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Canning jars and lids

Fermenting Tip: Put a lid on it?


Fermenting Tip: Kefir

My kefir jars
My kefir jars

I’ve been making milk kefir for 13 years. That’s a lot of kefir day in and day out, so I know a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I always shoot straight with you and will never tell you to do something I don’t do or believe in.

Through the years, I’ve been contacted by many people who were experiencing problems with their kefir. When making milk kefir, many people have been taught to use a cloth and rubber band over the jar. This is one of the most common things that cause problems. When a cloth is used to cover a vessel for kefir, there is a risk of cross contamination with wild yeasts in the air or even from other cultures, such as kombucha that is culturing nearby.  Cross contamination can affect kefir by changing the color or taste. Sometimes there is a discoloration on top of their kefir, for instance, a pink color that is a result of fermentation and yeasts that are accumulating in the kefir culture.  Cross contamination can also cause an off taste that is strong and yeasty tasting, or just has a weird flavor overall.

Cross contamination is not bad and will not harm you, but it is best to always use a lid so that you can eliminate these problems. The best method is to use a canning jar with a plastic lid.  Using canning jar with a metal lid, a clamp-down jar or even tightly sealed plastic wrap over a jar are all methods that work too.  Check the jar 24 hours after fermenting to loosen the pressure of gases that accumulate from fermenting.  I have always done this and never have a problem with my kefir – even after 11 years of fermenting.

Fermenting Tip: Cultured Vegetables

Canning jars and lids
Canning jars and lids

I often make fermented vegetables using a canning jar with a lid, but there are many methods and vessels you can use to make cultured vegetables. There is a lot of information going around on the Internet stating that you should only use an airlock jar to ferment vegetables.  The controversy around the canning jar method is that it doesn’t seal well enough to remove the oxygen, creating an anaerobic environment for the fermentation and therefore doesn’t produce enough good bacteria to create all the health-benefits of fermentation.  In addition, there are some reports that suggest this method is not safe. I have been making and eating these foods for the last 11 years and I will shoot straight with you.  I’m always going to tell you the truth.

Generations of people have been fermenting foods for thousands of years without special vessels or fancy equipment. If your vegetables are submerged under the water or brine then they are in an anaerobic environment and are perfectly fine and safe – period! Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you have to buy fancy equipment in order for your fermented vegetables to be safe. This story – that a simple, inexpensive method of making cultured vegetables is not safe – just breaks my heart, because it scares people and keeps them from reaping the millions of benefits from these foods.

You can make these foods in canning jars, clamp down jars, crocks or airlock vessels.  I want you to make these vegetables and discover the benefits. Don’t be afraid. Always follow the money when in doubt and in this case, people have much to gain from promoting this inaccurate story.  If I can help people find wellness in the simplest, safe and most affordable method as I have done, by golly I’m gonna tell them, and then we all can reap the benefits. Happy healthy people make the world a better place! Okay, I’m done stomping my foot.

Let me explain what I use so that you can choose what’s best for you.

A clamp down jar is what I use the most to make cultured vegetables.  I have so many of these jars and I think they work great to make cultured vegetables. I also like that they come in a variety of sizes and fit well in my fridge.

I have also used canning jars with plastic lids in all different sizes. You can use jars with metal lids but I prefer the plastic lids.  If the ferment touches the lid, a plastic lid won’t leave a metallic taste.  Also, it is better for you not to have metal touch the food during the fermentation process.

Airlock jars
Airlock jars

I love using an airlock jar to ferment my cultured vegetables. What is an airlock jar for fermenting cultured vegetables? An airlock is a special gadget that facilitates the process of gas escaping your fermented vegetables while keeping air out. This allows you to make fermented vegetables, while greatly reducing and often eliminating the threat of mold. I also think they taste a little better but not enough to use them exclusively.

The airlock jar is my favorite method but it is not the one I use the most.  One reason for this is that I do not have as many of these airlock jars.  I make so many cultured vegetables that I would have to buy dozens of airlock jars to keep up with my ferments. The other reason is that my husband gets such a kick out of finding me special fermenting jars and I get so excited when he finds me a new one.  I never want this to end even though I already have enough fermenting jars to last a lifetime.

My least favorite method is a crock because I have discovered that the cultured vegetables often, but not always, mold.  This happens because the lids on crocks are not tight, but there is an easy way to remedy this if you still want to use a crock.  My favorite fermentation guru, Sandor Katz, recommends that you ferment food the old-fashioned way – by pouring a thin layer of olive oil or coconut oil over the top of your ferment. The top layer of oil will keep oxygen off the ferment’s surface. When you’re ready to eat the ferment, a coconut oil layer will pop right off as a solid, removable hunk as long as the temperature is below 76F. If you use olive oil, for instance with a fermented salsa, you can just mix it right into the ferment for added flavor.

These are the methods that I use every day and I wanted to share them with you. I hope that I can make it easier for you, so that you will discover what fun it is to ferment foods and enjoy the benefits.

kombucha brewingFermenting Tip: Kombucha

Always use a cloth and rubber band when fermenting kombucha, unless you are second fermenting or storing your kombucha, and then it will be in a bottle with a lid and preferably a clamp down bottle. These work the best when storing kombucha because they let the gases and pressure escape without losing the carbonation.



133 Responses to "Fermenting Tip: Put a lid on it?"
  1. Where did you get the glass jar (with clamp) that has the airtight thingy? Love all of your expertise!!!

  2. Once a chutney has had 4 days or so at room temperature with an airlock, do I remove the airlock lid and use a regular lid to put in the fridge or should I continue with the airlock while refriderating?

  3. hi and thanks,
    so… it is fine to use plain plastic lids without the added expense and cleaning of a gasket? …(if the veggies are held / weighted down under the brine)

    or, does the gasket help somehow enough to buy?

  4. Is it normal for goats milk to slow down the growth of my grains. I have recently changed to goats milk and found this to be a problem. Any tips?

  5. How long can 2nd ferment store out of the fridge. I have a number of bottles that have been unrefridgerated for 3 weeks due to refrigeration problems. The kefir has separated into very thick curds and lots of whey. I opened the jar to taste and it tastes extremely extremely sour but not off. Is it safe or am I stretching it?

  6. I got some milk kefir grains from a friend a few weeks ago and have been culturing them with the cloth/rubber band method, as my friend had done. My kefir does have a very strong yeast smell and taste (so much that I couldn’t even imagine drinking it on its own, though it’s fine in smoothies). Im willing to start culturing them with a lid instead, but is there any hope of getting rid of that overly yeasty smell?

      • Piggybacking on this conversation to ask — what do you mean when you say you remove the cream from the milk? Do you have to do this if you use whole milk from the store (I have no access to raw milk)? If so, how does one remove it?

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