning jar. (I later discovered Weck cylindrical canning jars; the 1.5L jar is ideal for fermenting — see below.) A canning funnel helps in filling a wide-mouth jar.  Cover the jar in a way that keeps air out but lets gas escape. (A silicone fermentation airlock lid is ideal for that, and I now have a set. Or you can use a coffee filter, upside down, and secure it with the screw-on ring, as shown in a couple of the videos below. For the Weck jar, I just let the lid rest on top, on the gasket.) Let it ferment, usually for two weeks but sometimes just for a few days.

During the night after I packed the jar full and set it on the counter to ferment, it occurred to me that the carrots and apples would likely expand, causing some overflow. I therefore put the jar in a bowl, and this morning around noon I did find liquid in the bowl. I tasted it, and it does indeed taste like carrot cake. Because of my inexperience, I had filled the jar too full with liquid. Lesson learned: Leave airspace at the top. But I also think placing each jar in a bowl is a good idea — and with a later batch, where I was more careful with liquid level, I did have some overflow. Nowadays I put jars on a rimmed baking sheet, usually the quarter-sheet size.

A process like this fermentation roughly follows an exponential curve: initially very little visible activity, but then things speed up. I expect that tomorrow (the second day of fermentation), fermentation will be visible, and certainly on the third day I will see activity. 

So far, so good.

Three days later: It’s extremely tasty. I thought it would be sour (like sauerkraut), but it’s just somewhat tart. I’m definitely making this again. I’ll now order some proper equipment. (I didn’t want to buy supplies until I knew whether I liked it.)

. .

Fermentation airlock and fermentation weight, both for wide-mouth jars

6 Nov 2021 – Lesson learned from the first batch above: get wide-mouth jars: easier to load and easier to dip out fermented vegetables. Unlike regular-mouth jars, wide-mouth jars are more cylindrical, without narrowing at the aperture (the proverbial bottleneck). – update: see just below on Weck jars

I now have a dozen 1-litre wide-mouth canning jars (easier to find here than 1-qt jars, but more is better, right?), four silicone fermentation airlock lids for wide-mouth jars (but note DIY airlock using coffee filter, shown in video below), four glass fermentation weights for wide-mouth jars (like these), and a package of starter culture. I’ve also ordered a tamper (like this one), though after ordering it I learned you don’t want to pack the jars too tightly or the ferment won’t work so well. Still, it has come in handy and I find I use it in every ferment I make.

Now I use Weck 1.5-liter cylindrical jars

As noted above, I later discovered Weck cylindrical canning jars. The 1.5L Weck cylindrical jar is ideal for fermenting. For this jar, I don’t use a fermentation airlock but just rest the lid on top, on the rubber gasket. The weight of the lid prevents air from coming in, and if pressure builds inside the jar, that will raise the lid slightly and momentarily and release the pressure. The cylindrical shape makes it easy to pack the jar and to extract the vegetables once they’re fermented.

I found that the right number of Weck jars for me is three. I use two to make a three-liter batch, so one jar is empty. When I eat enough of the ferment to empty one of the two full jars, I now have two empty Weck jars so I can start the next batch fermenting while I eat through the ferment in the remaining jar. That way I always have some fermented vegetables ready to eat.

I just did this: I finished the first jar of the brussels sprout ferment, so I used that empty jar and the third jar to make a 3-liter batch of Christmas ferment, which will ferment while I finish the remaining jar of the brussels sprout ferment.

I do still use the 1-liter wide-mouth jars, mostly for storage of beans and grain but also for when the batch I’m making is a little more than 3 liters (as this one was).

Informative videos

I’ve been making fermented vegetables for a while, and these videos from Clean Food Living gave me some good new ideas. I especially like her DIY airlocks from coffee filters.

I definitely will make that ginger and carrot version.

And this video on fermenting kale has some excellent information. I do recommend using bottled spring water rather than tap water for the fermentation.

She added some more advice on fermenting kale:

Siberian kale looks good, but I doubt I can find it, so I’ll go with green leafy. The spices she used are all preservatives, so that might be why they didn’t work.

This video on red cabbage kraut is also informative — and that digital pH meter looks interesting. I do, however, like to addd a starter culture (see next section).

I really like to use red cabbage instead of green when making kraut. The darker color signifies more nutrients in terms of flavonoids and phytonutrients. Adding a grated beet makes it even better.

Adam Ragusea has a very nice basic introductory video shown below that explains the basic ideas and processes. He talks about how the good bacteria gradually take over and dominate, and one reason I use a starter culture is that kick-starts the good bacteria so they more quickly become the dominant culture. 

Starter culture

Cultures for Health offers some good information on fermenting vegetables — scroll down on that page. There are quite a few articles. In one of their articles, they note

A fermented food recipe may call specifically for salt, whey, or a starter culture. The method chosen can vary, depending on personal taste, special dietary requirements, and even the vegetables used.

