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tutorial Fermenting Peppers 101

Cooking is necessary unless you add vinegar to the sauce to stop fermentation, correct?
 
salsalady said:
Edit- I also need to clarify...once the ferment has gone as long as you want, and it is at a good low pH...it is not automatically shelf stable! At this point, you have 2 choices.
Refrigerate it like kimchee and eat it in a timely manner...or....
Cook it and bottle it following directions in the Making Hot Sauce 101 thread.


If the sauce is just blendered and bottled, it is still actively fermenting and could explode. Refer or cook.
 
 

salsalady

Business Member
emanphoto said:
Cooking is necessary unless you add vinegar to the sauce to stop fermentation, correct?
 
 
Correct, vinegar will stop fermentation. Dont know why I did not include that as an option...might have had something to do with previous comments...? Some dont like vinegar flavor, so they would need to use the other options.
 
Thank you for your replies!
 
I use 20% pineapple vinegar by volume of milled sauce.  The milled sauce is too brutal by itself so the vinegar "tames" it enough via it's taste and/or dilution.  
There's a lot of people who cook but it really affects the appearance in a negative way as I mentioned when using thai chilies.  I spent a lot of time searching the forum for a consensus on whether it was an either/or situation. and now I have it. :)  In any case all my labels say to refrigerate after opening but here at home (aka the factory) I just leave it out.
 
Now for my big followup question.  Bottling.
 
In an attempt to prevent mold during fermentation, I've gotten some Star San to use instead of dilute bleach. It's really expensive here in Thailand as it cannot be shipped by air.  
I am also using Star San to sanitize the bottles and lids I use for bottling.  
 
I really need comments on my following method of bottling.
After sanitizing, I add the sauce at room temp (around 80F) to the bottles.
I then place the bottles in a hot water bath.
I leave them in there till the sauce expands up to the lip of the bottle.
I then cap and invert (FWIW) until cool.
 
This is all to avoid any cooking, heating, whatever of the sauce and cause the separation I'm trying to avoid.  
In going through the forums, I've seen 140 and 170F mentioned as aim points for sauce temp when bottling.  I have NO idea how hot the sauce is in my bottling process.
Am I doing it wrong?
 
Thank you so much for any help here.
 
salsalady said:
Correct, vinegar will stop fermentation. Dont know why I did not include that as an option...might have had something to do with previous comments...? Some dont like vinegar flavor, so they would need to use the other options.
 
 
Chorizo857_62J said:
I cook mine down and then incorporate vinegar, citrus, etc.  Then it is ready to bottle up. 
 
 
 

CraftyFox

Extreme Member
Wow, what a long and informative thread.. Someday I'll probably get thru it all. My first real attempt here at a carrot based pepper sauce and I'm wondering what a good ratio of carrots is to start with? So far it seems like people lean towards less carrots on here and towards more in other sources. I'm hoping to do a traditional "living" sauce. Any experience insights would be greatly appreciated. 
My intended ingredients are Carrots, Peppers, Onion, Garlic and Salt with a starter from Greek yogurt. 
 
 
This is just me.
I rarely use carrots in fermentation except for Kimchi, but I also usually grate a pear or apple for the added sugar.
For fermenting peppers, I sometimes use dried Nasturtium flowers (one or two) for an additional sugar source, and they don't seem to impart any additional flavors, in my opinion.
I have never used a "starter" for peppers. I just wait until the fermentation kicks in in a day or two and I usually let the peppers ferment for at least four weeks. I have had some very good results, and other's, not so good. I think one of the keys to using carrots, is not to peel them. It helps to put the "good guys" in control.
Your mileage may vary.
 
My Tabasso less the triditional salt packing just few garlic added through out fermation period I just can't get enough Garlic added I just crave more and more glaric flavor
09f371116c7c99bfa6dc71216511a6a3.jpg


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CraftyFox

Extreme Member
So, another waste of time and resources (including StarSan) or is there a way I can save this? I want to say this has been going about a month now. This was just Clavo Reapers, Onion, Garlic, and Brine.
X7fon8Gl.jpg

rHw4jBSl.jpg


Quite a contrast from the other I started the same day. A mixture of peppers, otherwise similar in construction. 
pjQ57mhl.jpg


Thanks for your input.
 
