What Causes Blue Mold to Grow on Fermented Pickles in the Fridge?

Hi.

Thanks for your website. I’ve fermented for over 10 years and until last year had delicious pickles. Last year the pickles in my old crock did not taste good, although the texture, firmness and looks were good. This year all four batches were delicious after they’d fermented on the counter., both green beans and cucumbers. I refrigerated them and they were good for a month. Then after being away for a month I found a blue mold on the surface of brine - on all 4 batches in the refrigerator. Same as that batch last year. They looked great, were firm but the taste is like medicine, like mold, after I'd carefully removed the mold. They are not good to eat. The mold is more leather-like than scum. I don’t think they are dangerous to eat, but sure not pleasant to eat. I’m tossing them. What went wrong? Should I invest in the German pickling jars? 

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Hi Rebecca,

You are welcome, glad it helps. Goodness do you have some fine mold mats. 

It is good that you tossed them. Somehow you you you have gotten some tenacious little mold spores. The thing is they need oxygen to grow, sometimes when you repack a ferment from a crock there is just enough oxygen in the headspace to allow mold to grow. If the ferment is still a little bit active when you repack it you can actually let it sit out for a day with the lid on tight and as the lid bulges a bit then twist it slightly to burp it. This will push out the oxygen as the CO2 the ferment created is heavier an it will now blanket the pickles to keep them from growing mold.  As far as do you need different equipment? It is possible that there are some spores that have taken up residence in your older crock and they are what is giving you grief. Also older crocks sometimes have lead in the glazes whereas the newer ones don’t, so that might also be a reason for you to replace. With what? is personal preference the water trap crocks with the weights are nice, but you must be sure to keep the water full, otherwise they are just as prone to mold and other oxygen loving microbes as an open crock. Fermenting is jars is also a great option. 

Cheers,

Kirsten





What Color Should Fermented Garlic Have?

Hi! 

My name is Dalton and my fiancé and I have started our journey into the world of fermentation! That being said we started with the simple garlic honey ferment but I’m getting worried about the look the garlic seems to be taking on.

I’ve had some of the honey and I tried a garlic clove about 6 days ago and both were very good. But the farther along it gets the more the color is turning grey/dark and to me it looks strange. Is this ok to eat or does it mean the garlic is going rotten and we should start again?!

Thanks for any advice you can offer!

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Hey Dalton,

Nice to hear from you—welcome to the fermentation journey. It is a good one. 

The color of the garlic will continue to get darker over time and that is perfectly normal. Go ahead and eat and enjoy your honey and your garlic. 

Cheers,

Kirsten




Why Would Fermented Green Tomatoes Appear Slimy?

Not Okay Okay

Hi!

Thanks so much for all your advice and support.  I’m not super new to fermenting, but realize I’ve never done a cut, seedy vegetable before (mostly whole cukes, beets, cabbage etc), and notice something odd on this batch of green tomatoes. Some, but not all, of the cut surfaces seem to be acquiring a whitish, slimy looking (although not slimy feeling) bloom.  They have been under brine, in a crock, for about 3 weeks, and a few seeds have floated to the surface and caught mold, but I’ve discarded these and everything else seems to be fine.  One week ago they smelled and tasted pretty good - thought I’d let them go longer and now they don’t taste as good, and several have this... stuff.  Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance!

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Hi Sara,

You are welcome. I am happy to help! However, I am afraid I won’t be much help on this one. It sounds like you did everything just right and last week all was well. Given they don’t feel slimy, just look slimy, I wonder if they just fermented too long and microbes that moved in were not yummy flavor makers. ou also said they don’t taste as good which to me is another indicator that the microbes shifted on you. This off course is all just an educated guess. I can tell you that in general cut seedy veggies are much quicker to cause problems. I have come to doing my cucumbers and green tomatoes whole (or chopped like relish) for this reason.  

As far as this batch, if they are not rotten (sounds like they aren’t) but aren’t pleasing there is not much you can do at this point. If you don’t like them don’t eat them, or make a relish with the ones that are okay and eat it soon. 

I hope that helps.

Cheers,

Kirsten



Is Sediment In Fermented Hot Sauce Okay?

