Should I skim off oxidation on my fermented pepper mash? and other oxidized ferments...

oxidation on fermented pepper mash


This is a tabasco pepper mash, fermented in the dark with salt for one year.  The top is brown, oxidized looking but under is nice and red as you can see. No white spots or mold. I'm ready to add vinegar and finish the sauce. Can I use the brown or should I discard it? Thanks!



Hi there!

Thanks for your question. While I don’t know the chemical components of an oxidized ferment I do know that eating any oxidized food isn’t good for your body.  There isn't a problem of pathogens (mold, etc.), it is more that this oxidized layer is an anti-nutrient and not good for your body.  The flavor won’t be as good either so I would skim it off, discard it, send the rest through a strainer and precede with the fun!

Look carefully and you will see a little face peering into the kraut...

Look carefully and you will see a little face peering into the kraut...


I'm wondering if you can help me trouble shoot? This is my first ferment, it's wongbok, beetroot, onion, turmeric & mustard seeds. The top layer has gone brown, (it's on day 4) is it safe to eat or should I throw it out and start again?

Thank you, Sarah


Hello Sarah,

It is fine. I would scoop off the top when you are ready to eat. You have some oxidation of the beetroot and that is the color change—likely because there is so much airspace for the oxygen to hang out in the jar that you have the ferment in.

It is ready to eat after it smells and tastes acidic and pickly so likely you are just beginning to be that way at day 4. You can keep the oxidized layer on top until you are ready to get into as it will help prevent the next layer from oxidizing. When it is ready to refrigerate put it in a smaller jar and it shouldn’t happen again.

oxidized beet ferment

Hi Kirsten, Thank you for the great book. I am learning lots. I have a shredded beet ferment going and it is looking pretty unappealing, grayish brown, not sour, quite salty. The beets are not mushy. Is this going to be salvageable? This is my first beet ferment and I am pretty sure I made some mistakes in tamping and weighting them. Maybe I didn't exclude oxygen well enough. Any advice?
I have some happy pepper pastes going and successfully brined green beans and cukes so I am far from giving up.


Hi Jill,

I am delighted to hear you are enjoying the book.

You’re gut instinct is correct—this guy does not look right. It looks oxidized which would be from oxygen yet there looks to be plenty of brine. If it is not sour and still salty it hasn’t fermented. It appears it hasn’t gone bad either—just hasn’t fermented. I cannot say why it would do that. If you are the experimental type I would say since there is no mold or yeast or mush—you could leave it on your counter until your sick of looking at it or something changes. It would be interesting to see if the LAB start to take over or if they are just not present. If it was winter time I would think that was perhaps it is just to cool for them to get a foot hold but that is not the case. I don’t think it was a process error (like tamping, etc.), I think for some reason the LAB aren’t taking hold. Otherwise, I would throw it out. (Even if you want to see what happens you will likely need to throw it out due to oxidation.)

I am glad to hear that you are not discouraged and I do wish I could give you a better answer. If you do decide to let it sit a little longer let me know what happens.