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  • Traveling with Fermented Foods

    Planning a summer vacation but cannot picture yourself without your favorite kombucha or sauerkraut for those roasted hot dogs? In this post Abigail gives you the low-down on traveling with fermented foods.
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  • Is Lacto-Fermentation Safe?

    I remember the first time I made sauerkraut. No one told me the importance of keeping the cabbage under the level of the brine. Nor did they share the importance of ambient temperature. Consequently, I ended up with a mess. In fact, I ended up with a mess after several attempts. Then, after discovering Fermentools, I learned the proper way to make sauerkraut. But the fears caused by my prior failed attempts were real. In this post, Michelle discusses those fears and helps you to see why they are unfounded.
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  • Lacto-Fermentation versus Canning and Pickling

    There are a varied number of ways to preserve food. Canning, freezing and drying are just a few. Fermentation is another way. In this post Mary discusses the pro's and con's of different ways of food preservation so that you can make an educated decision.
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  • How to Adapt Recipes for One

    One of the greatest frustrations my widowed mother faced in the kitchen was cooking for just one person. After raising a large family, she was accustomed to cooking in quantity. She was not alone. Young single people also need to adapt recipes written for the typical household of four to six. Here, Sarah gives some great tips to help with this dilemma.
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  • Healthy Sourdough Starter

    Ever take a ferment, of any kind, out of the fridge and smell a kind of funk? Or taken a sip or taste and wondered what went wrong? If you are unsure if your sourdough starter is safe, this is the post for you. Abigail gives you all the things to look for to determine if you have a healthy sourdough starter.
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  • Fermenting Weights--A Comparison


    I saw a friend use a water-filled plastic baggy as a weight in her ferment. I was concerned. I mean, what if the baggy leaked? Or, worse yet, plastic from the baggy leached into her ferment? Sarah addresses this very topic in this post. For more fermenting weights comparison, keep reading.


    Posted by Sarah


    All ferments require some type of weight at the top of the jar or crock. And, while you can substitute a weight when you are just starting, it is better to get a dedicated fermenting weight to remove all chance of floating, or contamination.

    The weight keeps your ferment below the level of the brine. This prevents mold, fungal, and yeast colonization and contamination on the surface of the acidic ferment. If necessary, a clean piece of plastic, a rock, or even a plate can be substituted for a non-reactive glass weight temporarily, if you are ill or traveling and don’t have your Fermentools with you.


    Fermenting Weight Comparison |


    Pros and Cons of a Glass Weight:

    Pros: Glass is non-reactive and non-porous. Despite the often high acidity of ferments, glass will not leach into the ferment. Being non-porous, it can be sterilized with boiling water and will not absorb or carry bacteria between ferments or between the room and your ferment.

    Cons: Glass is heavy and may require a particular sized jar. If traveling, jars can be challenging to get or heavy to pack with you. But for the peace of mind of a good ferment weight, it is worth the slight hassle to be careful with packing. If you are fermenting at home, you will have no issues with the glass weight.


    Pros and Cons of Other Weight Options:

    Plastic Pros and Cons: A piece of slightly stiff plastic, like the lid of a yogurt container, is easily located and cut to the size of your jar. It can be washed in hot water, but cannot withstand boiling water.

    However, plastic leaches, particularly in acidic environments. So, your ferment will have plastic leached into it if plastic is used as the weight. As plastic also cannot be fully sterilized and is slightly porous, using one piece of plastic over multiple ferments could cause transfer of potentially unwanted bacteria, or bacterial and fungal contamination.

    Plate Pros and Cons: Usually used on larger fermenting crocks, particularly for sauerkraut, a plate can be a handy weight. Choose a glass plate as opposed to a ceramic plate, particularly if the ceramic has an area that is unglazed. Ceramic is porous and sometimes ceramic glazes can have heavy metal contaminants, which could negatively impact your ferment. A smooth glass plate, that is an exact fit for the top of your crock would be preferable to a ceramic plate, or a plate that did not quite have a close fit.

    Rock Pros and Cons: Rocks are easily located, can be scrubbed and boiled, and are heavy enough to act as weights. However, many rocks are porous and even a thorough boiling and scrubbing may not remove all bacteria from the stone. Second, rocks are nearly always made of a mix of minerals and you do not know whether a particular stone may not contain heavy metals or other compounds that could leach into your ferment. Rocks, particularly in the acidic environment of your ferment, will leach and rocks like limestone could even dissolve.