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Good evening,
I came across your page while worrying about my first ever batch of lacto fermented hot sauce. I've never fermented anything before, so i'd rather be on the safe than sorry side of foodborne illness. When starting, the ferment had tiny bubbles during the first week. The directions I followed stated to massage the peppers after a week, so I opened it up to do so. Other than that, I haven't touched it in 5 weeks. That 1 week mark was also the time, however, that it stopped producing bubbles. Do you mind just letting me know if it looks okay? No bad smell, just a lot of sediment/debris and no bubbles. These are red and green jalapenos along with onions and then spices. 
Thank you

Casey 

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Hello Casey,
Thanks for contacting us and sending photos. We have never heard of the massage at the 1 week technique and can’t think of why that would be suggested. Maybe the author had an issue with whole peppers not getting the brine inside them so they thought they should me massaged? Don’t know but I would suggest leaving that off your next batch process, you really should not need nor want to handle the ferments while they are fermenting.  Opening the lid also releases the protective CO2 layer that should be captured under the lid and water in your air lock. Is there water in your air lock on top of the lid?
On to good news - they look fine. That sediment you see is normal. I would suggest spooning some out and tasting. If you like then you might think about spooning all the vegetables into your blender and adding ¼ of the brine you think you will use and blend. Check the consistency and keep adding brine until you get to the sauciness you are imagining.
Let us know how it goes Casey.

Cheers

Christopher

What Causes The Milky Sediment At The Bottom Of My Ferment?

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Three weeks ago I jumped into fermenting with both feet.  I fermented 10 jars of various vegetables.  3 weeks into it they are getting tasty.  Three jars were peppers from my garden.  About a week in I noticed two of the jars of peppers have this milky sediment on the bottom.  I used the same brine and added only garlic to all three.  All three still smell and taste great so I suspect that it’s safe but it looks nasty.  Do you have any idea what’s going on here?

Thanks for your help.

Charles

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Hi Charles, 
Nice to hear from you and that you have thrown yourself into fermentation. 
The good news is this is perfectly normal, in fact all ferments have this sediment! It is actually a sign that everything has gone well. If you are curious look under the jars of Bubbies pickles in the grocery store and you will see the same sediment and the cloudy brine. 
Keep on fermenting!
Kirsten

What Is The White Film That Can Develop On Fermented Onions?

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Hello,

 I am so glad I came across your website. I have a batch of red onion ferment I am not sure is safe to try. I have quite a bit of experience with kimchi, but this is the first time I have tried fermenting onion. The recipe was just onion and salt, and the onions were supposed to give enough juice to keep them covered, but they did not and so the top layer was exposed to air. They were fermenting for about 2 weeks at about 19 degrees C. A layer of white film developed on top of the onions. It smells like fresh yeast. I have never had this issue before. Any idea what is it, and is the onion safe to consume? Thanks so much,Magdalena Denenberg 

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Hello Magdalena,
Glad you found the site before you tossed the onions—they should be tasty. You are correct in that the film developed due to onions on that weren’t fully submerged under the brine. The is kahm yeast, harmless but not so tasty. You will want to scoop off this top layer and then the rest will be fine. I also suggest putting the good part in a smaller jar now that it is ready to refrigerate. Less air in the jar makes it less likely that you will see a film like this this. 
Happy to help. 
Enjoy the onions,
Kirsten





How Long Should Naked Kraut Ferment?

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Greetings!!
I followed the book “fermented vegetables” and it seemed my ferment was ready at five days. 
I didn’t want it too sour/“nasty” (my husband and a dear friend were skeptical at letting it sit too long) so i tasted it and jarred it up. it’s in the fridge. My first kraut. Naked kraut. 
Do you think I rushed it? 
We keep our house at 65F year round and i had this in a crock in my sewing room above our boiler room. 
Thank you!!!!

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Hi there, 
Congratulations on your first Naked Kraut. Sorry for the slowish response. We have been traveling a lot. These look great. I am guessing you are enjoying them by now. As soon as the kraut smells pickley then it is technically done. As the time increases it just gets more sour. The only reason to let it go more is that it will continue to process the carbohydrates and “predigest” them for you. That said these younger ferments are super tasty and still good for you. 
Enjoy,
Kirsten

How Much Brine Should Curried Cauliflower Have?

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Hi Kirsten & Christopher,

I've been enjoying your book, "Fermented Vegetables."  I picked up a copy at a 

Story Publishing sale this summer.  I've made some great pickles and Edgy Vegetables. 