Yeah when you see green or blue in the growth you can be sure it's mold and needs to go from what I've heard.
 
I get crazy yeast going on in my mashes because of high temps here.  Only thing that can prevent it is daily stirring.  Sometimes yeast pops up anyway or I forget to stir it and I end up scooping off the top and stirring.  Also, wiping the inside AFTER stirring to get out the loose bits isn't a bad idea either.
 
It's really frustrating as I do the same with sanitizing everything.  Airlocks, no airlocks, whatever.
 
CraftyFox said:
So, another waste of time and resources (including StarSan) or is there a way I can save this? I want to say this has been going about a month now. This was just Clavo Reapers, Onion, Garlic, and Brine.
X7fon8Gl.jpg

rHw4jBSl.jpg


Quite a contrast from the other I started the same day. A mixture of peppers, otherwise similar in construction. 
pjQ57mhl.jpg


Thanks for your input.
 

Siv

Extreme Member
I'm no expert but I think there is too much liquid in that bottle. The mold is inhibited by the lactic acid produced by the fermentation but the more liquid you have, the more dilute this acid will be. Your second bottle has more peppers and less liquid so the acid produced will be less dilute.
 
I guess there is a challenge in minimizing head space/oxygen to stop stuff from growing vs adding too much brine. The obvious solution is a smaller bottle.
 
CraftyFox said:
So, another waste of time and resources (including StarSan) or is there a way I can save this? I want to say this has been going about a month now. This was just Clavo Reapers, Onion, Garlic, and Brine.
<snip>
Thanks for your input.
 
Sterilize and sanitize the jars. You probably have too much oxygen in those jars. Airlocks are your friends, they help push out the oxygen and keep the CO2 in the jar. Mold doesn't like CO2. Also, maybe as others have said, your brine might be too weak. Use the total weight of the products you have in the jar (water & veggies). Pour most of the water out and mix a brine that is 2.5%-3% salt to the total weight and pour the brine back into the jar and figure out a way to keep the veggies under the brine. I know it is a PITA to do, but it will help with a successful ferment. Ferment in a cool dark place. Best of luck.
BTW, throw that moldy stuff away and add it up to experience.
 
KidShelleen said:
 
Sterilize and sanitize the jars. You probably have too much oxygen in those jars. Airlocks are your friends, they help push out the oxygen and keep the CO2 in the jar. Mold doesn't like CO2. Also, maybe as others have said, your brine might be too weak. Use the total weight of the products you have in the jar (water & veggies). Pour most of the water out and mix a brine that is 2.5%-3% salt to the total weight and pour the brine back into the jar and figure out a way to keep the veggies under the brine. I know it is a PITA to do, but it will help with a successful ferment. Ferment in a cool dark place. Best of luck.
BTW, throw that moldy stuff away and add it up to experience.
 
 
I've never done it this way for fermenting sliced up peppers.  I have always just made a solution with just salt and water.  Usually 2.5%-3.5% and pour over the peppers, keeping them submerged and adding an airlock of some sort.  It works great.
If I were making a mash with the peppers then I would add that percentage of salt to the mash weight with no water added.  The salt will bring out the juice of the peppers.  Then of course keep the mash submerged and a airlock.  
I suppose your way would work, just not the way I learned.  And yeah, that looks like too much headspace.  
 
Tybo said:
 
 
I've never done it this way for fermenting sliced up peppers.  I have always just made a solution with just salt and water.  Usually 2.5%-3.5% and pour over the peppers, keeping them submerged and adding an airlock of some sort.  It works great.
If I were making a mash with the peppers then I would add that percentage of salt to the mash weight with no water added.  The salt will bring out the juice of the peppers.  Then of course keep the mash submerged and a airlock.  
I suppose your way would work, just not the way I learned.  And yeah, that looks like too much headspace.  
Yeah, I used to do the 2.5% - 3.5% weight of the peppers. Sometimes, I would get a little Kahm yeast. I tried it with the total weight, and so far, no yeast. Maybe I've just been lucky. I haven't noticed any difference in the final product. I would have thought the fermentation would take longer to start and a longer ferment time, but not yet. Maybe, I'll do a side-by-side test with two jars and see what happens.
I'm not good enough to try a straight mash yet. Maybe in the future after some more experience and maybe a "fermentator" type of setup (consistent temp).
Thanks for your input, much appreciated.
 

