Today I want to give you some options for lacto-fermentation containers. In my opinion, the best options provide an air-tight environment. (However, I don't use air-tight containers for sourdough or cultured dairy.)
What is lacto-fermentation? Friendly bacteria and/or yeasts consume the starches and sugars in foods, giving off carbon dioxide and beneficial lactic acid. They proliferate throughout the food (making it probiotic), and they boost vitamin and enzyme levels. Lacto-fermentation can be done with fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, meats, dairy, beverages, condiments and more (all of which we cover in the affordable Lacto-Fermentation eCourse).
A Little Background
Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process; it requires an oxygen-free environment. If oxygen is present, the wrong organisms flourish instead of the friendly bacteria and/or yeasts we want to cultivate. You might notice whitish or other colored growths on the top of your ferments at times (especially during warm weather). This is an over-growth of oxygen-loving yeast (not harmful) or spoiling organisms, right at the surface. None of these are the right organisms for lacto-fermentation — they can lend off-flavors to your ferments or cause them to spoil.
We don't want that, do we? This is why I prefer air-tight containers for fermentation. Some are completely air-tight. Others have a water barrier which keeps outside air out, yet allows gases produced by the fermenting organisms to escape.
You can, and people do, use other containers which are not air-tight. In my opinion, use of these containers creates a tougher job because you've got to keep the food away from oxygen through other means. In past or recent history, people employed various solutions, such as wood planks, plates with plastic bags full of water on top, and other things. Today we can use DIY or commercial solutions for successful air-tight fermentation. Often, weights are still necessary; some foods are buoyant and want to float at the surface of the liquid.
My Top Picks
Now I'm going to share my favorite solutions. They're all air-tight, as that is my preference. They have various applications, but I use them mostly for fermenting fruits, vegetables, beans and beverages. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you have anything to add. 🙂
1. Mason Jar With Metal Band And Lid
Very simple. We've all got them and they come in many sizes — mason jars. Leave 1″ of space at the top for the production of acids and gases, and be sure to cap tightly with the metal band and lid. Burp the jar daily to release pent-up gases, or you may have an explosion on your hands (especially in warm weather).
Pros: Inexpensive, versatile and many sizes.
Cons: Burping the jar releases somewhat stinky (but not harmful) odors. Built-up pressure can cause explosions or very bubbly mixtures. Use of metal band and lid may be reactive with acids in fermentation and/or may contain BPA. You need to come up with your own weights for buoyant foods.
2. DIY Airlock
In this guest post, Jen shared how she modified mason jars to add the airlock piece. An airlock is typically used on top of a carboy for alcoholic fermentation — it uses a water barrier to keep outside air from entering the container, but the tubes allow the fermenting gases to escape. Very handy! Again, leave 1″ of head space.
Pros: Inexpensive (around $2.50 per modified quart), versatile and many sizes. Allows fermenting gases to escape, eliminating need to burp jar, protecting against explosions and reducing stinky smells.
Cons: Use of metal band and lid may be reactive with acids in fermentation and/or may contain BPA. You need to come up with your own weights for buoyant foods.
3. Commercial Airlock Jars
Some companies produce and sell modified airlock solutions. My favorites are the Pickl-Pro from Homesteader Supply (currently on sale!) and the Fermented Vegetable Master from Cultures for Health. These are the same idea as the DIY option above, except someone else has done it for you. 😉 Also, the lids are not metal but rather food-grade plastic. 1″ of head space is necessary here, too. Whenever I push the limit, I end up with very happy kraut juice all over my counter.
Pros: Food-grade plastic lid rather than reactive metal, versatile and many sizes. Airlock allows fermenting gases to escape while keeping outside air out — eliminates need to burp container, protects against explosions and reduces stinky smells.
Cons: More expensive, thought not terribly so. Do not include weights for food, though there are exceptions.
4. Fermenting Crocks
These fermenting crocks, made by various companies, are cream of the crop but spendy. The crocks have weight stones to submerge the food below the brine. A water gutter allows fermenting gases to escape but prevents outside air from getting in. You need to leave room at the top here as well, enough for the weight and for brine and acids. Find them at: Cultures for Health and Homesteader Supply.
Pros: Versatile and many sizes. Includes weights. Water gutter allows fermenting gases to escape while keeping outside air out — eliminates need to burp container, protects against explosions and reduces stinky smells.
Cons: Very expensive. Water gutter must be refilled on a regular basis, depending on speed of evaporation.
Do you have anything to add about any of these options? What's your experience with fermenting containers? Do you have any options to share?
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