How to Keep Your Fermented Vegetables Submerged When Fermenting in a Glass Jar
There are a lot of different kinds of vessels that people use for fermenting vegetables, and everyone has a favorite. The ideal vessel allows you to keep your vegetables submerged underneath the ever-important brine.
One vessel that is very popular is the old-school crock. These crocks are beautiful, helpful, and usually very expensive. Some varieties even come with a heavy weight that will keep the vegetables under the brine.
Another vessel often used is the affordable and versatile mason or canning jar. These jars can be found easily at hardware stores and big box stores alike; and quite inexpensively. The only problem is that it can be difficult to mimic the submerging abilities of the weighted crock lids.
To solve this problem many people use what are called airlock lids. These are very similar to what is used in the fermentation process for alcoholic beverages like wine. They allow gases to escape the jars while preventing outside air from penetrating the brine.
This helps to create an anaerobic environment while not having to keep the vegetables underneath the brine 100% of the time. While this may eliminate some worry, it can also get very costly. If you’d like to ferment vegetables inexpensively and maintain a high-quality end product, then you need a way to weight down your vegetables so that they remain under the brine at all times.
First, use a fermenting vessel with a wide enough mouth to allow you to insert a weight into it and get the weight out easily. With a convenient opening, you can choose a variety of methods of submerging or weighting the vegetables inside the vessel.
A cabbage leaf or other large firm piece of vegetable. Tuck a cabbage leaf over the top of your cut-up vegetables. Often this leaf alone will be enough to keep the vegetables in place under the brine. Another option is to make thin wide strips from zucchini or carrot and place these over the vegetables as a mat.
A small ceramic dish. You can do this with or without a cabbage leaf. You can often find the right size dish at an Asian market, where they are sold as condiment dishes. Or, small dessert ramekins may work. When you are shopping for one, take a mason jar with you to make sure you can get the dish in and out of the jar easily.
To use the dish as a weight, cover the vegetables in brine up to about 1-1/2 inches from the rim. Then, either with or without a cabbage leaf covering the vegetables, insert the small dish and push it gently so that the brine comes up over the top. This acts as a weight to keep your floating vegetables submerged.
A small dish + an additional weight. Another option is to take the small dish and add it to the vegetables and brine in the wide-mouth jar. Then place a very clean heavy object like a rock on top of the dish, making sure it is heavy enough to weight down the dish and keep the vegetables submerged.
Glass stones. You can use glass stones of the type that are used in floral arrangements or aquariums to rest on top of the vegetables. These come in sizes from about the size of a dime to about 2 inches in diameter. The larger ones are easier to work with. Put three or four of them in the jar on top of the vegetables and spread them out to cover the surface. Make sure the brine comes up over the top of the stones.
Make sure the stones you use are clear glass, and food grade. Stones with an iridescence to them are not food grade.
Ferment in a large bowl then move to a jar. If you do your fermentation in a large vessel, like a big mixing bowl, and weight it down with a plate and other clean heavy objects, you can easily keep the vegetables submerged during the crucial beginning fermentation process. Then, once the vegetables are fermented, you can transfer them and their brine to jars, still attempting to keep the brine over the veggies. This way you can still use those mason jars and get that mixing bowl back in the kitchen for other purposes.
So, once again, fermentation proves simple enough for every budget.