CraftyFox

Extreme Member
Thanks for all the feedback!
I'm pretty sure my brine was spot on, as I followed the directions in this thread. I was worried about the amount of filler vs. brine, and I can see where that could have easily been the issue. I did use pickle caps on these too, but ordered one of those vacuum lid kids to work with too. My equipment was as sanitized as I can get it in this house (even StarSan right at the point of doing them).. I also have problems with contam when I grow mushrooms. Love this old house!
Would it be safer to just toss them in, mostly whole? 
This is what I have left for Clavo Reapers now, I think I'm just going to dry them.
Qu6QG3fl.jpg

 
 
KidShelleen said:
 
Sterilize and sanitize the jars. You probably have too much oxygen in those jars. Airlocks are your friends, they help push out the oxygen and keep the CO2 in the jar. Mold doesn't like CO2. Also, maybe as others have said, your brine might be too weak. Use the total weight of the products you have in the jar (water & veggies). Pour most of the water out and mix a brine that is 2.5%-3% salt to the total weight and pour the brine back into the jar and figure out a way to keep the veggies under the brine. I know it is a PITA to do, but it will help with a successful ferment. Ferment in a cool dark place. Best of luck.
BTW, throw that moldy stuff away and add it up to experience.
I've been reading here forever trying to understand how to start a ferment comfortably enough to try it. There's so much information here that sometimes it's hard to get a clear plan to start. Thank you SO much for this simple, concise way to begin!

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CraftyFox said:
Thanks for all the feedback!
I'm pretty sure my brine was spot on, as I followed the directions in this thread. I was worried about the amount of filler vs. brine, and I can see where that could have easily been the issue. I did use pickle caps on these too, but ordered one of those vacuum lid kids to work with too. My equipment was as sanitized as I can get it in this house (even StarSan right at the point of doing them).. I also have problems with contam when I grow mushrooms. Love this old house!
Would it be safer to just toss them in, mostly whole? 
This is what I have left for Clavo Reapers now, I think I'm just going to dry them.
Qu6QG3fl.jpg

 
 
I don't know if those vacuum devices are necessary or not. I haven't tried them, so I have no opinion for them.
 
Nice looking peppers, BTW.
 
Here is what I use (similar):
Air Lock (I bought separate pieces from a beer / wine making shop, but you get the idea:
Air Lock.jpg

 
I use these Ball plastic lids. I cut a hole in the plastic caps to fit the grommet. A step drill works really well for this.
Storage Lids.jpg

 
Those plastic Ball lids leak, badly. So I got these silicone rings that fit inside the plastic Ball lids. Viola, a great seal!
Sealing Rings.jpg

 
Your millage may vary, but this has worked the best for me. You can get the lids and silicone rings in either wide mouth or regular. I can give you the URLs of what I posted, but google will help you.
 
Good luck.
 
tl;dr:  I did the same thing that resulted in a perfect ferment and some tasty hot sauce last year, but this time it's hardly bubbling.  What's going on in those jars?

The long version:
 
2017:  I started three half-gallon jars of peppers fermenting.  Each jar had about a pound of sliced organic cayenne peppers plus chopped organic onions, minced organic garlic, distilled water, pickling salt, and a dose of Cutting Edge Cultures for Vegetables.  The ratio I started with was 6 Tablespoons pickling salt to 2 quarts distilled water.  On top of the pepper mix in each jar I put a piece of food-grade plastic mesh (cut from a screen for a food dehydrator) and a Ziplock bag of brine to weigh it down.  I put Sauer System airlock lids on each jar.  Everything was as clean and sanitized as I could get it.
 
