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How long to ferment foods? Salsa vs Sauerkraut?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 09, 2012 at 7:20 PM

I am starting to get into fermenting my own foods (yay for local produce!)

There have been a lot of studies about fermenting sauerkraut, and how it has to go for several days in order to be properly fermented (aka, at 2-3 days, it doesn't have anerobic microbes, so could still be harmful. See http://www.pickl-it.com/faq/148/process-microbial-lacto-fermentation/ for more info).

But, I haven't seen research on other forms of fermentation, specifically salsas and non cabbage based vegetable ferments. Most online recipes say 2-3 days, but how does this conform with the time frame for growing lactobacteria?

(P.S. After reading the Sauerkraut Survivor series (http://www.nourishingtreasures.com/index.php/2012/07/03/sauerkraut-survivor-final-report/ ) and the various controversies of fermentation vessels, I have been using Fido jars for the ferments.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 10, 2012
at 07:14 PM

2-3 days is too short (unless maybe you're fermenting outdoors in 100+ degree weather, but that seems a bit extreme). That does not provide enough time for the LABs to properly develop. In Lea's article that's linked in the question, she addresses that. I think some people are scared to leave it out at room temperature that long, but it is more dangerous to put it in the fridge too early, as the LABs haven't gotten a chance to edge out the nasties that soon. In fermenting, as well as cooking, it's N=1.

4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on July 10, 2012
at 06:22 AM

This link gives fermentation times - it makes it look as though 2 to 3 days is way too short! http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/food-preserving/sauerkraut/fermentation-sauerkraut Mine has been going 6 days and I haven't peeked yet - in a Harsch crock.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on July 09, 2012
at 11:14 PM

I don't start eating the kraut for 2 weeks from the start of ferment and I don't move it to the fridge till after 4 weeks. It matures and the flavors change as it goes from 2-4 weeks, so I dip a bowl out here and there along the way.

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 09, 2012
at 08:41 PM

That is a really good point - I totally didn't think of that! I guess since I've never wanted to use one on my food.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on July 09, 2012
at 08:17 PM

If you are fermenting things with a strong colour (like tomato or beets) litmus can't be used for testing- a pH meter is expensive, but worth it if it puts your mind at ease!

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5 Answers

2
61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 09, 2012
at 07:32 PM

You may not find much hard and fast research on it, because fermentation is somewhat of an art and something of a science. Also, home fermentation is not something that's going to make a big company a boodle of money, and so they have no reason to spend money researching it.

There a lot of variables than can affect fermentation time, from the type of produce, the amount of starting bacteria on the vegetables, the ambient temperature, the amount of salt used, the vessel, probably more. Additionally, some people like their ferments a bit more sour than other people. It comes down to the individual's environment and tastes, and experiments in a laboratory setting can't really account for all the variables.

If you're concerned about safety, pick up some litmus paper or other PH tester and test for proper acidity - like Lea. I personally have never found the need to go that far; if your ferment isn't done, you'll know when you sniff/taste. If it has gone bad then you -will- know by smell.

I really, really love ferments and I make a ton of them. (My favorite is spicy green tomatoes and cauliflower. Oh yeaaaaah.)

61f9349ad28e3c42d1cec58ba4825a7d

(10480)

on July 09, 2012
at 08:41 PM

That is a really good point - I totally didn't think of that! I guess since I've never wanted to use one on my food.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on July 09, 2012
at 08:17 PM

If you are fermenting things with a strong colour (like tomato or beets) litmus can't be used for testing- a pH meter is expensive, but worth it if it puts your mind at ease!

1
35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on July 09, 2012
at 07:56 PM

I want to second what Luckie wrote. Fermentation has a lot of variables and it's as much art as science. I've done lots of fermentation and I'd be hard pressed to give specific answers to your questions.

I highly recommend two books:

http://www.wildfermentation.com/wild-fermentation/

http://www.newtrendspublishing.com/SallyFallon/

0
4e184df9c1ed38f61febc5d6cf031921

(5005)

on May 05, 2013
at 08:13 AM

Here is a link that I found interesting and very useful

http://www.foodrenegade.com/3-biggest-fermenting-mistakes-youre-already-making/

As a result of reading this, I made some sauerkraut in a Harsch crock that I left for 28 days before putting it into jars and refrigerating. It is super and has had a great effect on my digestion. It seems much more effective than the krauts I've made and put into jars after 3 to 5 days.

This is another useful link for keen fermenters

http://www.foodrenegade.com/mason-jar-ferments-safe/

http://www.picklemetoo.com/2012/11/16/fermentation-friday-sauerkraut-troubleshooting/

Hope some of this helps!

0
6f4425e3c7dc0efe60da531c5d991487

on May 05, 2013
at 03:44 AM

I agree with the other posters about lacto-fermentation being an art and a science. After your first or second ferment, you'll just know when it's ready.
"Ready", of course, is subjective. Kraut starts fermenting immediately, in the right conditions. The longer it ferments, the more tang you'll taste. In my experience, white cabbages ferment at a faster rate, and the larger the container, the faster the ferment.

Here's my routine: Salt and bruise my chopped sauerkraut and let it sit over night, covered. Pack it (not too tight!) into either a mason jar or a crock until juices cover everything. Taste daily after the first day until it has the tang I am after. Stick it in the fridge (my fridge is not very cold at all....about 48F).

For aesthetic reasons I prefer a ceramic crock. For ease of use, mason jars. It's so easy to see that your ferment is going smoothly in a mason jar, because when you crack the lid you will see CO2 bubbles after the first or second day.

Let us know how it goes.

0
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on July 09, 2012
at 07:57 PM

In my culture you suppose to try sauerkraut twice per day to see whether it is "ready" or not. Most people make sauerkraut in the fall with abundance of cabbage and carrots (we add shredded carrot to sauerkraut) and it lasts the whole winter. In the fall, when the temperatures are down, it usually takes one week. Nobody makes sauerkraut in the summer, so I do not know.

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