You don't need to buy special equipment or expensive devices to start home fermentation. Yay! Vegetables, salt, a container, and possibly a weight is all you need. So the basic equipment for fermentation you probably already have at home.
Veggies and fruit I like to buy regional and in organic quality.
salt should not contain anti-caking agents or other additives. I personally do not care for sea salt too much because of the microplastics in our oceans. I like rock salt. Rock salt rocks.
Place a cutting board, knife and a grater hast Du wahrscheinlich sowieso in der Küche.
Vessels and jars for fermentation
There are so many options! Wonderful traditional vessels are, for example, barrels for cucumbers, sauerkraut and wine or Korean onggi, unglazed bulbous ceramic pots. However, their size and weight make them unsuitable for most home fermentistas.
If you're interested, I also have an instagram story in my highlights where I showcase and review all sorts of fermentation vessels.
The fermentation revival of recent years has provided a plethora of modern solutions both for vessels and, above all, for lids. Long live diversity! However, when buying, keep in mind that not every material is equally suitable for fermentation. Wood, glass and ceramics are good choices. Metal may corrode due to the acid produced, and plastics of all kinds are out of the question anyway if you value the future of our planet. Many modern solutions are unfortunately also quite expensive.
But it is not necessary to invest a lot of money at all!
As a vessel you do not need a sauerkraut barrel or a ceramic fermentation pot. Since the fermentation should take place in the absence of air, while carbon dioxide is produced during the process, which must leave the vessel, I like jars that let the air out but not in. These can be preserving jars or flip top glasses. Preserving jars (e.g. from Weck) have thinner rubber rings and metal clips, so that they are a bit fiddlier to use.
Fliptop jars with rubber rings are the perfect basic equipment for home fermentation!
Especially for beginners good quality flip top glasses with rubber sealing rings are recommended as basic equipment for fermentation. Please make sure that the rings are not made of silicone, this will not work. If you find nice glasses with the wrong type of seal, you can simply buy rubber rings separately. You can get them in specialized shops, at IKEA, in online shops and during the preserving season in late summer even in most supermarkets and hardware stores. At home I have glasses from Le Parfait, Bormioli (Fido and Rocco) and IKEA with the corresponding rubber rings. By the way, my Le Parfait glasses are heirlooms and beautiful and my absolute favorites, but nowadays they would be quite expensive.
If, like me, you're bitten by the fermentation bug and ferment more and more, it might be time to invest in a nice ceramic fermentation crock. For experienced fermentistas and frequent fermenters, ceramic crocks are really great!
What you should look for when buying a fermentation crock
The possibilities are enormous! From the long-established, traditional companies to the regional pottery or the neighborhood ceramist - it is up to your preference which vessel you choose. I always prefer local products.
Microporous unglazed ceramics have the advantage of osmosis, but odors and tastes also tend to settle. Glazed ceramics do not breathe, but can be easily cleaned with water and can be used for a variety of ferments.
The fermentation crock should have a water groove into which you place the lid. This has the same effect as the rubber rings on the flip-top jars: carbon dioxide can get out, but oxygen cannot get in. To ensure that you do not have to constantly refill water because it evaporates, make sure that the water groove is not too shallow.
Sturdy handles help when you transport the vessel from its warm location of the first fermentation phase to a cooler one. Do not underestimate the weight when the crock is filled.
Most fermentation crocks come with suitable weighting stones, so that the question of fermentation weight is unnecessary.
My personal main consideration when I bought my fermentation crock was that the inner opening be large enough for whole cabbages to fit through. After all, for my famous cabbage rolls, I need large fermented cabbage leaves.
Fermentation is anaerobic
Anaeroby is ancient Greek and means life without oxygen. In anaerobic fermentation, carbohydrates are converted, either by lactic acid bacteria (lactic fermentation) or yeasts (alcoholic fermentation). To ensure that neither yeast nor mold is produced during fermentation, the anaerobic milieu, i.e. the exclusion of oxygen, is important. The fermented produce should always remain under the fermentation liquid, the brine. This way you are on the safe side and do not have to worry about food spoiling. Unfortunately, slices of carrot or shredded cabbage like to lye beyond the brine. We need a weight!
Make your own fermentation weights
Whether fermentation weights really belong to the basic equipment for fermenting is controversial. What is clear, however, is that you do not have to purchase a special weight. There are also some gadgets and tricks to prevent the floating over the brine. Some of them even happen during the preparation of the ferment. Useful are
- as a barrier against buoyancy of small parts one or more large cabbage leaves.
- ...or a thick slice of a large onion.
- cabbage stalks, apple or kohlrabi sticks for wedging
- small jam or shot glasses (food-safe of course)
- My favorite: glass lids from Weck jars (the ones with 6cm diameter cost in Germamy only 30 ct per piece, so you can even use several per glass)
- My 2nd favorite: wooden sticks for wedging
- special fermentation weights made of clay or glass, which can be ordered on the internet
Whether you prefer fermentation weights made of glass or clay is irrelevant. Whatever floats your boat Wat dem een sin Uhl is dem annern sin Nachtigall.
Ceramic weights can also be made by any potter, so if you want to support your local businesses, ask them and try to resist online commerce.
A personal request: Please please do not take varnished plates, stones or marbles to weigh down! The lactic acid can dissolve hazardous ingredients that can harm you when you eat them.
And plastic bags filled with brine are not really your best bet, right?