I'm writing because I'm having a problem with your Curried Cauliflower recipe.  I've followed the recipe and it's in a Gallon Jar with glass weights and a fermentation lid as you can see.  The problem is that it's not making much liquid.  I added about 1.75 teaspoons of salt when I made it and after 12 hours there was just maybe an inch of liquid.  It's definitely reduced in size a few inches.  I took out the contents and added another teaspoon of salt and put it back in the jar.  But I'm still not seeing much liquid after another 4 or 5 hours.

Can you help me?  Should I make a brine and add it?  The cauliflower is a head that I grew and picked a few days ago, so it's pretty fresh.

Thanks,

Charley

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Hi Charley,

Hmmm. I wonder if you have more liquid now. Usually this is not an issue when the cauliflower is thinly sliced. It last oks like your cauliflower and veggies are all plenty small. A good massage or knee ding also help release the liquid. Problem is sometimes the veggies are just abnormally dry. I of course don’t know if that is what is going on but could be. 

You need just enough brine to keep things anaerobic with no air pockets. 

What to do from here is the question. If you now have enough—great. If not you could add a low salt water solution. Not my favorite but will save the batch. It sounds like you already have a bit of salt. The solution I’m thinking is 1 tablespoon per pint of water. I would say if you put in two teaspoons already then only make the brine with two teaspoons instead of the full tablespoon. 

Hope that helps. 

Kirsten 





Is Brown Fermented Garlic Paste Normal?

Garlic Paste

Garlic Paste

Hi Christopher and Kirsten,

I am loving trying all the different ferments from your book, and mostly have had success!  This year I had a bumper crop of garlic, and a lot of patience.  I Followed the directions for garlic paste.  It has been sitting now for 2 weeks, and is starting to turn a brown color.  When I took the bag and plastic out, I scooped some out.  It smells like garlic!  I am worried about the brown.  Is this normal?  Also on related garlic, is it supposed to kind of turn translucent?  I don't worry so much about the liquid ones, I know they are under the brine, and are fine : ).
Thanks!
Candace

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Hi Candace,

We love that you are enjoying our book. Your garlic paste looks perfect! (Which is good news given that looks like a 1/2 gallon jar—I know how much work went into that?) You can add it to your success list. 

The browning is the sugars caramelizing and is exactly the color it should be. 

As far as the translucent — do you mean the ones up high on the side of the jar — those looks discolored. I would always wipe off the lonely stuff on the sides but everything looks pretty perfect to me. 

The main thing you will want to do is store in smaller containers with little airspace.

Hope that helps,

Kirsten

Cabbage Leaves Blackening?

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Hi.

I am making sour cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls and using old Baba recipe which is very loosely-goose as to amount of salt and water. Smells like they are fermenting but outer leaves appear to be blackening!  Yikes!  Why? And are they still salvageable? 

Thanks, Kathy

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HI Kathy,


These look okay to me, I don’t see they “blackening” but I do see the deep color I think you are referring to, this is just the color that the greener outer leaves get. Think of the color of an olive or dill pickle. Green turns that army style green. 

I think as long as you keep them submerged until they are fully fermented they will be fine. 

I hope that helps,


Kirsten

Different Color in Pickles?

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Hi there,

Wondering what’s up with the color difference on my lacto ferment pickles. Same batch, one has a light green band around the outside, and the other is fully dark green all the way to the skin. 

Thanks for your help!
Ted

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Hi Ted,
Thanks for reaching out about the cucumbers. I am sorry but we have been traveling for the last 2 weeks and I don’t know if Christopher got back to you. I apologize for the late reply. 
The discoloring you see is just the way the fermentation works. The white parts are not fully fermented, called half-sours to some. This is okay as it will continue to ferment in the fridge. How it works is that when you sink the cucumber into salt water the saline of the salt water and the base water in the pickle exchange in an osmosis process because the water is looking to balance itself—meanwhile the lactobacillus are acidifying the whole affair. This is why you see variation in the coloring—different speeds of that exchange. 
I hope that helps and you enjoy your pickles.
Cheers,
Kirsten

Mold on Beet Kvass

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Hello Kirsten!