    When looking for a long-term fermenting weight, go with a non-reactive glass weight. It will help keep your ferment happy, and you and your family healthy, for a long time. If you need a short-term solution, use wisdom and remember that acidic environments can leach chemicals and metals from plastic, stone or metal weights.



    Because wide-mouthed Mason jars are easy to get, inexpensive, safe for fermenting and come in a variety of sizes, the Fermentools products are made to fit them. Find glass weights, airlocks, specially designed surgical steel lids and more at the Fermentools store.


    Sarah Dalziel is passionate about DiY skills, knowledge, and self-sufficiency. She was homeschooled K-BSc, and enjoys questioning, researching, and writing about hands on skills and preparedness. Ethnobotany, natural dyes, and self-sufficiency fascinate her. If she isn't writing about them, you'll find her dipping yarn into a steaming dye pot, or stirring up a batch of woad pigmented soap. Sarah blogs at, a natural dye and fiber skills blog, and also at, an interdisciplinary skills and writing blog.
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  • Mold or Yeast?

    I have six quarts of pickles in my fridge. They are the first pickles I have ever made that are as crisp as store-bought. And the flavor, well, they're delicious. But every time my son opens the fridge, he says, "Mom, you have mold on your pickles!" Well, do I? Let's read Kristi's post to find out.


    Post by Kristi


    What is the difference between mold and yeast? The main difference is that yeast is a single-celled organism and mold is multi-cellular filaments. The yeasts found in ferments are not usually very harmful, but can make a ferment taste a little off. Mold ruins ferments, and must be thrown out. Yeast is colorless, usually it looks to be white or translucent depending on the reflection of the colors in the ferment. I have seen yeast in beet kvass that looks pink, but it is from the brine dying the yeast a pretty pink color. Mold can be many different colors. The colors most often seen in ferments are white, black and green. Below are a few facts to help you further determine if you have mold or yeast and understand what you are dealing with.


    • Mold colors can be white, black, brown, grey, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple and/or orange.
    • Mold grows in dark damp areas.
    • Mold can become airborne (
    • There are many different strands of mold. The different variations can look fluffy, fuzzy, slimy, moist and glossy. (
    • Health hazards of a bad mold are allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
    • Use fresh, organic ingredients.
    • Mold has a very distinctive smell. You may be able to identify it by smell alone.

    Foods that contain mold: Tempeh, Natto Miso, soy sauce and cheese!


    Following are several photos of mold growing on ferments.


    Mold on a Ferment |


    • Yeast is usually white, and described as colorless. Sometimes the brine color may make the yeast appear to have color.
    • Yeast likes to grow where it is moist and has plenty of sugar and/or amino acids. (
    • Yeast needs sugar and starch to grow.
    • Smells funny. Yeast has some very distinct smells. You may know the smell from making a sourdough starter, or if you use nutritional yeast, and sometimes it smells downright cheesy!
    • Yeast can be flat in appearance, sometimes thready. It can be flat or branching except where bubbles have formed. The bubbles form from gases that are made from the fermentation process which are trying to escape.
    • Yeast may be an indicator that mold will follow. Sometimes yeast forms because of conditions that were not favorable for the ferment such as high temperatures, or maybe there was not enough salt.
    • There are many types of yeasts. Kahm yeast is the one we mostly experience when fermenting. Although usually considered harmless, kahm yeast can make a ferment taste bad. There are certain vegetables that form kahm yeast in fermentation (, when exposed to air.

    Foods that use yeast: Wine, beer, mead and sourdough breads
    Fermentation is made with bacteria, more specifically the good kind!


    Following are several photos of yeast growing on ferments.


    Yeast on a Ferment |

    How to deal with yeast:

    Skim off the layer of yeast. Remove the weights and followers* and replace with clean ones. Then, sample the ferment to see if the flavor has been affected by the yeast. If it has, remove the top layer of food and taste the layer under that. If it tastes good, it is best to eat it as soon as possible.

    If it needs more time to ferment, you can try to add some more brine, and/or salt. Adding more salt will make it saltier. Saltiness does not lessen in ferments over time. If the entire container tastes bad, throw it out.

    After finding yeast in your ferment, wash your tools and jars/vessels and weights with vinegar and very hot water, to help minimize any transfer from previous batches.