If salt fermentation is the preferred method, choose from the different kinds of salt appropriate for culturing.

There’s more at that link. I’m using coarse Celtic sea salt, but I’ve ordered some coarse Himalayan salt for the next series of ferments. — Later: after using the salts, I prefer fine to coarse salt. The coarse Himalayan salt is so coarse it’s almost unusable. (It is, I think, intended for a salt grinder.)

Even though the sauerkraut juice (from live-culture sauerkraut sold in the refrigerated section — for example, Wildbrine fermented foods — worked fine, I didn’t want to be buying sauerkraut. It’s expensive for one thing (another reason making your own ferments is a good idea). It occurred to me that I can use some of the liquid from one batch of my fermented vegetables as a starter for the next batch. I’ll definitely try that, which would obviate the need for purchased culture. (In fact, as I read further in the Cultures for Health articles, they recommend this as one way to start the culture.)

I did find an interesting source of whey to be used for fermentation: the whey from making yogurt cheese using a live-culture yogurt (i.e., yogurt that’s not pasteurized). 

I do like yogurt cheese, and it’s easy to make: dump yogurt onto some cheesecloth, suspend it over a pot for a few hours, and you get yogurt cheese (in the cheesecloth) and whey (in the pot). Since I love yogurt cheese, this would be a good source for a starter culture — except that I no longer eat dairy very often at all (cf. my diet). But if you like yogurt, this may be a good source of starter culture for you. From a recipe for fermented beets:

Whey, the nutritious by-product of the cheesemaking and yogurt-making process, is full of Lactobacilli, so it serves as a fantastic fermentation starter. This recipe inspired by rosl, a Jewish specialty from the Ukraine that calls for pickling beets in brine. The sweet, spiced beets are seasoned with orange zest and mustard seeds, and make for a delicious accompaniment to roast meats or fish. You can purchase whey online or make your own by draining store-bought live-culture yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined mesh sieve over a bowl: The drained liquid is whey. 

I’ll probably make that recipe, but I’ll use the starter culture I ordered. (I already have an idea for a beets and leeks recipe: grated beets, sliced leeks, and some aromatics (see below). The orange peel is an interesting idea, though I worry that the oils might be toxic to the culture I use. BTW, I can find no links to a dish called “rosi” associated with Ukraine.

The package of starter culture says that 1 packet is enough for 5 lbs of vegetables. That seems to be about 1 gallon (4 quarts or, roughly, 4 liters). At US$23 for 6 packets — i.e., 6 two-jar batches — that’s just about $4 per batch, or $2 per jar, for starter culture. That does make me think that using some of the liquid from the previous batch is a good approach, using packaged starter culture only when I don’t have a previous batch on hand. Still, even using the culture packets is a lot cheaper than buying a live fermented vegetable like Wild Brine.

NOTE: The starter culture instructions include this important note: Mix the culture powder in 1 cup of spring water, let it sit for 10 minutes to activate, then mix that with the vegetables before adding them to the jar. Don’t use distilled water: the culture doesn’t do well in that.

The recipe for Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar at the link above said “Transfer the mixture to a jar and sprinkle it with the starter culture.” That’s bad advice. I was suspicious of that from the beginning — when making tempeh, I mix the starter culture thoroughly into the beans. I set aside my uneasiness because I assumed that they knew what they were talking about, a mistake. From now on, I’ll follow the advice of hydrating the culture starter, letting it sit, and then mixing it well with the vegetables before putting them into the jar(s). 

The starter culture instructions also say that for 5 lbs (about 1 gallon) of vegetables, dissolve 3 Tbsp salt in 2 cups (1 pint) of water, then mix that with the prepared vegetables, and then put that into the jars to eliminate air spaces. (They say to pack the vegetables tightly, but I already read not to pack them too tightly or it impedes fermentation. They say to ferment for 7 to 10 days.)

There are reasons to use a starter culture rather than a wild culture.

Salt Notes
The amount of salt they suggest seems like way too much salt for me. What I now do regarding salt: 

  1. I use French grey sea salt, either under a French brand name or rebranded as Celtic Sea Salt; or I use Himalayan pink salt. Use fine salt. Coarse salt takes too long to dissolve and some is too coarse to use except in a salt grinder.
  2. I’ve weighed the big bowl to which I add the sliced, shredded, grated, or julienned vegetables as I cut them up, and I have a note of the weight of the bowl (1135g). So when I am preparing a new batch to ferment, I put all the veggies in the bowl, weigh that, and subtract the weight of the bowl (1135g) to get the net weight: the weight of the veggies alone.
  3. I take 2% of the vegetable weight (in grams) and use that much salt, which I measure by weight on my kitchen scale. For example, the vegetables for my latest batch  weighed 2592g (after subtracting out the weight of the bowl), and 2% of that is 52g, so I used 52g of salt. I mixed the salt well with the vegetables, then mixed in the starter culture, then filled the jars and poured in spring water to cover.
  4. Important realization: When I add spring water to the jars in the previous step, that spring water must also be a 2% brine solution. If it is not, the overall percentage of salt is reduced — the spring water (with no salt) would dilute the mixture. Thus before the spring water is added, it must be made into a brine. This chart provides the correct amount of salt for various volumes of water.