I’m taking my first crack at making Beet Kavass and have just a little bit of experience with fermenting. I made three jars like this with slight variations (w/lemon, without lemon; variations on the salt) and this one looks like the seal was letting in some air. They have been fermenting for about a week. The other two jars had some scum but overall seem to be a success. This one makes me pause a bit... the mold does not look good and I’m wondering if the location was a little bit too warm in addition to the questionable seal. However, the beets and liquid below still have their lovely pink color, so I’m hoping you can help. Important to note that there are mint leaves floating at the top, which may distort the color a bit. Thoughts? 

Thanks! 
Maureen 

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Hi Maureen,
I am glad to hear your other two turned out well. I can’t imagine your variations have anything to do with the mold, more likely the seal, as you suspect. Also the mint floating on top could have given the mold a place to land, but not caused it. A few things that you can do to prevent that in the future is to fill the water line a little higher in the jar. Less airspace means that there is less oxygen for the CO2 to push out (whether you are burping the jar or using these one way lids). 
As far as this kvass goes. It looks like a pretty big bloom of mold and the ferment hasn’t been going very long so I can’t say with confidence that is as acidic as it should be. My guess is that if you carefully remove it, make sure that you got it and a little of the kvass underneath, and make sure the jar sides are clean, that it may still taste off or moldy. But that is what you would do in order to tell, if what looks good is good or not. In this case my instinct would be to compost it and start over. 
I hope that helps,
Kirsten

Ferment is not sour. It doesn't seem to be progressing.

Ferment not sour enough

Hi Kirsten,

I am new to the ferment world. As someone who loves to cook, enjoys quality food and always trying to become healthier, fermenting has become like a wonderful new friend.

My second batch of kraut is now over three months old and is still not at a sour or tenderness level that I am satisfied with.  According to pH strips, the acidity level is somewhere between 4-5, the brine is cloudy and I am no longer seeing any bubbles when I press the contents. 

Will the kraut ferment any more? Did I use too much salt? Is the batch at risk of developing any adverse characteristics if I continue to leave at room temperature?

From reading up on some of your previous responses, I am surmising that I need to cut the cabbage more finely and/or massage, perhaps even beat it more in the future?

Any insights you can offer would be appreciated! 

Best, 

Tim

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Hi Tim,

Welcome to wonderful world of yummy ferments.

There are a lot of possibilities here. First let me say three months is a long time for such a small batch. It definitely won’t ferment any more. There is no need to leave it out. If left out it will eventually have no more “food” for the bacteria and they will die off. This won’t be bad, as in make you sick, it just won’t be probiotic or as tasty. My guess is the lack of pizzazz and sour is likely from the cabbage itself. Depending on the cultivar and time of year cabbages can have very little sugar and starch to break down. It is the sugar that turns into that lovely sour. There is a winter cabbage that has been bred from cold storage and can last for months because it is bred not to break down—which is exactly what we are asking it to do with fermentation.

Cutting finely and massaging are always good. No need to beat it up—you may end up with a mushy kraut.

I would say just try again. In a month or two the juicy summer cabbages will be at the markets and you will likely get a wonderful kraut. Last, if you are someone that likes extra sour you can do what some Asian ferments do which is add a little sugar that will be fermented into more acid. 

Hope that helps!

Kirsten

My Ferment isn't Producing CO2

Hey Kirsten!

I have just started fermenting - this is my third little project - and I'm loving this whole new culinary world I've just discovered :-) My first 2 jars have been great (dilly carrots and sauerkraut, both plain salt ferments) fizzing away happily and needing regular burping. My last baby however isn't apparently doing anything...There's no CO2 that I can see or hear.

In the jar are 3 peeled aubergines, I think 1 tbsp of salt, chilli flakes, dried oregano and 2 cloves of garlic. I peeled the skins off, then peeled the flesh into thin strips, massaged it all together to release the juices, put it all in a clean jar and stuck a smaller jar inside to press it all down. That was almost a week ago. It all smells fine and there's no mould or anything nasty growing...any ideas?