    Use clean hands, don’t use anti-bacterial soap that can transfer onto the foods you chop up.

    Using an airlock will help cut down on the air exposure, and will eliminate the need to “burp” the vessel, which introduces more air. Airlocks let gasses escape while keeping oxygen from getting in.

    Minimize floaters* by using a follower and a weight. A follower can be a cabbage leaf for example.

    Cut food into smaller pieces, the yeast will need a lot more time to form on smaller pieces. This is because there is less surface area, and it is easier for the brine to penetrate into the food.

    Try to ferment at room temperature which is around 65º F to 70ºF. Keeping the temperature steady is helpful also.

    Use fresh, organic food. Using the freshest possible food items will help immensely.

    How to avoid mold:

    First, there is a lot of controversy about whether you can scrape off mold in a ferment and then eat it. Many say this is fine. It simply is not. Let me explain. If you find mold on a hard cheese, you simply cut off an inch and eat the rest of the cheese. The moisture content is very low in hard cheeses and that is why this is acceptable. The mold has a harder time reproducing because it needs moisture to live. Now, soft cheese has to be thrown away if it has mold on it, because of the higher moisture content.

    Usually the USDA says that fruits and vegetables that have mold on them can be saved by cutting an inch off around the infected area, but this only pertains to low moisture fruits and veggies. So food submersed in liquid is, in fact, very susceptible to spreading the mold to the entire container of food.

    What about the salt, doesn’t it help keep bad bacteria at bay? It does, but if you already have mold, then something in the environment of the ferment is already off. For example, the salt content might be too low, allowing mold to grow. Throw out the entire contents of the vessel, and try, try again!

    Use only fresh, organic ingredients. Do not use anything that already has mold on it.

    Rinse your food with water before cutting into it. This will help wash away any impurities that we don’t want in the ferment.

    Wash your fermenting vessels before each use with vinegar and water.

    Use clean hands. Don’t use anti-bacterial soap that can transfer onto the foods you chop up. You don’t want to use anti-bacterial soap because it affects the good bacteria too, and that is what we are trying to grow in our ferments!

    Use an airlock. Airlocks are designed to keep the oxygen out. Mold can be airborne so this helps immensely to cut down on the amount that can enter the ferment.

    Don’t use table salt or pickling salt. These have preservatives that may hinder the good bacteria from growing, introducing mold in its place. I use Himalayan sea salt.

    Use the correct amount of salt. Different food items will need different amounts of salt. Use the handy Fermentation salt calculator as a helpful guide!

    Temperature also comes into play with fermentation. It is best to keep a steady temperature no less than 65º F to no more than 70º F.

    Keep food under the brine, by using a follower such as, a cabbage leaf. Anytime I have experienced mold, it was when the brine was too low or from floaters. Keeping the food submerged under the brine is one of the best ways to keep mold at bay.

    Even using all these wonderful tips, you may still encounter mold or yeast. It happens to the best of us. Don’t get discouraged! Keep trying. Now get out there and ferment something! Why not try to fermented carrots? Or maybe you could make some kimchi!

    If you have any questions, leave us a comment!


    So, after reading this, I inspected my pickles more closely. And, I am sad to say that they had mold growing on them. BUT, only one jar--the one we were eating out of. Obviously, someone introduced something to the opened jar that caused the mold growth, I think because the pickles were floating. So, if after your ferments are done and you want to keep the food submerged, don't remove the glass weight. You can always buy extras in the Fermentools store.


    Kristi is the blog owner of She is a wife and mother of three wonderful boys. She loves to write about food, children & parenting, tips and tricks, and survival information.
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  • Canning vs Fermenting

    If you want the healthiest option for food preservation and have cold storage available that does not require electricity, you just might want to consider fermentation as your method of choice. Read on for a great comparison of canning vs fermenting.
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  • Is raw fermented meat safe to eat?


    I remember my home ec teacher, as well as my mom, driving home the point of well-cooked meat. So much so, that today, I have trouble looking at a rare hamburger or steak. Then, I started reading about traditional foods and how some cultures actually eat raw meat. If this topic has your head spinning, too, keep reading. Ashley will answer the question, "Is raw fermented meat safe to eat?"