Two of the jars almost immediately developed kahm yeast.  Two or three times a week I would open the jars, skim it off, and add a little more brine with a higher salt content...but it just kept coming back.  After weeks of this, I got fed up and said, screw it, and dumped those two jars and pinned all my homes on the remaining one.  It was never opened, but somehow, after almost three months, it developed mold.  I dumped it, too.  No fermented hot sauce for me in 2017.
 
 
2018:  I tried again with two jars of cayennes.  My recipe and method were the same except that I used 8 Tablespoons pickling salt to 2 quarts distilled water.  The peppers started fermenting nicely within a few days—lots and lots of bubbles.  There was no sign of kahm yeast or mold.  After three months I opened the jars, processed the peppers, added vinegar, tested the pH, and bottled some really tasty hot sauce.
 
 
2019:  At the end of September I started four jars of cayennes fermenting—two red and two green.  The method and the mix in the jars were identical to 2018.
 
The two jars of red cayennes started to bubble a little—not as many bubbles as in 2018, but they showed some signs of life.  Then, a couple of weeks in, one of them developed kahm yeast.  I said, oh, HELL no, not fighting that battle again, and just let it stay.  That jar still has a layer of white yeast at the surface.  The other jar of red peppers showed no signs of yeast.  After 3-1/2 months I see very few bubbles anymore in either jar of red cayennes.
 
The two jars of green cayennes never had bubbles.  I can’t go as far as to say there were NO bubbles, but there weren’t many—nowhere near what I remember seeing the year before.
 
There was a little water in the pan I have the jars sitting in, so I know at least one of the jars overflowed the airlocks in the first couple of weeks.  All four jars have at some traces of dried salt on the outside, which makes me think they all overflowed a little.  The water in all the jars is cloudy.  I haven’t opened the jars so I don’t know what they smell like, but it’s not strong enough to detect through the lids and airlocks.  The peppers still have good color and the slices still appear to be intact.  They don’t appear to be rotting, at least from here.  I’m not sure what they’re doing in there.
 
So what have I got here?  Are my peppers just fermenting very, very slo-o-wly?  Are they fermenting at all?  Other than bubbles, how do I tell?  They’ve been in the jars since September 30--should I let them go a while longer?  How long?
 
And what about the jar with kahm yeast?  I’ve heard a lot of different opinions about that stuff.  If I do have salvageable peppers here, I’m still inclined to dump the jar that’s had a lot of it for a 2-3 months, but I’m open to input from folks with more fermentation experience.

So...your thoughts?  Can this hot sauce be saved?  Thanks for any advice you can offer!

photo #1:  red peppers with kahm yeast
photo #2:  red peppers without yeast
photos #3 and #4:  green peppers
the black you can see in the jars is the plastic mesh holding the veggies down--it's not mold
 

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My suggestion is to use salt by weight, not volume. There is too much inconsistency in the volumes of different kinds of salt. At the minimum, use the weight of the peppers (2.5% - 3%), better yet, use the weight of the peppers and liquid, again 2.5% - 3%. You will be surprised how little 8 grams of salt is. You probably have too much salt % in your brine and it will slow down the fermentation process. The only time I don't worry too much about how much salt I use, is in making sauerkraut. Then, it is about 3 Tablespoons of Kosher salt to every 5 pounds of cabbage.
 
Use Star-San on your screens, if you haven't done that.
 
Kahm won't cause any health problems but it will effect the taste. Otherwise, your peppers look good to me.
 
I'm a little curious how the brine got past the air locks. That doesn't seem right. It would require the whole mass being pushed up against the lid.
 
Just my $.02.
 
I have had a few go bad with mold, but lately have had success with keeping liquid levels down enough for adequate headspace, measuring brine salt %, and definitely airlocks.  Had Kahm yeast in one, but alleviated that promptly.  Once I am done, I drain off the brine and bottle it for a starter on the next batch, rinse the mash, blend down with vinegar and additional salt, maybe a citrus, and work it from there.  Usually strain out any solids, let any extra liquid separate, extract that, re-blend until I get a consistent sauce, then bottle.
 
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