I recently tried fermenting some rainbow chard stems. They looked and tasted good while they were cementing, but after moving them to the fridge they are starting to turn brown at the tips. They have softened significantly, but don't smell or taste bad. I didn't weigh them down, so some were slightly poking out of the brine. I've attached some pictures. Are these safe to eat?
Thanks for your help,
Unless they are somehow off-putting, smell, taste, mold etc. they are likely fine. If they are soft, that could be off-putting, but are safe if they taste fine. If they are mushy or slimy then they are no longer good.
The color and softness likely came from poking out of the brine.
Not Okay Okay
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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,
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.
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.
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?
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,
:( 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
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.
I'm new to fermenting, and as my second foray into it, I have a bunch of jars of various whole peppers fermenting, including the pictured jar of jalapenos and serrano peppers. The rest of the jars seem to be doing well, no cloudiness, no mold, etc, but the jalapeno jar's brine is cloudy, and there seems to be a fine, almost powdery looking, pinkish white sediment on the peppers as well as the bottom of the jar. I also skimmed a little mold off the top of the brine at one point - just a few little pinhead-sized floaties. It still smells alright, peppery and pickle-y and salty. Just wondering if this should be composted or if I should continue the ferment? It's been 2.5 weeks since I started it. Oh, and I used Himalayan pink sea salt to create the brine - could this be what the pinkish color is from?
Any advice you could offer would be wonderful! I can also try and take more or different photos if needed as well.
Welcome to the world of fermentation! Your ferments look fine. The cloudiness and sediment is a normal part of fermentation. In fact, when I see it along with the color change of the veggie I know things are progressing nicely. You did the right think to skim off the mold and that has nothing to do with the sediment you are seeing. You are probably right that the pink color has to do with the salt. We use Redmond Real salt, which also creates pink sediment.
If it smells pickley that is a good sign also. If it was head for the compost it would smell awful.
The thing that I wonder about is that some of the peppers are still quite green. Did you add a few more peppers after a couple of days in? I am guessing if not they are just slower. The ferment looks done except for those peppers. When then turn dull green it likely will be.
Thank you so much for the information! Glad to hear all is normal with the ferment. All of the peppers were added at the same time, but the Serranos are still bright green as opposed to the jalapenos. Should I remove the finished jalapenos for tasting, or should I wait until the serranos are also finished?
Additionally, the other peppers I have fermenting are yellow, red, or other colors (super hot peppers - peach scorpions, chocolate reapers, etc.). Is there a definite color change that will occur with these as well? They are still quite vibrant.
You are very welcome.
No need to remove any peppers. The Serranos are just taking their time, and I do see that they are changing. I was just curious as it is a little unusual to see some that are so different in the same jar. And no you won’t see any color change in the reds and yellows, the chocolate reapers are brown right, those might change a bit. It has to do with the colors being water or oil soluble pigments. Carrots, red peppers, etc. are oil soluble and will not change or “fall out” into the brine. Water soluble colors (the pink in a radish) may color the brine and the veggie will turn dull.
Hope that helps.
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.)
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!
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
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?
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.
Question: I just started fermenting. First I made sauerkraut - Delicious! Now I just made your asparagus & caulikraut recipes. The caulikraut looks great but the asparagus brine turned brown after 1 day. Is this okay??? Thanks for your help.
Answer: The brine in this picture looks fine. It is at the beginning of the process and often at this stage the brine will take on some of the colors from the vegetables or spices. This is a normal color for asparagus. You will continue to see changes in the color of the asparagus as well as the brine.
Question :: "This brine keeps overflowing! I put the batch in a larger jar and submerged it was another jar of water like you mentioned, but the brine keeps spilling out. How does volume increase like this? Just expanding? Oh wait, I pushed down on it, and it released a ton of bubbles. So I was able to pour that brine back in, and it seems like I'll just keep doing that? Should I put it in divided jars?"
Answer :: You are right that pressing it down and letting the brine sink back into the cabbage is what needs to be done. The jar is quite full and so there isn't much room to accommodate the action. You will need to press it down regularly, or you can press it into a larger jar. Thanks for the photo!
As far as the CO2 action you are seeing--it is different all the time. Some cabbage batches are not as active as well…its a funny thing and hard to predict. The good news is even the quiet ones are working.