Fermenting: 3 Things I Wish I F*cking Googled

By : Dana Miele

I have spent a lot of time turning my apartments around Southern Ontario into mini food-science labs. When the projects end with cured meats or delicious butters the patience is thicker. However when you’re making the room smell like old fish and rotten vegetables and spicy fire water, people start to get pissed. Alas, I’ll take all the eye rolls and impatience because it ended with some pretty interesting learning and some decent pickles. In some cases 30L of hot sauce.

I thought watching a Youtube video about live products was enough… however, just like any overhead food video on the internet, they fail to mention all the technique.

There is always a technique, just like everything but even more so when you’re dealing with mold, yeast and bacteria.



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EXPLOSIONS:

I came home after a long shift in the kitchen to 20, 2L Mason jars that had exploded all over the dining area. It was a studio apartment and I lived alone, so fortunately only I had the pleasure of breathing in the rotten scotch pepper fumes and cleaning the glass… Here is the lesson.

OPEN your jars daily. This is something you will need to do Every. Single. Day.

Brush your teeth, open your projects.

This is how I remembered everyday, this is called: “Burping.” Grab yourself a glove if the peppers are hot, open the jars and release the gases (you will hear the release if you’re fermenting properly) push your veg/fruit down into your brine and seal it back up. If you don’t do this, you’re in for a hot and sharp afternoon, or 3AM depending on what you get back from work.

If you’re fermenting a lot, check out 1-way gas exchange lids, or air lids.

Fermentation is alive, treat it as such. How would you feel if you were cooped up in a jar all day?


Bonus tip: don’t touch your eyes or privates after you touch hot things. Sounds simple? No. No it is not.


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WATER:

Most water in Southern Ontario has chlorine in it. You do not want to be making any type of fermenting brine with chlorinated water. If you have the forethought to measure the water you need at least 24 hours before hand and leave out, the chlorine will evaporate over that time. I typically do this, since boiling your water and cooling it almost takes as much time anyway.

Why don’t you want to use chlorinated water? It is the single most important ingredient in fermenting. You can’t build a house on sand. Unless it’s Angok Wat, but that’s a different story.



CONSISTENCY:

Don’t promise it, don’t even try. Sorry to say, there is none. Just like people, live projects will change depending on climate, geography and the moon cycle. It’s no joke that when you’re trying to prepare a fermented project for a place that requires consistency, it’s not going to work out for you...unless you’re cheating it, which is not what we are doing here!

Even the Godfather of mass fermenting, Tabasco itself will change it’s hot sauce consistency as the island it’s fermented on sinks lower and lower each year.

This is a beautiful thing for someone who is doing small-batch. However, if you’re promising your boss a consistent project to sell to the head office and it tastes a lot different in September then it did in March, don’t blame me- I already did.


-Good luck and spread the spores.