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

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

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

 

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

Mold on top of fermented leeks

:( I started a batch of fermented leeks from the Gjelina cookbook a few weeks ago. The recipe did not say to make sure the leeks are submerged in liquid, and while I was skeptical about that, I went with it. Now, however, there’s lots of mold on top. My gut reaction was to cry and throw it away, but the I saw your website and thought I’d ask your advice. ~D

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Nice to hear from you! Sounds like you suspected to trust your gut! :)  Always submerge with fermentation, no matter what the recipe says, sometimes we writers forget to add details that are second nature to us—

I do see that solid layer of mold on top. It looks like it is the first inch or so of the ferment. Scoop that off and get to the place where the leeks are happily submerged. They should smell and look fine. No tears necessary :)

I hope this helps.

Cheers,

Kirsten

 

The scum looks funky, is it okay?

Fermenting red cabbage scum in crock

Hi,

We started fermenting some red cabbage in a 10L crock about two weeks ago.  Over the weekend, my husband realized that he had not checked the water seal on the lid in quite some time, and, alas, it was completely dry.  The cabbage has been under weights, but the top of the brine looked pretty funky (see photos).  Did we ruin our batch?

Thanks for your advice,

Amanda

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Hey Amanda,

Funky but fine!

When you are ready to eat you will skim that off as best you can, there is actually nothing harmless in that funk that you are looking at, taking the weights out carefully as you go will help you to remove all that. 

I am positive  you will see a beautiful pink kraut underneath. :)

Cheers,

Kirsten

Fermented Garlic Brine is Blue-Green

blue green fermented garlic

Hi Kirsten,

Thank you so much for your kind invitation to send in fermenting issues.

I am an eager newbie to the world of fermenting. Garlic has been my first foray into this world. Please see attached an image of my attempt.

I'm concerned about the colour the brine has turned.  It is decidedly green and there is a strong garlic smell emanating from the closed jar. Is this to be expected? I understood the cloves themselves may turn green or blue during the process but not the liquid?

I'd be grateful to know what has happened and what I can do to get a good jar of ferment. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Kind Regards,

Carol

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Hi Carol,

Ah yes, the blue-green hue. You are right it is a little different seeing it in the brine. My guess is that the brine is thick with the garlic sugars. The whole cloves we make can have a very thick brine and that the blue-green is actually on the garlic that is now in the brine. Sometimes when they sit in the fridge for awhile the blue will work itself through.

This ferment looks okay to me but you be the judge (and trust your gut). If it smells strong like garlic, that is normal, if it smells strong like bad, compost, or whatever, then I would say it is bad. It should also smell a bit pickle-y.

It doesn’t always happen so don’t be discouraged and again I think they are fine, when you are ready to taste them, you will know. Pickle-y acidic garlicky is good, any thing else is not.

Cheers,

Kirsten

Salt and Fermentation

Salt and Fermentation

Why? How much? What kind? of salt do I need for fermentation?

Salt seems to cause a lot of consternation for the new fermentista so I thought I would add a salt post to troubleshooting fermentation.

Salt doesn't preserve

First the salt doesn’t preserve the veggies the acidification of the process does so if you are worried about "killing yourself" more salt doesn't make it safer. (Keeping it under the brine does.) What the salt does is give the good bacteria (#lactobacillus) the upper hand to get started and once these guys get going they quickly overwhelm any "bad" bacteria with their acidic output.

Crispy and Tasty

Salt also hardens the pectins (that’s your crisp) and slows down the fermentation a bit, which can be important in hot climates or if you are storing without refrigeration. Salt also makes your ferment taste better, remember salt is a flavor enhancer. Of course too much salt and it is no longer tasty. Choose a mineralized salt you love, taste your ferment for saltiness—should be salty like a chip not briny like a mouthful of seawater. Most importantly — It should be tasty!

What kind of salt?

What kind of salt is personal preference though I don’t use processed industrialized salts, like pickling salt, etc.

How much salt?

This is where things get confusing. The truth is I never measure my own ferments, for me it feel but I do measure and now even weigh the veggies and salt when I am developing a recipe for others. I try to stick to a 1.5 % ratio by vegetable weight. This is enough to do what salt needs to do. Many recipes go as high as 5% and for me that is way too salty and doesn’t make the ferment any safer. So there is a lot of variability!

