Fermenting is a mix of an art and science. It takes a bit of know-how, a good culture as well as good conditions. Regardless, sometimes fermentation problems can arise. Here are a few common problems that can arise when when fermenting vegetables.
Other Types of Ferments
This article mainly focuses on issues with fermenting vegetables. If you have a different sort of problem check out one of the following links:
- Problems with kahm yeast and mold
- Why fermentation hasn’t started after 24 hours
- How to solve cheesemaking problems
- Taking care of a sourdough starter
- Common kombucha problems
Vegetable Fermentation Problems
Too Much Salt
What if you don’t like your ferments to be so salty, or maybe you’re supposed to avoid salt for health reasons? Are there ways to avoid the salt? Truthfully, it’s risky to ferment with less salt than suggested in the recipe. Salt brined ferments need the salt to prevent contamination from the wrong type of bacteria or mold. However, there are a few ways to decrease the salt.
- Rinse some of the salt off before eating. This works for sauerkraut and quick fermented vegetables. Longer ferments usually are infused with salt.
- Add the vegetables to a soup or stew instead of adding salt. For example, sauerkraut can replace any added salt in this delicious potato soup. Here are a number of soups that are perfect for fermented vegetables.
- If you want to try using a low-salt brine, then make sure all other aspects of your ferment are perfect. Sterilize everything, use a starter culture, ferment at the right temperature, and use an air-lock or fido jar.
Over-flowing or bulging jars
Most ferments produce carbon dioxide, which bubble and can cause your ferments to over flow. If you’re fermenting in a sealed jar without an air-lock or fido, then the jar could even explode!
So use jars that allow for off-gassing, and leave lots of head room for things to bubble up. However, if all you have is a regular mason jar, then just make sure you release the pressure daily. Lastly, if you’re bottling fermented drinks, then use plastic pop bottles or bottles with a swing top lid that are made for carbonated beverages (think of beer bottles).
Most ferments have a unique smell. This smell can often range from yeasty to egg-like depending on what you are fermenting. Just because something smells funny, doesn’t mean that it has gone off. Things that are off usually smell so bad that you would NEVER consider eating them.
Many vegetables will change their colour and texture as they ferment. This is especially true if you’ve added something that is a natural dye (beets, turmeric). However, even plain sauerkraut will change from a bright green to a pale yellow-green. If something is rotting, then it will look rotten (brown) and smell awful.
There are a huge ways for a ferment to failure. I’ve covered a few common ones, but if you’re struggling with something different, feel free to write in the comments below or on the Fermenting for Foodies Facebook page and I’ll try to help you out!