Friday, July 16, 2010

Fermenting in Ball Canning Jars

Fermenting in canning jars with 2-piece screw-type lids is another method used in many places. I knew a husband/wife team in Sweden who made their living selling fermented vegetables 4 days a week at farmer's markets. The majority of their fermented foods were things like sauerkraut and pickles, but they also made about a hundred other combinations, many with hot peppers.

Every year this couple made 2000 kilos (4400 pounds) of squash and cucumber ferments, 3000 kilos (6600 pounds) of red and white cabbage ferments (sauerkraut) and around 200+ kilos (400-500 pounds) of fermented carrots and gold beets. So, I am inclined to think this method worked very well for them!

His basic method was simple: Take a 7 dl canning jar (about 24 fl oz. or 3/4 quart), add some clean leaves of black currant (to keep veggies crisp), dill, garlic and small cucumbers. Add one tablespoon non-iodized salt and fill the jar with non-chlorinated water. Seal it very tightly, and keep at room temperature 4-6 days until you see bubbling, then put it in a cold cellar for some weeks or months. (I think you could adapt this basic recipe by increasing or reducing the amount of salt for quart or pint canning jars, the common sizes available here.) He said you can do it the same way with every kind of vegetable. but you have to boil any beans several minutes, and slice cabbage thin. He had seen whole cabbage fermented by drilling holes in the cabbage and filling the holes with salt but they didn't do cabbage with that method.

My friend said his cucumbers were good to eat after 1 month and up to 1 year; cabbage (sauerkraut) can be eaten after 3 months and will be good for 3-5 years unopened. The taste of all will be sour and taste good, but if you have made a bad batch it will smell terrible and rotten. Use only the best quality organic vegetables.

The room temperatures in Sweden during the growing season when he starts his ferments are about 77ºF/25ºC; cold cellar temps for long, slow fermenting should be 50-59ºF/10-15ºC. He cautions to open a jar over the kitchen sink as contents will be under some slight pressure and some of the brine may come out.

Many people in this country only use canning jars, even Sandor Katz, the fermenting guru. You can watch a video of him starting sauerkraut here.

Note: The lids of canning jars will rust easily from the salty brine. Some folks put a piece of plastic wrap over the jar mouth before placing the lid and ring on the jar.

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