If you read older recipes you will see things like "packed in salt" or amounts that are crazy high. This is because they had to keep their ferment working a little slower because it stayed in a cool spot like a basement all winter and never was slowed down by a refrigerator. They also did not have as much salt in their regular diet as we do now so it wasn't a problem in many cases the ferment contained the salt that was added to an otherwise bland, starch-based meal. 

I have over-salted, does the salt go away?

Somewhere the myth that the salt in a ferment goes away is out there alive and well. Sorry to report it has no where to go--too much salt continues to be too much salt. (In fact if anything a long ferment could evaporate slightly thereby concentrating the salt.)

Thick Sticky Beet Brine

syrupy fermented beet brine

Hello Kirsten.
The brine on my beets is very thick and slimy.
They did not bubble very much for the three days I had them fermenting.
I wonder if I packed them too much?
And if they are safe to eat.
They are crispy and do taste OK but I'm worried. This is my first attempt at fermenting.
My thanks for this help.
Merilyn

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Hi Merilyn,

Beet brine is very thick and viscous because beets have so much sugar. The other thing is that 3 days isn’t very long for a ferment like this and sometimes there is a thick slimy phase in fermentation that will work itself out. The picture I am sending is a ferment that is fine but went through this slimy phase. It happens sometimes.

I think you are fine and that they are very safe. The important thing to remember is that if they are bad (as in unsafe) they will be awful smelling and tasting too.

I would let them ferment a little longer and realize beets are also just like that to a point. I hope that helps.

Cheers,

Kirsten

 This sauerkraut was fine, it smelled good and had no scum. The problem was the viscous brine. It was quite unappealing. This happened because the ferment had been fermenting very slowly at temperatures in the low 50° F range. We advised the maker of this kraut to move it into a warmer space and ferment it longer and Violá it worked! The kraut was perfect in a few days.

This sauerkraut was fine, it smelled good and had no scum. The problem was the viscous brine. It was quite unappealing. This happened because the ferment had been fermenting very slowly at temperatures in the low 50° F range. We advised the maker of this kraut to move it into a warmer space and ferment it longer and Violá it worked! The kraut was perfect in a few days.

Fermented Garlic Turned Blue

Fermented garlic turned blue

Hi there!  
Firstly, I want to say that I love this book!  I have been fermenting every vegetable I can get! Force-feeding everyone around me, too. :)

I have a question about garlic. I started the jar a week ago, and it has been bubbling away. For the last day I notice some of the cloves (I put in whole cloves) are turning a strange blue or green color. I'm totally paranoid because of all the press about Chinese garlic!  Is turning colors a sign that it's tainted? Is it normal??  
Thanks again for writing the amazing book!  I'm so happy to have learned something new!

Sarah

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Hey Sarah,

Anyone force-feeding fermented veggies to the ones they love has our heart. :)

I think every fermentista remembers their first blue garlic.  The good news is that our research and experience is that its harmless. If you turn to page 182 in the book you will see the little Fermentista’s Tip on it. The timing of your message is great because Kirsten has a batch of fiery ferments going for the new cookbook and one of them did the blue-green thing on us. We also fermented about 30 lbs of garlic with a farmer friend a week or more ago and all of those are beautiful little creamy orbs like they are supposed to be.

So its okay, it will taste fine and be a conversation starter for sure. Lastly, we have noticed over time in the fridge many times (though not always) this blue fades.

Let us know how all of your creations turn out Sarah and if you have any more questions.

Christopher & Kirsten

White Ring on the Bottom of a Ferment Jar

Hello Kirsten,

I've recently made a bottle of spinach kraut by following one of your recipes. And when it was done, I put it into the fridge. Only after a few days, I saw a "white ring" at the bottom of the bottle. I've attached a picture here to explain better. Do you know why that happened? And is it still safe to eat?

Thanks,

Tracy

Hi Tracy,

The white ring at the bottom of your ferment it fine and a normal part of fermentation. It is similar to the sediment at the bottom of pickles (like Bubbies brand or home fermented pickles). I am happy to report it is very normal and harmless. I believe you are seeing it because the spinach ferment is darker in color than most. If you look carefully at other ferments you will likely see a similar ring.

Cheers,

Kirsten