Fermentation starter

The video below describes how to create your own fermentation starter using fresh fruit, spring water, and a little sugar. After watching the video, I am definitely going to give this a try — for one thing, it will be much cheaper than buying starter culture.

Update: I did try it. Not for me. I’m going to stick with using a starter culture. But in case you’re interested, I’m leaving this section in the post.

She suggests raisins, berries, or fresh ginger. I useed a combination since I’m a strong believer in the value of diversity. I’ll use some organic raisins, some fresh ginger root (with the skin), some fresh organic blueberries, and a couple of Medjool dates, chopped — and maybe a small piece of chopped organic apple (including the skin).

Note the proportion suggested in the video: 1/4 cup starter for 1 quart of vegetables to be fermented. And I did add salt, a weight of salt that’s 1% (instead of 2%) of the weight of vegetables. But, as noted above, this was more trouble than it was worth. Try it if you want. I don’t recommend it.

Advice pages on vegetable fermentation

Cultures for Health has currently a page of useful links to information on fermenting vegetable. On some pages, you must scroll down a bit to get to the actual advice. The website is not well-maintained, but you still can glean quite a bit of useful information.

One lesson I discovered in making The Big Red One: Mix as you go. As you prepare the vegetables (by slicing or grating or chopping), add a vegetable or two to the bowl and then mix that well with everything so far in the bowl. Continue in this way, adding a layer of new vegetables, then immediately mixing it with what’s already in the bowl.

As a result, the mixing at the end will be easy, since you must mix only that last vegetable into a well-mixed pile of the earlier ingredients. 

Mold: What to do about it and how to prevent it

I found that I occasionally got a film of white growth floating on top of the brine. This was probably kahn yeast, not mold, but I still would spoon it out. (See this article.) Here’s the technique I adopted that put an end to it.

  1. Rinse the cutting board well, scrubbing it with a rough scrubber or a brush. Then dry it and rub the surface with white vinegar.
  2. Wash the bowls, jars, lids, measuring cups, fermentation weights, airlocks, and tools well with detergent and hot water just before using them (even if they are already clean).
  3. Wash hands well.
  4. Rinse vegetables well under cold running water, scrubbing their surfaces with a vegetable brush.
  5. Use at least 2.5% of salt (by weight) in vegetables and in water (i.e., 2.5% brine).

See this post for useful details about kahm yeast (which I tended to get) and mold (haven’t had).

When I did that, plus using spring water with the right amount of salt, the problem did not occur.

Loosening packed shredded vegetables

I discovered this in the context of fermenting shredded cabbage (to make sauerkraut), which I pack tightly, but it probably would also apply to the beets & leeks recipe or any other situation in which shredded vegetables are tightly packed. On day 3 or day 4 after starting the ferment, remove the lid and the fermentation weight and poke a table knife down through the mass in several places. This will loosen the packed vegetables a bit, and the liquid that has gathered at the top will drain down back into the vegetables. Then replace the fermentation weight and the lid (with the fermentation airlock) and let it continue. I ferment kraut and other shredded vegetables for two weeks (except Carrot Cake in a Jar, which has a shorter fermentation period), then remove weight and airlock, put on the regular lid, and refrigerate. 

In the most recent batch of Beets & Leeks, I tried the loosening tactic with the table knife immediately after loading and packing the jars and adding the spring water.

I’ve noticed that some vegetable ferments are done more quickly: the fermented Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera took only 3 days (!) and the Ferment Melange was done after a week. The other Giardiniera was also done quickly, though krauts do seem to take two weeks. So just keep an eye on it and test.

12-minute podcast on nutritional benefits of fermented foods

Dr. Greger has an interesting 12-minute podcast on the nutritional aspects of fermented foods. Listening to it contributed to my motivation to get more deeply into it.


Do the probiotics in fermented foods survive digestion?

One reason for eating fermented foods is to deliver probiotics (and prebiotics, in the form of dietary fiber) to the gut microbiome, whose home is in the large intestine. To get there, the probiotics — primarily lactobacilli — must survive the digestive tract gauntlet of mouth (chewing and saliva), stomach (acid and massage), and small intestine. Can they do that?

The article “The truth about fermented foods,” by dietitian Katrina Pace in says it does. From the article:

The bacteria in fermented foods can withstand the acid in the stomach and, with natural fibres, are transported along the whole digestive system. Studies have shown fermented foods can change the bacteria that grow in your gut, reduce ‘bad bacteria’ and improve tummy troubles.