    Posted by Ashley


    “The start of fermentation is nothing else but a war declaration by all bacteria residing inside the meat, and the stuffed sausage becomes the battlefront. (1)”  Our ancestors have helped beneficial bacteria gain the upper hand to produce safe raw fermented meat for generations.  What’s the secret?  Water and acid.

    raw, fermented meat |




    Though it seems hard to believe, salting meat as part of the fermentation process works to preserve foods in much the same way that freezing does.  Harmful spoilage bacteria such as E.coli, Botulism, Listeria and Salmonella have certain requirements for life, and all require the availability of water for survival.  The availability of water, however, is not the same thing as the presence of water.


    When you freeze meat or salt cabbage for kimchi, you are not removing water.  True, salt does cause cabbage cells to break and release water, but the water remains in the fermentation vesicle, still present in vast quantity for spoilage.  Rather than removing water, salt and freezing work to change the “water activity” in a food, or the available water to be used by bacteria for spoilage.


    Water activity is the scientific way of denoting how tightly water is bound inside a food product, and how much water is available to be used by micro-organisms for either spoilage or fermentation.  Adding salt, or freezing foods, binds the water and reduces the amount of available water.


    Though you don’t often think of it, freezing food causes the water in a food to turn into ice crystals, effectively binding them and preventing that water from being used by bacteria to spoil the food.


    Water activity is measured on a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 being completely dry and 1 being pure water.  Freshly ground meat to be used in fermented sausages has a water activity of 0.99, which is a perfect breeding ground for just about any sort of unpleasant bacteria to reproduce.  Adding salt immediately reduces the water activity of ground meat, and for fermented sausage, the salt can reduce the water activity to around 0.96 instantly.  This may not seem like a lot, but in the world of bacteria, a little change in water activity goes a long way.


    Almost all pathogenic bacteria cannot survive at a water activity level less than 0.91, so that initial addition of salt is only the start to creating unfavorable conditions.  The next step is acid.




    The initial addition of salt retards, but does not stop, the growth of pathogenic bacteria.  Beneficial lactic fermentation bacteria can thrive at a much lower water activity than harmful pathogenic bacteria, and once salt has been added it’s time for them to go to work to win the war.


    Lactic acid producing bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus can live and reproduce in conditions that are between seven and 13 percent salt, depending on the strain.  Fermented foods are generally started with three percent salt, both for palatability and to ensure the optimum growth of the lactobacillus while retarding the growth of other bacteria.


    Since these lactic acid bacteria actually produce acid, their tolerance for acidified foods is much higher than less desirable bacteria.  After being given a leg up with the initial salting, these lactic acid bacteria metabolize sugars and produce acid, creating a sour tangy flavor that gives lactic acid fermented foods some of there characteristic zing.  Once a pH of five is reached, pathogenic bacteria can no longer reproduce and the lactic acid bacteria have won the war.


    To be extra careful, some fermented sausage makers add both powdered lactic acid and starter cultures of lactic acid producing bacteria to ensure that the meat is properly acidified and safe for consumption.  Historically, however, fermented sausage producers relied on technique and an ambient atmosphere of beneficial bacteria present in centuries old curing rooms.


    Water and acid are also the key to non-meat ferments in exactly the same way.  Salt is added to lower the water activity of sauerkraut so that the naturally present Lactobacillus can do their work to acidify the cabbage to turn it into a tasty fermented food.  Starter cultures, or a bit of the liquid from the last batch, can be added as an insurance policy, and should be added if you intend to use less than the recommended amount of salt.


    One key to a successful ferment is the salt. The Himalayan powder salt that Fermentools sells is made to dissolve quickly in cool water. It also has more than 80 trace minerals. Save time and up the nutrition of your ferments with Himalayan powder salt. You can find it in the Fermentools store.

    Ashley is an off grid homesteader in central Vermont. She is passionate about fermentation, charcuterie and foraging. Read more about her adventures at


    (1) Marianski, Stanley, and Adam Mariański. The Art of Making Fermented Sausages. Seminole, FL: Bookmagic, 2009. Print.

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  • Can a lactose-intolerant person eat yogurt or other dairy ferments?

    People that cannot tolerate dairy products tend to shy away from fermented dairy, like yogurt, as well. Whether that is necessary is a topic that many question. Here, Sarah explains just what causes lactose intolerance and what you may be able to do to help tolerate yogurt, kefir and more.
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