Ps thanks for the help section and all your advise! It's become my nightly reading these past few evenings before bed ;-)

Best wishes

Carley

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Hey Carley,

Nice to hear from you! And so glad you are enjoying all the fun and new flavors you are discovering. A warning, it can be addicting but you might already know that given you’ve been reading our troubleshooting posts as bedtime reading. :-)

Your ferment looks great. Here is the thing with the bubbles—some ferments work just fine with never a visible bubble. The CO2 is produced when the bacteria consume the carbohydrates —the sugar. Some vegetables just don’t have as much sugar—your aubergines being one of them. So it is likely fermenting just fine with very little CO2 activity. It should starting smelling and tasting pickling at some point over the next week. 

Cheers,

Kirsten

Pink floating bits on top of brine

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Onions garlic dill bay leaf and asparagus getting bubbles and red pink floating bits looks like mold 

See pic attached thanks

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Hi there,

That does look like some kind of unwelcome pink microbial growth. The good news is that you have a great deal of brine and your veggies are anaerobic and safe under the weights. 

Skim off the top layer catching all of these bits. 

I wouldn’t get into the ferment until it smells good and pickle-y. When it is time make sure that none of this has grown back. If it has skim it off again. 

Once you get into your ferment if it smells and looks good it then it is. If it smells off then it is likely off and you will want to send it to the compost. 

I hope that helps,

Kirsten

Mold on Beet Kvass

Hello Kristen!

I’m taking my first crack at making Beet Kvass and have just a little bit of experience with fermenting. I made three jars like this with slight variations (w/lemon, without lemon; variations on the salt) and this one looks like the seal was letting in some air. They have been fermenting for about a week. The other two jars had some scum but overall seem to be a success. This one makes me pause a bit... the mold does not look good and I’m wondering if the location was a little bit too warm in addition to the questionable seal. However, the beets and liquid below still have their lovely pink color, so I’m hoping you can help. Important to note that there are mint leaves floating at the top, which may distort the color a bit. Thoughts? 

Thanks! 
Maureen

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Hi Maureen,

I am glad to hear your other two turned out well. I can’t imagine your variations have anything to do with the mold, more likely the seal, as you suspect. Also the mint floating on top could have given the mold a place to land, but not caused it. 

A few things that you can do to prevent that in the future is to fill the water line a little higher in the jar. Less airspace means that there is less oxygen for the CO2 to push out (whether you are burping the jar or using these one way lids). 

As far as this kvass goes. It looks like a pretty big bloom of mold and the ferment hasn’t been going very long so I can’t say with confidence that is as acidic as it should be. My guess is that if you carefully remove it, make sure that you got it and a little of the kvass underneath, and make sure the jar sides are clean, that it may still taste off or moldy. But that is what you would do in order to tell, if what looks good is good or not. In this case my instinct would be to compost it and start over.

I hope that helps,

Kirsten

Gelantinous, thick, milky, fermented garlic brine

Strangely enough both of these letters came within a day of each other sharing the same question regarding a thick fermented garlic brine.

While they look all wrong both these ferments are fine. It happens sometimes with garlic. We don't know the reason behind it but these ferments. It is not mold and we haven't found that it happens from a process error. More likely it has something to do with the variety of garlic. I have done a lot of variety testing and found some varieties do this while others do not. While this brine unsightly, are perfectly safe and taste good as well.

 

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Hello!  

What a helpful resource your site as been!  Thank you for offering to give us individualized advice. 

I’ve had a garlic ferment in my cabinet for about 2 weeks.  I’ve checked it every other day.  The garlic is completely submerged below 3 clean rocks.  I’ve checked the ferment every other day, letting out the air.  Today when I checked I noticed this milky white stuff floating at the top ¼ of the jar, more around the rocks, less the garlic.  I’m attaching 3 pictures and my attempts to draw lines to what your eyes should focus on. 

Is this the start of mold growing? Or is it something else?  The ferment has appeared healthy to date, a lot of bubbling every day, and a few cloves have started to turn blue. 

Thank you,

Sherry  

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Hi Kirsten,

I started a batch of fermented garlic and it just hit the 4 week mark. It had been doing great and was bubbling lots, but a few days ago (maybe a week) I noticed that the bubbling had mostly stopped and the brine turned kind of gelatinous. You can see small solid chunks throughout the brine. The smell and color still seem fine, there’s no mold, and I think it’s ok, but am unsure since this is my first long-term brine. Is this safe to eat?

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We've consolidated the answers to both of these into the text above.