She adds that “fermentation makes cabbage easier to digest, so even the most tender tummies can manage it.”  The article contains quite a bit of information.

In looking into this, I also learned from one of the Nutrition Facts videos that:

Researchers have since worked on characterizing these bacterial communities, and found two interesting things. First, that “the communities on each produce type were significantly distinct from one another.” So, the tree fruits harbored different bacteria than veggies on the ground, and grapes and mushrooms seemed to be off in their own little world. So, if indeed these bugs turn out to be good for us, that would underscore the importance of eating not just a greater quantity, but greater variety, of fruits and veggies every day. And second, they found that there were “significant differences in [microbial] community composition between conventional and organic…produce.” “This highlights the potential for differences in the [bacteria] between conventionally and organically farmed produce items to impact human health.” But, we don’t know in what direction. They certainly found different bacteria on organic versus conventional, but we don’t know enough about fruit and veggie bugs to make a determination as to which bacterial communities are healthier.

That makes me want to skip the starter culture and try fermenting some vegetables with their own probiotic populations — specifically, fermenting cabbage (and including apple and onion in the ferment) and fermenting mushrooms, both without using a starter culture — for example, fermenting as done in the videos above: no starter culture (though using a starter culture does kickstart the process).

A good article in this connection: “Starter Cultures vs Wild Fermentation—Which is Better?

Ferment Melange was my first effort using a variety (cabbage, onion, apple, carrot, etc.) with no starter culture, in the hope that the result will be a diverse population of probiotics in the fermented result. That worked, but the carrot, apple, and dried berry ferment did not — however, that was a 24-hour ferment, so I was suspicious of that from the outset.

Beets & Leeks Recipe

6 Nov – I made up this recipe. I’ve revised it slightly in the light of experience in actually making it, and revisions are noted.

• 1 large leek, white section, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced
• 1 medium-large red beet, grated
• 5 Thai red chiles, stem removed, chopped very small (with seeds) [originally 9, but that was too hot; might try a couple of jalapeños next time]

I got about 2 full cups (in fact, just a little more) of sliced leeks and also 2 cups of grated beets. I put that in a large bowl, added the chopped chiles, and stirred well with a silicone spatula to mix. Then I added:

• about 1/2 packet Cutting Edge Starter Culture dissolved in 1 cup of water
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt dissolved in 1 cup of water 

[I now take the weight of the vegetables and use an amount of salt equal to 2% of that weight.]

Let the the starter culture solution sit for 10 minutes, then mix the culture-water with the vegetables. Load the mixture into the jar. Pack it down, but not too tightly.

Put the fermentation weight in place on top of the veggies, then pour in the brine to bring the liquid level just to the bottom of the weight. (When I made my batch, I poured brine in before I put in the weight — then when I added the weight, it displaced water, making the water level too high. So: weight first, then add brine.)

If the brine (plus the water with the culture, already mixed into the veg) is not enough liquid to cover the vegetables, you can add a little bottled water.

I’ll check after three days. The instruction sheet with the starter culture says to ferment 7-10 days.

Update: The next morning the airlock top was bulged, and when I pressed it lightly, some of the brine squirted out. Too much brine, drained off a little. 

Update: After 3 days, it’s tasting pretty good, though too salty. (I had used 2 Tbsp salt — too much. Update: Using the Pro Home Cooks formula in the video below, the proper about would have been about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. /update) And it was very spicy. I think cooking the Thai chiles tames the heat; having them raw and fermented seems to leave them much hotter. Next time I will try 5 chiles rather than 9.

Lesson learned: Add the brine (or water or whey) after putting the fermentation weight in place (since it displaces liquid), and add just enough to go a little above the bottom of the weight. That way there is plenty of open space at the top, but still the vegetables will be covered with liquid.

Second run at Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar

Yesterday’s Beets & Leeks flanked by today’s Carrot Cake in a Jar

7 Nov – I made 2 liters of the Carrot Cake recipe, so now I have 3 jars going. Putting the fermentation weight in the jar before adding water worked great.

Lesson Learned: Grate the apples last, after grating carrots, chopping dates and walnuts, and adding spices and vanilla. Mix those well, then grate apples, add, mix some more.

Doing it in this order gives the grated apples less time to oxidize. (Recipe at top modified to reflect this lesson.)

Another lesson, noted already: mix starter culture in 1 cup water, stirring to dissolve. Let it rest 10 minutes, the mix it with the carrot-apple mix before loading that into the jars. After that’s in the jar, add water as needed. (For this recipe, the salt has already been added, so use water and not brine, but do avoid tap water since it’s likely chlorinated.)

