Fermentation: General Principles
Clean, not sterile. I never resort to harsh cleaners or chemicals. Hot soapy water is as aggressive as I get. The beauty of working with Lactobacillus is that all you need to provide is chemical free water, salt, moderate temperature, and isolation from oxigen. Lactobacillus will do the rest. It will drive out harmful or undesirable microorganisms. One exception is mold and/or yeast, which with rare exceptions are not actually harmful. Black Mold (mildew) can be toxic.
Both of these members of the fungi family often work in concert with bacteria. To avoid infection keep all solid matter under the brine. If you see a bit of mold growing on top of your ferment, simply remove it. If it has infected the surface of your ferment, remove the surface. Kam yeast is white and fuzzy. Kam yeast is perfectly safe. Just wipe and rinse it away as best you can.
Salt is essential and I strongly recommend natural salt. I use less salt with Kimchi and more with Pico. I use the dry salting method, where I salt the veggies in a bowl and let them rest on the counter to extract the brine. I use prepared brine very little. When I do need brine I use a half TBSP per cup of distilled water. I only do this in case the derived brine no longer covers my ferment. I add a bit of brine as needed and seal the batch back up.
Melamine Mixing Bowls
Melamine was the original ¨plastic¨. It is dense, hard, and not suitable for the microwave. It is impervious to acid, so it is ideal for your food preparation. When you are preparing Kimchi it is either glass, ceramic, or melamine — as almost any other material will suffer permanent staining. I got a set of these ten years ago and they are the most useful thing at my cutting board.
Metal spoons can interact with the acids in vinegar. Most wooden spoons stain easily and disintegrate sooner rather than later.
Bamboo spoons hold up forever. They are lightweight and wash up easily.
I use this to pack down cabbage and all of my lacto-fermented delights.
There are many ways to keep your fermentation products from air, but I find these to be foolproof. A kit of these will include a handheld pump to evacuate air from your sealed wide-mouth mason jar. An added benefit is that when you pump the air out daily, CO2 bubbles come up out of your product to occupy the vacuum.
Quart and Half-Gallon Mason Jars
Wide mouth mason jars are the long standing Champion of canning. They are also the best way to ferment or pickle vegetables. The lid size is standard, and lids are cheap and high quality. Fermentation Lids are designed to fit these jars.
An incubator can heat or cool your product to a suitable temperature and hold it steady. If you really want to get into the lacto-fermentation hobby with consistent results, search Amazon for Reptile Egg Incubator 25L. These will easily hold four mason jars at 72 degrees F.
Glass Fermentation Weights
Holding your veggies below the brine will prevent mold. Designed to be used with wide mouth mason jars, these weights do the job really well.
Kyocera black ceramic knives are an awesome tool. I bought this set several years ago and use these every time I cook. I also bought a Diamond Sharpener of the same brand to keep them at peak sharpness. I wash these by hand only and put them away immediatly after use.
A tour of fermented foods, chock full of practical advice and good recipes. Several of my recipes are derived from this text, and most are influenced by it.