How to start home fermentation

Home fermentation, have you tried the Kilner fermentation set?

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Is a home fermentation kit necessary? For the occasional production of sauerkraut I’m not sure that special equipment is essential. Maggie has managed to keep us supplied with our fermented foods simply by using medium sized jam jars, and a range of normal kitchen utensils. The point she always stresses is that everything has to be clean. The fermentation vessel should be thought of as a bacterial incubator. If you incorporate harmful bacteria into the incubator it will inevitably grow quickly. You should throw any tainted product away , clean everything and start again. One of the many appealing aspects of home fermentation is the relatively low cost of fermenting produce. Consider that at current prices a liter of organic sauerkraut can be created for less than 50p (ten bob!).

I know that previous generation of home fermenters from Poland and Germany actually had a range of fermentation pots and tools that were accumulated through the course of married life (I don’t remember seeing any of these is the kitchen of my mother or grandmother).  In particular ceramic pots that were dedicated fermentation vessels. They had necks wide enough that a small plate or large saucer could be accommodated within to keep the  fermented product under the water level.

With the rising interest in home fermentation equipment has passed from specialist shops and online retailers into mainstream retail outlets. We purchased a Kilner fermentation kit at the weekend. Our primary motivation was to increase the volumes of our product. Not only has our own consumption increased but we are also sharing more with our own friends and family. It certainly seems that the public awareness of the benefits of fermentation is growing. The Kilner kit was fairly priced (£18) when compared to similar products and the fermenting jar was around the size we were looking for (3 liters). It all seems OK, we’ll report back when our first batch is ready (cabbage and carrot). We have no particular connection with Kilner, save that we use their 1liter fermentation jars already.

We’d be really interest in what other home fermenters use,  and any equipment related tips would be most welcome. Feel free to leave any suggestions, comments or feedback in the box below.

The role of temperature in producing sauerkraut

Is temperature linked to the quality of your sauerkraut?

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what is the best temperature for fermentation?

In the short time we have been running this blog we have been asked about the optimum temperature for the fermentation process to take place. We have successfully fermented a range of foodstuffs at room temperature,  let’s say from 18oC to 22o. There is no method in this, it is simply that Maggie was brought up to leave the fermenting vegetables in the kitchen or a heated utility room. As such we’ve never been tempted to leave them in the garage or garden shed. As different types of cabbage take different amounts of time to ferment into sauerkraut, it always seemed likely that temperature is a variable in the process.

I eventually became impatient not knowing, I was also intrigued by the idea that  the quality of our own sauerkraut fermentation could be qualitatively improved by allowing it to take place at a slightly lower or higher temperature. The first two science papers I found dealing with the issue didn’t offer explicit conclusions, however third time lucky! India is one of the world’s big producers of cabbage, the spoiling of the raw cabbage before it gets to the consumer is a significant problem. So Indian interest in fermentation is something that is culturally relevant but also has commercial implications. An article in the Indian Journal of Ecology from 2017,  Effect of Temperature on Fermentation and Quality of Sauerkraut provided a lot of useful data.

In an experiment, Pran Krishna Thakur, Payel Panja and Jahangir Kabir tested the quality of sauerkraut produced at a low (15o-20o C), ambient (25o-30o C) and high (35o-40o C) temperatures. The paper is well written if you’d like to know more about yeast and bacterial profiles of sauerkraut fermentation at different temperatures follow the link. However the headline is that the sauerkraut was of a higher quality when fermented at the lower temperature (15o-20o C). This is in line with the general advice, however it’s worth noting that the experiment was undertaken with the shaan variety. I suspect that there may be some variability with different types of cabbage, but that’s a story for another day.

