fermenting Started my first ever ferment today.

I started my first ferment today. I'm gonna list my process and please tell me if I'm okay or if I did something wrong.
I did a brine of distilled water with a 3.6% sea salt content. I de-stemmed Thai peppers and cayennes (keeping them separate) and pulsed them in the food processor to make a rough mash. I poured the peppers into the jars and placed a piece of parchment on top then a zip bag with H20 on top to weight them down, then placed the lids on with the air locks. Do these pics look okay? Like in one pic, there is a little piece of pepper stuck to the jar above the water level. Will that mold and be a problem? Any critique is welcomed. Update...I've been seeing people doing a mash without the brine. Did I do this wrong blitzing the peppers and putting them in a brine? IMG_4161 2.jpg IMG_4162.jpg IMG_4163.jpg IMG_4164.jpg
 
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Siv

Extreme Member
Looking good. Just a word of warning using that style or airlock - make sure you keep the water topped up. I typically do very long ferments and I left mine for a while and once the water dries up to just below the cut-outs on the inner piece your don't have a seal any more. You may think it's OK since there's water in there but the level has to be kept above the cut-outs.

Nothing to worry about - the airlocks work fine just keep an eye on the level every few weeks.
 
This will be just fine but watch out for small pieces of peppers that float to the top. I would also keep an eye on the floating seeds as they can grow mold.

I suggest making a mash next time. Weigh the water (just enough to blend the peppers and veggies), peppers etc. Add whatever salt percentage you like. I do 3.5%. Blend in blender and add to a jar. I also add a dehydrated lactobacillus pill to the blender but that is not necessary. For a mash you don’t have to worry about keeping anything under the brine. I also personally enjoy a mash ferment over a brine ferment in terms of flavor. A brine tasted like pickled food which is tasty and a familiar taste but imo a mash ferment is more complex. Keep us posted!

Some mash I made yesterday.

 
Sanitize a spoon and scoop out. You might get kahm yeast (white) but that is not a big deal.

You could also try to shake the jar and maybe they will sink.
 
Number #1 rule in fermenting - Don't open the jar!
I disagree. I have opened a jar and have been fine or just got kahm yeast which is harmless.

I see this as a risk / reward issue.

Those seeds almost definitely will mold.

Opening a jar is not a death sentence but should be reserved for emergencies like this.

Just my experience and opinion.
 

Crazy Monkey

Business Member
I take silicon dehydrator sheets and cut them into circles just a bit larger than the diameter of the jar I'm using. I put a couple on the top with a glass weight and it keeps everything, seeds and all, under the brine solution.
 
This will be just fine but watch out for small pieces of peppers that float to the top. I would also keep an eye on the floating seeds as they can grow mold.

I suggest making a mash next time. Weigh the water (just enough to blend the peppers and veggies), peppers etc. Add whatever salt percentage you like. I do 3.5%. Blend in blender and add to a jar. I also add a dehydrated lactobacillus pill to the blender but that is not necessary. For a mash you don’t have to worry about keeping anything under the brine. I also personally enjoy a mash ferment over a brine ferment in terms of flavor. A brine tasted like pickled food which is tasty and a familiar taste but imo a mash ferment is more complex. Keep us posted!

Some mash I made yesterday.

Hey Mr. Beer...care to elaborate a little more on making a mash? I wanna try this next. So just blitz the peppers with enough water to blend with 3.5% salt (is the 3.5% from the weight of the water or of the peppers?), place in jars and let ferment. Is that all? Do you need to let CO2 out during fermentation? Is there no worry about mold? Any advice is appreciated.
 

Siv

Extreme Member
Some details on what we're trying to balance in a fermentation:
- Salt is added to inhibit the growth of bad bugs that can't tolerate the salty environment but too much salt and you will kill the lactobacillus you're trying to encourage
- You seal in a bottle with an airlock to create an anaerobic environment to inhibit the growth of mold etc that need oxygen to grow (lactobacillus fermentation is anaerobic so they produce CO2 which displaces the oxygen in the bottle)
- We wash, clean & sterilize the bottle, airlock, weights etc that we use to avoid accidentally introducing unwanted bugs to our ferment
- You are trying to create good conditions for naturally occurring lactobacillus that is found almost everywhere to grow, multiply and eat the sugars in peppers to produce lactic acid which will lower the pH of your ferment and essentially pickles it. The more the lactobacillus population grows, the more they inhibit other bugs from growing.
- Temperature is important; you want it to be warm enough so the bacteria grow but no so hot that it's too fast where you can get less tasty results. The cooler you keep your ferments, the longer they will take and the more time there is for other bugs to get a hold. 70F is about the optimum.

