Frequently Asked Questions About Cultured Vegetables
My vegetables are rising in the jar. Is this okay?
Yes, this is perfectly normal and expected. Fermented vegetables should rise and expand as they culture, and you’ll find that they can often be very bubbly. This is a normal part of fermentation.
Can cultured vegetables develop botulism?
No. Botulism is an issue with canned goods because the heat used in canning kills all the good bacteria. When culturing foods, the healthy bacteria thrive and make it impossible for the bacteria that cause botulism to survive.
How long do I culture my vegetables on the kitchen counter? Can I leave them longer??
For most vegetables, culturing takes six days at room temperature. There are a few vegetables that will culture in only two or three days, but these shorter times are indicated in the specific recipes in chapters xx. If you culture the vegetables longer than six days, they can get too yeasty; the flavor will change, and not for the better. They will also lose some of their probiotics. However, the veggies still have benefits and are safe to eat. The vegetables will continue to ferment after you place them in the fridge, but at a slower rate. The flavors develop and age like a fine wine!
How long can I store my cultured veggies?
In the refrigerator, cultured veggies will keep for up to nine months, and sometimes longer. They continue to ferment but at a much slower rate. I find that many of my vegetables taste better after six weeks in the fridge. It’s fun to taste your vegetables at different stages to find out when you like them best.
Why aren’t my vegetables crunchy?
Salt is the key. Vegetables without salt become soft and slimy. Vegetables made with salt will stay crunchy.
Can these foods be stored out of the fridge after they have been fermented?
Technically, cultured vegetables can be stored in a cooler basement or cold cellar. However, they will continue to ferment, and in short order they won’t taste very good. Cultured veggies do best and taste best at the colder temperatures of a refrigerator.
How will I know if my vegetables are properly fermented?
They will taste sour and tart. If your culturing has gone wrong, you will know this by the strong, unappetizing odor the veggies will give off and you might see black spots. This will alert you something is wrong.
What are the white spots on my veggies?
One of the things that people find most troublesome is what appears to be small areas of white mold growing on the surface of the cultured vegetables. There is no reason for alarm and it is not actually mold but a yeast that they call kahm yeast. It can be found in cultured foods, but is not harmful. It can look scary and unpleasant, and even smell a little strong, but it is not a harmful thing. It should be removed from the jar so it doesn’t impart a strong odor or unpleasant taste. If you can’t get it all removed and a little is left in the jar, it won’t hurt you. Here are the best ways to prevent this: Use fresh veggies: I noticed it most when I used cucumbers and carrots from the store in the winter – when they had sat in my fridge for a while and I hadn’t used them right away. The sooner I used them and cultured them, the less chance I had of developing this kahm yeast. Use a culture: When you add Starter Culture, the bacteria stays at a higher level longer than other cultures and methods and helps keep this yeast at bay. Keep the vegetables submerged under water: If you keep the vegetables submerged under the water, the good/acidifying bacteria keep this problem at bay. Don’t over ferment: If you over ferment your veggies longer than the necessary time on the recipes, you have a higher chance of developing yeast (especially on veggies other than cabbage). Temperature: Letting them ferment in a cooler temperature is helpful. Cultured vegetables like it a little cooler – between 63 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If they do get kahm yeast on them, simply scrape it off and place them in the fridge. The cooler temperature can often cause the yeast to stop developing.
What do I do if the liquid is leaking from the jar while my veggies culture?
This liquid is called the brine, and if you made you jar too full the brine might leak out. Not a big deal. Simply open the jar, push the veggies down so they are fully covered, and remove a little bit of the liquid or some of the veggies.