I absolutely love fermenting (shocked, aren’t you?). I’ve made quite a few ferments and I make a few things all the time but until a couple months ago I only used things I already had in my kitchen to make a wide variety of ferments (with the exception of a $2 fine-mesh strainer that I purchased from my local kitchen supply store a couple years back).
To anyone who feels intimidated by fermentation and afraid to invest in expensive equipment, I say DON’T. Don’t feel intimidated. Don’t invest in equipment. You don’t need it to get started. For many ferments, you don’t even need it to delve deep.
Here are many of the things that I use on my daily fermentation quests:
Glass Bowls – Very handy for sourdough and brining. For brining my kimchi veggies, I use several of my largest bowls. I have one very large bowl into which a plate fits perfectly. I use that for lactopickles and fruit chunk vinegars, among other things. I must admit that I entertain a lot, so I already had a larger number of glass bowls than the average city-dweller probably does.
Wooden Spoons – Since metal can damage some kinds of cultures (I’m looking at you kefir grains and scobys) I use wooden, plastic or silicone utensils on all of my ferments, just to maintain the habit. I have a variety of wooden spoons that I use for different containers. The long guy (or as my honorary second mother calls it, the “stupid spoon”) is very useful for those giant pots full of stuff and for compressing things (like preserved lemons) into large, half-gallon and gallon jars.
Chopsticks – Although we mostly cook at home and eat a healthy , it is impossible to live in Philly and not sometimes enjoy a little Han Dynasty or Golden Empress. As a non-hoarding hoarder, I love that my beloved kefir grains give me an excuse to save chopsticks for years. I use them to stir my kefir while it’s straining. Speeds the process up quite a bit.
Jars of Many Sizes – I have a lot of jars. I’ve saved everything from hot sauce to olive and spice jars for a very long time, to my non-hoarding husband’s great dismay. Having jars of different sizes around is a great boon for fermenters. Although not always the ideal vessel for most ferments, they are great for submerging things like small batches of lactopickles or kimchi in larger jars when you want liquid covering your veggies. Look for tomorrow’s post on my cheapo jar method for creating the right environment for lactic veggie fermentation.
Plastic lids – The typical lids that come with Ball jars are metal and can definitely corrode during and after fermentation. You aren’t heat-sealing your jars anyway, so switching to plastic lids for things like kefir and preserved citrus is a great idea.
Kitchen towels, Cloth Napkins, Coffee Filters – These guys all serve the same purpose but I use them for different things. When you need to release the fermentation bubbles, but not let in flies or other beasties, merely cover your fermentation vessel with one of these guys. I use them all for different things. Obviously the coffee filters are the least versatile since they can only be used with jars and smaller containers and they are the least reusable of the bunch. The one advantage they have is that they don’t cover any part of your jar below the thread, so you have full visibility. Towels I use with large bowls, and to insulate bowls and jars that need a slightly higher temperature. My cloth napkins are many-hued, so I can use them to color-code things (I’m a nerd). The other advantage of towels and napkins is that they are absorbent, so when your cup inevitably runneth over, you don’t end up with salt lick of a table.
Glass Pitchers – Good for ferments that like air to get where they’re going, such as vinegar. In the case of kombucha, you’ll need something with no metal parts, and a lovely glass pitcher can totally fit the bill.
Leftover (scavenged) two liters – Carbonation. When making natural sodas or anything else you want carbonating but not exploding shards of glass into your precious, precious eyes it helps to have some old two-liters around. Women carrying recycled coca-cola bottles filled with thick, foamy chica away from the local chicheria is a common site in the Sacred Valley of Peru. And they know their stuff. The great thing is that you know when they are fully pressurized because the bottles become hard. Then it’s time to stick them in the fridge.
Sealable glass bottles – I use recycled 360 Vodka bottles when I’m doing a very short fermentation and I need it super bubbly. I cannot recommend that you do the same, since you are intentionally cultivating pressure which could lead to explosion. I have never had this happen to me, but I have
Leftover produce rubber bands – Never throw these away again! Rubber bands of all shapes and sizes are useful for securing coverings (see above) to your fermentation vessels. I especially treasure the gigantic ones that are wrapped 4 times around my broccoli stalks, but the smaller, tighter ones are great for smaller containers as well.
Twine – Sometimes your bowl is too big and your rubber bands are too small.
I have recently added some actual equipment to fermenting library, but that is after years of fermenting with nothing more than the things in my house. While I’m sure there are other household things that I regularly use to ferment, these are the first to jump to mind. Crazy, right? Insane, the amount of cash I had to spend to get this bubbling.*
If you’re a noob: see, you can do this! I promise!
If you’re an old pro: what household items do you use for your ferments? Tell me in the comments!