Cabbage & Red (Onion, Apples, and Radishes)

11 Nov – I’m really getting into. I just thought of another combination to try:

• 2 cups Napa cabbage or green cabbage, shredded (i.e., chopped small)
• 1 red onion, halved lengthwise, then sliced into semicircles
• 12 small red radishes, halved
• 4 Thai red chiles, chopped
• 2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt, dissolved in a little water
• 1/2 pack starter culture hydrated for 10 minutes, or some liquid from a previous batch
• 2 grated Royal Gala apples (discard stem, grate the rest including seeds)

I could do an all-red recipe by using red cabbage, but I think Napa or Green cabbage will provide more contrast. Cabbage counts as both Greens and Cruciferous Vegetable in Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, so I might double this recipe and make two liters.

I will prepare everything but the apples, toss it together in a bowl, and then grate and add apples (so they don’t have time to oxidize). I will then add the dissolved salt and starter culture to the vegetables in the bowl, mix everything thoroughly, then put it into a 1-liter jar. I’ll top it with a fermentation weight and enough liquid just to cover veg. I think this will be a one-jar batch. I’ll ferment it for 5 or 6 days, then refrigerate. It will keep in the fridge for weeks if not months. 

Can’t wait to try it.

12 Nov – figured a battle plan for making the above recipe.

Cabbage & Red, just started

13 Nov – It is said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and few of the recipes that I think up go quite the way I initially planned. Still, this one worked out pretty well. You can read about the actual making of it, but let me note Lessons Learned:

a. 1 large red onion cut into small sections and broken up into segments = 2 cups.
b. 2 bunches radishes easily made 2 cups halved radishes, with about a cup of radishes left over.
c. 2 Royal Gala apples of the size I have = 2 cups diced apples. 
d. 1/4 large Savoy cabbage = almost 6 cups when shredded (I added just a little to get to 6 cups)

Final recipe was 6 cups chopped Savoy cabbage, 2 cups diced apples, 2 cups halved radishes, and 2 cups red onion segments, along with 2 jalapeños, about 8 regular-size cloves of garlic, and peel from 1 orange.

I used some of the leftover Savoy cabbage in a salad. Excellent! I will be buying Savoy cabbage more often. However — lesson learned — Savoy cabbage doesn’t do so well in a ferment as regular green or red cabbage. It’s not crisp/crunchy enough.

Two Pro Home Cooks videos on fermenting vegetables

15 Nov – I like this guy, and I was very interested to see his thoughts on fermenting. He does not use any starter culture, nor does he use (say) whey, which contains lactobacilli. Instead, he uses only salt, so I presume the lactobacilli are in the vegetables themselves. I’m going to try this with cauliflower, just as an experiment, as soon as I get my additional fermentation airlock lids and fermentation weights. (I ordered only 4 to begin with, but now I find it’s easy to have more than 4 jars going at once.)

The interesting thing is that he provides a formula for how much salt to use: take the weight of the jar’s contents (veggies plus water), multiply by 0.025 (i.e., 2.5%), and that provides the weight of salt to use. You obviously can weigh in grams, in which case you get grams of salt to use; or you can weigh in ounces and get how many ounces of salt to use. [I’ve been using 2% instead of 2.5% lately, and it seems to work.]

Assuming a pint’s a pound, a 1-liter jar (given room at the top) will be about 2 pounds — 32 ounces — so that would be 0.8 ounces salt. He strongly suggests you weigh the salt (different salts have different densities — that is, some salts (Maldon for example) are fluffier than other salts), but I found a converter to (roughly) convert weight of salt in ounces to volume of salt in teaspoons. Using the converter, I would use 4 teaspoons of salt — or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon.

Update: I now always weigh the salt, and I use either grey sea salt (such as Celtic sea salt) or pink Himalayan salt.

He also has this video on making several specific fermented foods: sauerkraut, sriracha, kimchi, and kvass (fermented beets). I did a variant on fermented beets above, and in using the Thai red chiles I can heartily second his statement on how fermentation intensifies those flavors (and spiciness). After that first batch I decided to use half as many peppers in the next batch.

In addition to this video, also read the Wikibooks Cookbook entry on Fermentation.

Experimenting with the Carrot Cake in a Jar recipe

Carrot Cake Batch 3

15 Nov – I made a new 1-liter jar of this recipe. I doubled the spices and vanilla and also added 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut, which was in shape like very small white rice. 

I routinely use 5 dates, not 4, and I use probably a little over 3 tablespoons of walnuts, not 2. This time I also cored the apples (usually I just include the cores and seeds), and I tried dicing them (or chopping them coarsely) rather than grating them. I think the larger pieces fo apple will work well.

After taking the photo at the right, I realized I had forgotten to include vanilla and dates, and also didn’t include the desiccated coconut I was going to try. So I dumped out the jar, mixed those in, and reloaded the jar. Full disclosure: I did one at a time. Next time I’ll make a checklist to ensure I include all ingredients in the first pass. 

Update 25 Dec 2021: I decided that the apples worked better if they are grated. I’ve updated the initial recipe above to reflect what I now do.