So my keys to fermentation success:
- Wash and sterilize. I would say that a glass jar coming through a dish washer would likely be sterile but if you hand wash, use an additional sterilizing agent (I use starsan). Your plastic airlocks probably can't go through the dish washer without melting so a sanitizer is essential.
- You really only need a 2% salt concentration but this is 2% by weight to the total amount of stuff you're fermenting. So the easiest way to achieve this is 1) weigh your jar, 2) make your mash or pack the jar and add the water you need, 3) weigh the total and subtract the weight of the jar to get the weight of your ferment and 4) add 2% salt based on this weight and mix it in.
- Give it a head start with some lactobacillus. I use a teaspoon of the liquid from one of my older ferments in every new ferment. You are jump starting the lactobacillus colony and not relying on what may be on the peppers themselves. After I started doing this, I've not had a single ferment fail as once the lactobacillus colony gets going the other bugs will be drowned out.

--

Note that the above is what works for me. Many people use vacuum seal bags, air extraction pumps etc with great success so there isn't just one answer. I've tried them all and the above is what I've settled on but I was distracted by vacuum bag ferments for quite a while!
 

MikeUSMC

Extreme Member
I couldn’t have agreed more, @Siv 🍻
Perfectly said!
 
Another thank you to Siv. Hos comment is on point.

Another thing I will mention is to make sure your mash fermentation vessel is air tight. I suggest ball jars with the canning lid and burp it the first three weeks. Those are air tight.

Also, to expand on adding some lacto to your mash. I agree with Siv to add some brine from a prior ferment. Some other options I have tried with success is to use a probiotic drink called good belly (mango) as a blending liquid (instead or mixed with water). It has active lacto and is a flavor enhancer. I also use Swanson lacto pills which is dehydrated lacto.

Swanson pills:


Also to further expand and the weight aspect.

Use grams.

Weigh the blender. Tare the scale. Add water or good belly or both. About two fingers worth for a full blender. Add your peppers, other veggies, fruit, whatever and take note of that weight. I add 3.5% salt but pick your own percentage.

Once you tare the blender and got the weight of your ferment the math works like this.

Lets say you have 200 grams of ferment and you want to add 3.5% salt.

200 X 0.035 = 7

So you want to add 7 grams of salt to the blender and go to town.

Siv’s suggested 2% would be:

200 X 0.02 = 4 (grams of salt)

After a several month ferment cook and bottle.

Feel free to ask questions and keep us posted.
 

The Hot Pepper

Founder
Admin
- Salt is added to inhibit the growth of bad bugs that can't tolerate the salty environment but too much salt and you will kill the lactobacillus you're trying to encourage
Ratios would really help here. Seems super important.
 

Siv

Extreme Member
Ratios would really help here. Seems super important.

Traditional home made ferments have been made with up to 5% salt by weight and even higher - I've heard of up to 20%! Above 5% and you may degrade the bacteria. From what I've read in multiple books, between 2% and 3% is the sweet spot.

Personally, I aim for 2% and will let the salt get a little over using a very accurate scale. Say I need to add 2g, I'll keep pouring salt until it's above 2g - usually something like 2.14g, sometimes 2.50g.

And important to remember, it's always % salt by weight of everything you're fermenting (water included). This is why you'll see recipes asking you to make a 3% salt solution and pour that into your ferment - it'll probably end up nearer 2% after accounting for the weight of your peppers but this is inexact. Better to make the ferment, weigh and add salt to your target %.

Also important is to use natural salt or canning salt. Salt with iodine added may inhibit fermentation. I know people have successfully fermented with iodized salt but I'd always err on the side of caution.

But salt is and isn't important to fermentation. In an imperfect world, salt helps keep some bad bugs away so has traditionally been used in ferments. But salt is not needed for the fermentation itself. If you use a sterile jar, sterile pepper and add a live lactobacillus culture, you can ferment without salt. This may be possible in a lab but likely not in your kitchen. A little salt (2%) goes a long way to peace of mind.
 
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