Simple homemade sauerkraut recipe

How to make simple sauerkraut, a traditional homemade fermentation recipe, suitable for beginners, inexpensive but very healthy.

cabbage
fermented cabbage for lifelong health and wellbeing

This a very simple recipe illustrating how easy it is to to make healthy fermented foods. Sauerkraut is a perfect starting point for your first fermentation project, it is quick, low cost and will provide plenty of gut friendly bacteria. Those little friends will work for you, supporting your immune and digestive systems, helping you to feel great physically and mentally. This is based on a traditional recipe from my family, quite literally passed on from mother to daughter for generations. If you are interested in a technical explanation of how fermentation and probiotics works, and what the evidence is for the health benefits, follow the link to resources at the foot of the page.

Ingredients:

  • around 1kg cabbage (finely sliced)
  • 1 medium carrot (grated)
  • salt (unprocessed, such as sea salt, do not use table or iodised) – proportion for cabbage to salt: 1kg of cabbage to 20 grams of salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 allspice berries

Preparation:

  1. make sure everything is perfectly clean, (the containers, utensils, work surfaces, chopping boards) as you want only good bacteria to grow
  2. take off first layer of leaves from your cabbage, also remove any damaged leaves
  3. finely cut or shred it
  4. grate the carrot
  5. mix it in a big bowl
  6. add salt and massage it in until cabbage starts release its juice then leave it for about 10 min
  7. you may wish to use a wooden vegetable stomper to squeeze more juice (different names for the same tool are pounder or tamper)
  8. put 1/3 of your mixture in a ceramic pot or you can use a glass jar, just make sure it is sterilised
  9. add 1 bay leave and 2 allspice berries
  10. add another 1/3 of the cabbage
  11. add 1 bay leave and 2 allspice berries
  12. squeeze it until brine covers all of the cabbage (it needs to stay submerged throughout the fermentation process)
  13. put the pot or jar on a plate just in case it spills out of the jar, the level will rise, if you use a glass jar don’t allow the product to make contact with a metal jar lid
  14. you can use a weight to keep the cabbage immerse or even a small (clean) plate
  15. Leave for 5-6 days and voila 😉

Remember:

Do not use a metal bowl or metal utensils as they will react with salt, sorry to be a bore but everything must be clean, any harmful bacteria you introduce may taint the product. Make your first batch small, then scale up. Remember with fermented vegetables you win in many ways you get the nutritional value of the ingredients plus the probiotic benefits.

Feedback:

Please leave feedback about this or your own fermented recipe in the comments section lower down the page.

Resources:

For the science behind fermentation visit the resources page, please see our disclaimer.

Fermented foods; improved health and wellbeing

Fermented food is linked to significantly improved physical and mental health

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Welcome to Gut Well Soon, a website committed to sharing knowledge about how fermented foods are able to dramatically improve health and wellbeing. For decades scientific research has supported the view that there is a strong correlation between the state of your gut bacteria and your physical and mental health. If this seems far fetched I encourage you to look into the scientific research in this area.

An essential component of a healthy gut is the balance and blend of living microorganisms in the digestive system. Fermented foods can have valuable levels of beneficial living microorganisms that meditate a range of beneficial processes.

Since the late 20th century, a number of factors have been linked with a decline in healthy gut bacteria, not least the use of powerful pharmaceutical products. Whilst drugs can kill significant amounts of harmful bacteria they may also reduce helpful, health promoting bacteria. Some fermented foodstuffs contain large numbers of these healthy microorganisms and have been directly related to a number of benefits.

Many traditional fermented foods are widely available and include pickled vegetables as well as yogurt based products. Humans have been eating fermented food for thousands of years. You may have many inexpensive fermented products in your own food cupboards right now. We are creating an extensive directory as well as some great recipes and instruction sheets.  If you are interested in fermented foods, two ideas that you should start with are:

  • foods labelled pasteurized are unlikely to contain healthy living bacteria
  • following simple instructions you can safely make delicious fermented foods in your own home

This is a growing movement so please share your thoughts and ideas. Use the comments boxes to tell us about any experiences good or bad feel. We welcome information about relevant products and services in the market.