Leek Kraut with Tarragon

I just started this new batch today, Nov 28, and I plan to let it ferment for two weeks. You can read the full description. Here are the ingredients:

• 2 large, long leeks, sliced thinly, green tops reserved for other use
• 1/2 large red onion, sliced and then cut into short sections
• 1 jalapeño, chopped (including core and seeds)
• 2 tablespoons Celtic coarse grey sea salt
• 2 sprigs tarragon

I was wishing I had used 1.5 tablespoons, but in reading more, I came across this information, with a calculator at the link:

Generally you want to use around 2% of salt for harder vegetables (that have less water content) such as potatoes, carrots, beets. For softer vegetables a 3% of salt is suitable (more water weight) such as cucumbers, asparagus and mushrooms.

 Call the jar’s contents 1kg (using above averages, that’s close enough): 2.2 lbs. The calculator clearly doesn’t understand decimals and gave me an amount of salt appropriate for 22 lbs, so I did the calculation for 2 lbs. For a 3% brine, 1 oz of salt is on the mark. And 2 tablespoons is 1.1 oz. (I weighed it.) That additional 0.1 oz of salt — 10% more than 1 oz — takes care of the weight I didn’t enter into the calculator (the 0.2 lbs = 10% of 2 lbs). So I’m satisfied with the 2 tablespoons I used: right on the mark for soft vegetables.

Update: The leek kraut was excellent. I’ll make it again. However, I do think I’ll use less salt. I’ll go for 2% of the weight of ingredients. 

Red Kraut

Red Kraut

On Nov 18 I made a ferment from red cabbage with some red onion.

Yesterday I removed it from the fermentation jar and put it into a storage container and then into the fridge, and this morning I had a bowl of it. This is definitely a recipe I’ll repeat: cabbage was crunch and mildly tart, and altogether very tasty.

The photo shows a plastic bag sealing the jar, but within a day or two I received my additional order of fermentation weights and fermentation airlocks, and replaced the bag with those.

Toward the end, I did notice a little white yeast growth on top, but I followed the advice of Pro Home Cooks and simply removed it. The kraut itself seems unaffected. (The growth was just at the very top.) And man! is it tasty!

Good sauerkraut video and a new batch of red-cabbage kraut

New batch

In this post you’ll find a good video that shows how to make sauerkraut, and in this post you’ll read how I tried her method and where I found I had to revise it — along with the ingredients for a new batch of red-cabbage kraut (with red onion, red apple, jalapeño, and caraway seed).

The main revision is that, while the kraut pounder is excellent for packing the jar, it is not nearly so good as one’s (clean) hands in breaking down the shredded cabbage. You can squeeze, massage, mash, and mix the cabbage (and other ingredients) much better with your hands, plus you can feel any large pieces of cabbage that need further slicing. 

Also, I found that it was a good idea to break up the tightly packed kraut after 3-4 days of fermentation. Remove lid and fermentation weight, and then poke a table knife down through the packed kraut in five or six places to loosen it. The liquid that has gathered at the top will then drain down into the packed cabbage. Replace the fermentation weight, pressing down a bit to make sure the cabbage is covered by liquid, then replace the airlock and lid and let the fermentation continue.

Update: Fermented for two weeks and then refrigerated. Really tasty.


I made this batch of giardiniera today (Jan 3 2022) and plan to let it ferment at least 2 weeks, but with a target of 3 weeks.

I started with this recipe, but as usual I varied from it — for example, I included an Anaheim peppers in addition to the jalapeño and the 1.5 red bell peppers. I also had a 1.5-L jar and not a 2-qt jar, so I adjusted the recipe somewhat. 

Update: Bell peppers didn’t work so well (got mushy), but Anaheim and jalapeño peppers were fine, as were the onion and cauliflower. Carrots were tender rather than crunchy, but good.

The jar was complete fully initially, but as fermentation proceeded, the vegetables seem to shrink or collapse so that there were more clear liquid at the top.

Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut

24 Jan 2022. Today I put up 3.5 liters of a new batch of red-cabbage kraut, using some ideas from a kimchi cookbook.  I would say the kraut has been the most successful so far in terms of taste and quantity. 

This post has the details of the recipe and process. I did have some lessons learned — for example, daikon radish should be cut into pieces of smaller cross-section before slicing, since (contrary to my expectations) the slices did not break up during the massaging of the vegetables. (I used the mandoline and sliced everything to 1mm thickness.)

I didn’t use carrots, but that remains a possibility. (Carrots I will shred, not slice.) I had intended to use BBQ onions (roughly the same as spring onions or adult scallions), but the volume became too large. I did add some ground dried chiles and fresh ginger root, and I’m interested to see what that will be like.

Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut reprised

Batch 2 of Kimchi-ish Kraut

I just (21 Mar 2022) made another batch of the above, slightly different as described in its post

Unfortunately, I was taken by an impulse and leaped into making it without having on hand:

• Spring/BBQ onions, or
• Carrots, or
• Fresh ginger root

Still, it will be good, and I followed the rule of “Go with what you’ve got.” More details in the post at the link. I really like this kraut.

Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera

Jalapeño & Fresno Giardiniera

I made a jalapeño refrigerator pickle (equal parts white vinegar and water to cover ingredients, add salt, then refrigerate), and it occurred to me that I could ferment it instead of pickling it (no vinegar, but add starter culture). So I just made a version of it (see photo at right; recipe at link).

I’m going to let it ferment for two weeks. I’m eager to try it.

— The morning after I started the batch, fermentation was well underway: when I tilted a jar, I immediately saw a trickle of bubbles floating upward, a sign the lactobacilli were hard at work. Using a starter culture does kick-start the process.

Update: It was done in 3 days! And very tasty — a little spice, but mild, with good crunch and flavor. More info, including photo of the finished product, at that link.

Ferment Melange

You can find details and discussion in this post, which also includes a photo of the finished ferment. To my surprise, ittook only 7 days. This is my first go at not using a starter culture, just using the lactobacilli in the ingredients. Fingers crossed.

• 1/2 large green cabbage, shredded by hand
• 1 red onion, cut into strips
• 2 BBQ/spring onions, sliced thinly
• about 2″ ginger root, sliced thinly
• 1 apple, halved and sliced 1mm thick on mandoline
• 1 Nantes carrot, cut into stubby matchsticks (a fair amount of carrot)
• 3″ section of daikon radish, peeled and cut into stubby matchsticks

Despite my trepidation, this came out quite well and is tasty: crisp and crunchy and cold from the refrigerator. (I just enjoyed a bowl.)

24-Hour Ferment: Carrots, Apples, & Dried Barberries

I just started this ferment, and tomorrow I’ll post how it did. — I would rate this as a failure. I think I’ll stick with using a starter culture.

Kale & Cabbage & Other

I just started this one on 8 May 2022. I’ve been wanting to do kale since watching the two videos (included in this post above) that Clean Food Living made on the benefits of fermented kale, but I didn’t have enough kale on hand to do a batch. 

I did, however, have half a head of cabbage and various other things I could add, so now I have two liters just starting (and I did use starter culture with these.

Update 22 May 2022: Just tasted the batch (full report at the link above). It is tasty and crunchy and exactly what one wants. A great success. Photo of the finished batch at the link. It looks much the same, though the colors are more muted — the beet’s color spread through the jar.


I’ve been wanting to ferment a batch of mushrooms, and my supermarket finally had some nice fresh mushrooms available — see this post for details.

The mushrooms ferment for just three days, so I’ll be able to try them soon. As noted in the post at the link, mushrooms have their own particular bacterial microbiome, so I’ll be getting some microbial variety in my ferment (because I’m not using a starter culture, just the bacteria the mushrooms contribute).

After three days, the mushroom had shrunk a lot.

Beets & Leeks Reprised

Two 1.5L jars of Beets & Leeks

I am repeating — at last — the Beets & Leeks ferment I made before, but of course with some variations. The long wait was because good leeks — with long white part — don’t show up all that often. The day they did, I bought three large ones and a selection of beets and set to work.

The peppers for this batch are red cayenne, newly available here. I think they’ll do well. Also included some red onion and red apple and half an (enormous) Nantes carrot.

This turned out very well — totally delicious.

Raw potatoes

2 Yukon Gold potatoes in a 1-liter canning jar

Raw potatoes make an interesting ferment for reasons cited in the reference post for this batch. I think that waxy potatoes that are typically boiled (Yukon God, for example) work better than potato typically roasted (Russet, for example), but that’s just my casual opinion. What is not just my opinion is that Yukon Gold potatoes are more nutritious than white potatoes (see this video), and purple potatoes (e.g., Stokes Purple® potatoes, which I can get at Whole Foods) are even better than yellow potatoes.

This first batch I made used Yukon Gold (details at link above). Note that no fermentation weight is required: potatoes sink. Later this week I’m buying a bunch of Stokes Purple potatoes, and I’m going to try fermenting a couple. (Normally, I roast them in their skins, then refrigerate them and eat them individually as if they were a particularly nutritious and tasty banana.

I made the fermentation starter described in the video above, and once it has started working, I’ll use that in fermenting the next batch of potatoes (which will probably be Stokes Purple).


The Big Red One

I’m fermenting a batch using the vegetables (and fruit) picture at the right. Details are in this post. My idea was to use red as the unifying them: red cabbage, red kale, red onion red apple, red beet, red cayenne peppers, Russian red garlic, red dried chipotles, and red dried anchos, along with ginger and Medjool dates.

It turned out to be a big batch: 6 pounds, or 4 liters (two 1.5-liter jars and one 1-liter jar). I’m looking forward to trying it.

I realized in making this how helpful a large food processor would be in the slicing and grating.