 

 

Help - what is growing in my kimchi?

help what is on my kimchi

Hello - I started kimchi in my crock a week ago. There is an unidentified cloud of growth within the brine - above the weights but below the air surface. Can you help identify what this is? Is the kimchi below still safe to eat? 

Thanks!!

Katie

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Hi Katie,

Your unidentified cloud of growth is normal, it is sediment, very normal! This sediment always forms and is just more obvious given that it has the weights that it settles on. Think of the cloudy brine in fermented pickles in Bubbies—it is white in those ferments and red in kimchi because of the spices.  I am happy to report that your kimchi looks perfect and delicious!

Yes, you can eat it!

Cheers,

Kirsten

 

Dark grey sediment in my ferments?

Good morning Ms. Kirsten,

I found your site through a Google search and can't thank you enough for providing the help section! This is our first attempt at fermented vegetables. They have been bubbling, the lids swelled a little and became hard, and they have been seeping (all of which I'm guessing is normal). What wasn't mentioned in the recipe is that the brine developed these grey, sediment-like particles that began floating throughout each jar but mostly settled to the bottoms (looks darker in person than in picture). Each of the 9 jars also developed a dark grey/black ring around the bottom. Is this a normal/safe ferment? When I opened one this morning (day 8) it was hard to open and fizzed, bubbled and sizzled as if it's been fermenting fine and there does not appear to be any discoloration on the cabbage leaves I used to hold the veggies under water. Thank you so much in advance for your time! 


Kind regards, Elizabeth

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Dear Elizabeth,

We are glad to hear that our site is helpful. You are right all that “action” is quite normal. The sediment is also quite normal—in fact when I see cloudy brine and sediment I know that the process is working well. The black bits of sediment are not normal in and of themselves but I am guessing that they are from a grey Celtic style salt or that they are a spice or herb that your recipe may have called for that has also settled along with the sediment. If you don’t feel that is the case, let me know what was in the recipe and we can look a bit further into it.

As far as the cabbage leaf on top of your 8 day ferment it looks normal to me. I don’t see anything in the photo that concerns me, it does as well as the other photos, look like they are not fully fermented yet. In cooler temperatures 8 days can still be a young ferment — in hot temperatures 8 days can be over fermented. So it depends. If it is ready it should be smelling nice and acidic —pickle-y :) If it does then go ahead and reach under that leaf and taste it. If it is tasty you can put it in the fridge if it isn’t sour enough then close everything up and let it go a few more days.

Remember if a ferment is bad it will let you know—the smell alone will say don’t put me in your mouth.

I hope this helps.

Kirsten

Chili paste fermentation gone...wrong?

Hi, Kirsten,

Thanks for being willing to take a look! 

To go along with the pictures I’ll describe how it smells... not great!

Let me know if you need different photos to determine what’s a happening.

Andy

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Good Morning Andy!

You are right the top is nasty and I am sure smells — not great! It looks like a mix of bacterial, mold, and yeast growth that you don’t want. That said, the bottom is totally fine. You also have a nice layer of plastic to help you pull all that off carefully. Once you pull it off, skim the top of the paste until you are at the bright red color that I see in the photo.  Also wipe the sides of your jar down with a paper towel.  I think you will find that is great underneath. (Remember everything that is anaerobic is fine.)

Hope that helps,

Kirsten

Thanks so much! I did my best to skim first—the plastic was held down by a pair of large weights—and then remove the weights and plastic. I’m sure some of the bacterial/mold/yeast mix is still around... I’ve placed it in a smaller jar. I’m likely going to let it ferment a bit longer before putting it in the refrigerator. Will that make the ferment “stronger” in terms of fighting off bad growth, or is my understanding of fermentation that bad?

Thanks again for the help—I promise not to abuse your inbox!

Andy

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Hi Andy,

This looks great. You are fine and any bits that are left will only grow again if they have access to oxygen. 

Your ferment is strong as soon as it is acidic and nothing pathogenic can live in the anaerobic acidic environment, if you get any nasty growth is would be only on the surface. 

At this point letting it ferment longer is going to mostly be about flavor. I, of course, don’t know what the acidity is but likely it will not get much more acidic with time. Usually the bulk of the acidity develops in the first few weeks.

I hope that helps, and no worries ask away until you feel like you got it. 

Cheers,

Kirsten