Fermentation Basics – Ghetto Jar Method
If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I’m not big on buying equipment, but as any well-salted fermenter knows, keeping certain things, such as pickles, in an air-free environment is extremely important for promoting fermentation and impeding mold and other undesirable growth. There are a few ways to do this. One is to buy a thing, such as the Pickl-it or a crock with water seal capabilities. Another, which I what I do most of the time, is to submerge veggies in their own juices or under brine via the ghetto jar method™. I love this method because it is free, done with materials I already have in my home, justifies one of my hoarding habits (jars) and keeps my veggies mold-free and delicious every time. Here’s how it works with kimchi and sauerkraut:
- Pack your cabbagey goodness into jars as tightly as you can. You want a thin layer of their juices on the surface, but you still want an inch or two of space at the top of your jar.
- Once they are packed as tightly as possible, fill a very clean, smaller jar with water.
- Place smaller jar inside larger jar so that it rests on top of the veggies. Push down if the vegetables are in any way peeking over the surface of the liquid. You want them submerged!
- Cover the whole thing with a cloth and secure the cloth to the top of the big (bottom, vegetable containing) jar with a rubber band to keep out flies. This allows the gases created by fermentation to release while keeping the veggies in the anaerobic environment they need.
A slight variation for lactopickles:
- Place veggies in jar.
- Pour brine over veggies.
- Leave about 2 inches of space at the top of your jar, because your veggies will be releasing water in the brine and if you don’t your jar will runeth over. Even so, I recommend keeping a small plate underneath your lactopickles to catch any overflow.
- Fill your small jar about 2/3 full with water and place inside larger jar, over veggies so they are submerged under the brine.
- Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band.
Some submersion alternatives:
- You can partially fill a ziplock-type bag with brine and place it over your veggies. It will serve the same purpose as a ghetto jar system: keeping those suckers submerged. If the bag leaks, it will just leak brine into your veggies which is no problem at all, and will maintain the salinity you like. I am not a big fan of this method because I have a possibly unreasonable fear of plastic near my food, and the thought of it soaking with my food for weeks is a big ol’ skeever.
- You can use a sterile (boiled) and appropriately-sized, heavy stone.
- I have used lemons, meyer lemons and clementines slightly past their prime. I picked this tip up somewhere in The Art of Fermentation (BUY IT! I AM IN NO WAY COMPENSATED TO SAY THIS!), but I cannot find the reference so I’m just giving generic credit here.
- If you are fermenting in a bowl, use a plate with a can or a heavy, sterilized stone on it to keep everything under water/brine/juice. Cover with a cloth and secure.
That’s it! My method may not be perfect or pretty but it definitely gets the job done in my house! How do you keep your veggies submerged or free of mold? Let me know in the comments!