Update: After two weeks, I refrigerated it and am eating it now. Excellent. Here’s the post on the outcome.

Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Lately the market has had an abundance of red (and yellow) cayenne peppers, and finally bestirred myself to buy enough to make pepper sauce.

The post at the link describes the process. I didn’t have a particular recipe, so I just went with what seemed good — garlic, ginger, onion for added flavor, and some high-sugar ingredients to help the ferment along: an apple and some dates (and the onion will contribute as well).

I’m going to give it two weeks to ferment, then I’ll blend it in the jars for sauce.

Pepper sauce done

Update two weeks later: I decided two weeks of fermentation was plenty, though the peppers seemed to be still going strong — tilting the jar triggered a string of small bubbles. I drained the peppers, blended them (using immersion blender), blending in 1/4 cup fermentation liquid and 1/4 cup of apple-cider vinegar, and then put them in jars to store in the refrigerator. I got two liters of sauce — in fact, a little more. The sauce is hot but not painful. Details in this post.

Brussels sprouts and red cabbage

I have settled on Weck 1.5-liter jars as the best size for me, and I plan to make 3-liter (2-jar batches). When one jar of the batch is emptied, I’ll immediately start a new batch using the now-empty jar and the third jar. By the time I finish the other jar of the original batch, the new batch will be ready, and I can continue, always having some fermented vegetables on hand.

This batch I made up just using vegetables I happened to have on hand. I’d been wanting to try Brussels sprouts. I was unsure whether to halve or quarter them, but after reading an online recipe, I went with halving the sprouts.

For details, see the post that details the prep and summarizes the outcome.

Xmas ferment

Two transparent glass cylindrical jars hold chopped red vegetable mix.

I wanted to make a repeat of The Big Red One, but I could find no red kale. So I went with green kale and decided that the green and red combination (green kale, red onion, red apple, red cabbage, red Fresno pepper) would work well given the Christmas season — and this batch will be ready 23 December.

Here’s the post, including the final outcome. I have now had some — indeed, I’ve almost finished one of the jars — and it is excellent. Including the kale was a good idea, and I think I might do that with future red-cabbage ferments.

Beets & Leeks once again

I like Beets & Leeks so much that whenever I find good leeks — long white section — I make a new batch. The name is a little misleading. As you can see in the photo at the right, the recipe goes beyond beets and leeks to include a variety of other vegetables: carrot, ginger, red Fresno pepper, red onion, garlic, red apple…

You can see the full recipe and outcome in this post. I think that this will be a standby because so far every batch of it has been extremely tasty.

Basic Beets

After reading a recipe for a basic beet ferment on Facebook, I wanted to try it. It calls just for beets (diced small) and garlic. I increased the garlic from 2 cloves for a quart to 3 cloves for a liter (6 cloves for the 2 liters shown), and I also added half a red onion. I probably would have included dates if I had any on hand. 

This is the first time I’ve put a cabbage leaf on top to hold down the veggies. I was told that the small beet-dice tend to float up around the weight, so the cabbage leaf is a good idea. It works well. I used a leaf of red cabbage. Full description in the batch post.

Potatoes with Onion & Tarragon

A one-liter canning jar filled with diced yellow potatoes, with some chopped red onion and 2 springs of tarragon, in brine.

I decided to reprise fermenting potatoes except (a) using a starter culture instead of depending totally on the potatoes and (b) letting the ferment go for two weeks instead of two days.

Details are in the post. I think that the longer incubation, plus using a starter, will produce a better result.

The red onion and tarragon I added just to make the potatoes more interesting — both in appearance and (I hope) in taste.

Update: I ended up letting it ferment just a week rather than 2 weeks as I had planned. They were delicious and added excellent crunch to my veggie bowls. I ate all within a few days and decided to make another batch, but with carrots. See below.


The potato ferment above was so good I wanted it again, and I decided to add some diced carrots. This time I used redskin potatoes because I had read that they were highest in potassium (which is found mostly in the skin). 

I had thought I’d use a couple of chopped Medjool dates, but in the excitement of making it, I forgot about them. Full ingredients can be seen in this post.

Three weeks later

I stopped one of the jars after 3 weeks just because I wanted to try the result. It is wonderful. Full details are found in the post linked above. There was zero film on top — typically, kahm yeast — that I’ve had before, and I think the extra care in cleaning jars, bowl, tools, and cutting board helped, as did rinsing and scrubbing the potatoes. (I now have a veggie brush.)

Redskin potatoes

I liked the potatoes above so much I decided to do a 3-liter batch — two 1.5-liter jars. And I decided to ferment it for 3 weeks.

It turned out very well. The photo at the right shows the potatoes (and onions, jalapeño, etc.) at the beginning, and this post tells the whole story including a photo at the finish.

Fermented potatoes are a good change of pace. Now I will turn to a re-do of the Christmas ferment for my next batch.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 1:56 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: