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Fermented Vegetables Troubleshooting FAQ
|Q. My vegetables do not fit in the fermentation vessel. Will this hurt my ferment?
A. If the vegetables are below the brine, with at least 1-2 inches of headspace, they will ferment well. If there is too much to fit in one vessel, fill a second, smaller jar and weigh down the vegetables. A partially filled vessel is fine. An over-filled vessel may overflow.
Q. My vegetables are rising up in the container. Should I be concerned?
A. As fermentation begins, gas is released. The carbon dioxide forms small bubbles on the vegetables and pushes them up. Wiggle the jar to release some gas or press the vegetables down with a clean hand, if fermenting in an open container. When using a crock or airlock lid, remove any slimy or discolored vegetables that floated above the brine before moving to cold storage.
Q. The brine is overflowing the jar. What should I do?
A. It is quite normal for brine to be pushed up and out of the vessel during fermentation. If the airlock is full of brine, open the container and remove excess vegetables and brine. Then reseal the container. If fermenting in an open vessel, it’s helpful to set the container in a baking pan to catch overflow. To prevent future messes, be sure to leave plenty of headspace, especially with shredded vegetables.
Q. The brine level in my fermented vegetable jar has gone down during fermentation or storage. What should I do?
A. It may be that the vegetables have simply floated up slightly. In that case, push them back down under the brine and adjust the fermentation weights as needed.
If only a small amount of liquid is needed to cover vegetables, add plain filtered water. If a larger amount is needed, make up some extra brine and add it to the jar to completely cover the vegetables. Keeping vegetables under the brine will help prevent the vegetables on the surface from drying out or molding.
Q. Some pieces of the vegetables are escaping the weights. Should I remove them?
A. It is normal for some small pieces to float up, especially when using shredded vegetables. If there are larger pieces or it is difficult to keep things submerged, try some methods suggested for keeping vegetables below the brine. If there are just a few pieces, remove any that look slimy or discolored.
Q. There is a white film on the surface of my vegetables. Is it mold?
A. A white film that is not fuzzy or in round patches is kahm yeast. It is very common on vegetables and quite safe. Read more about kahm yeast and what to do about it.
Q. There is lots of colorful mold growing on my vegetables. Should I throw the entire batch out?
A. Exposure to oxygen encourages mold spores to form. Keeping vegetables submerged or using an airlock are the best defenses against mold. Even if mold does develop, all may not be lost. Read more about mold on cultured vegetables.
Q. My brine is foamy, bubbly or is not changing at all. Is it ok?
A. Some vegetables foam more than others. It is not uncommon to see some foaming on vegetables that have higher sugar contents, such as beets or carrots. The foaming is completely harmless and generally disappears after a few days. You may also notice some bubbling in the jar as gases are formed by the fermentation process. Again, this is normal. On the other hand, some vegetables get off to a slow start and don’t bubble as much. Many variables affect fermentation. As long as the ferment smells and tastes pleasant, the culture is doing well.
Q. Is cloudy brine or sediment in my jar safe?
A. Cloudy brine and sediment in the bottom of the jar are both signs that the vegetables are culturing well.
Q. Why does my ferment have a pungent odor?
A. Cultured vegetables may be colonized by a huge variety of bacteria and yeast. In many cases the culture may be going through a change in fermentation stage and the odor may pass. Our general rule of thumb is to leave the culture for another 3-5 days. If the aroma doesn’t improve, contact customer support for assistance.
Q. Why is my brine slimy?
A. Slime producing organisms thrive in warmer temperatures and low-salt environments. Slime may be produced by yeast or fast culture growth, which is why we recommend a simple salt brine without whey or starter cultures. Cucumbers with the blossom end can cause soft or slimy pickles. Slimy vegetables should be discarded, but slimy brine is not always a cause for concern.
Q. Why did my vegetables turn colors?
A. Dark colored vegetables will color the other vegetables in the batch. Just one beet or wedge of purple cabbage can turn the entire jar pink! If white or green veggies turn pink in the absence of dark veggies, the batch may be contaminated. Contact customer support for troubleshooting advice.
Garlic that turns blue or green is not a cause for concern. To prevent discoloration, age the peeled cloves for at least an hour before placing in the brine. Use filtered water and salt without iodine.
Q. Why are my vegetables dull or faded?
A. Vegetables that are originally somewhat pale, or vegetables that are overly ripe when fermented, can become dull. They can also fade if exposed to excessive sunlight. They are safe to eat if they smell and taste pleasant.
Q. Why are my vegetables soft and mushy?
A. The most common causes of soft, mushy vegetables are high culturing temperatures, not enough salt in the brine, or natural enzymes in the blossom end of cucumbers. Learn about how temperature affects culturing, choosing the right amount of salt, and some tricks for making crunchy pickles.
Q How can I fix vegetables that are too salty?
A. In this case, prevention is key. Learn how much salt to use. Taste the ferment before fermentation is complete to check for flavor. If it is too salty, mix in more fresh vegetables or dilute the brine with additional water, leaving adequate space in the fermentation vessel. If necessary, pour off some of the salty brine before diluting. Overly salty sauerkraut is a great addition to a bland soup. Vegetables can also be soaked in fresh water for 2-3 days to draw out some salt, though some probiotics will be lost with this method.
Q. Help! My culture has crawly things in it!
A. The ultimate YUCK factor, but not necessarily a total loss. In a jar that is not covered or sealed well, insects lay their eggs on the surface, which hatch into maggots. Remove the surface layer until you reach clean vegetables or compost the entire batch, depending on personal comfort level. To prevent pests, always cover the fermenting vessel with some kind of lid. A clean cotton cloth or coffee filter secured tightly with a rubber band is enough to keep flies out. A tightly-sealed jar, covered crock or an airlock lid completely eliminates this problem.