“How do I know if my ferment is spoiled or not?” asks Ally D. on today's #AskWardee. I'm sharing my thoughts below!
Ally D. asks:
“I have been making and having lacto-fermented vegetables for a few months now. However, my current batch seems to have become more fermented than usual and the smell is quite strong to make me throw up. It doesn't smell rotten and my wife says it is ok, but I still can't manage to take it down. How is it possible to know if it is spoilt or not?”
I'm telling you…
You will know. You just will…but there's a bit more involved in how to tell if a ferment is spoiled or not.
Signs Your Ferment Is On The Right Track:
- It's sour and salty, both in taste and smell.
- It has a pleasant tang. It develops a complex sour and salty flavor over time.
- It's crisp or crunchy, depending on the food your fermenting — like pickles or kraut.
- It may be sour, but not repelling.
- It may give off a strong odor when opened, but that dissipates. The odor was from pent-up gasses.
Also, I'm a big fan of being hands-on and smelling and tasting your ferment each day to learn more about how it's going and what you like.
Signs Something Is Wrong With Your Ferment:
Ferments do go wrong from time to time and it’s important to recognize this. I do believe you “just know” it and it’s ok to err on the side of caution.
Still, here are some more hard and fast signs that a ferment has gone wrong:
- It's moldy. Pink or fuzzy is not good.
- It's mushy. Who wants mushy pickles or kraut?
- Its smell repels you because it's putrid or rotten, not just sour. Your nose KNOWS this!
- When you taste it, it gives you an upset stomach. (Don't confuse this with a healing reaction though.)
What If You're On The Fence About Your Ferment?
Trust your nose! Though be aware that if it repels you but is not spoiled, it might be because you’re unaccustomed to fermented foods and need time to adjust to a new normal.
If you aren’t sure, you can take a *little* taste and see how it goes.
It’s always ok to be on the safe side and compost the ferment or feed the chickens with it.
Don't Be Scared!
The salt and protective organisms make fermenting safe most of the time. To ensure safe fermenting, use clean containers and organic vegetables and real salt, not table salt.
Don’t ferment your veggies too close to sourdough or cheese because those are yeasty, and yeasty can make veggie ferments taste cheesy or get mushy.
Without having any other information, because Ally said it smelled strong but not rotten, and his wife thought it was ok, I’m leaning toward his ferment is not spoiled. It was just a variance (ferments don’t always turn out the same!) with a stronger smell.
Do you agree or disagree?
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Do you know how to tell if a ferment is spoiled?
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