Making a fermentation weight?

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Making a fermentation weight?

Postby christian0710 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 8:40 am

Hi,
I have recently been reading about using a weight to keep the vegetables submerged under brine, and i was wondering what material this weight must be made of, so i won't contaminate the food:

Wood
What type of wood is okay? Can i just make my own weight out of some piece of wood i find in the Forrest, or must the wood be treated first so it does not contaminate the food?

The second question is: does fermentation have to happen with a lid on it (anaerobe condition) or is it sufficient that it's just submerged under the brine without any lid on (perhaps a cheese cloth covering it) i mean it's still submerged under water right?

I appreciate all answers, so i can master this skill :)
Christian
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Tim Hall on Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:48 am

http://www.wildfermentation.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1538&p=2942&hilit=wooden#p2942

Any wood will probably work...EXCEPT TREATED WOOD. If you come across wood that is labeled "treated," dont' use it!!! This is wood that is impregnated with poisons to prevent fungus and termites. It is highly toxic and quickly leaches into water.

Be aware that woods with high resin content like pine, cedar and cypress will impart that resiny flavor to the ferment. Pine is probably not the best way to go. Too much pine resin is unpalatable and will give you the runs. All hardwoods and fruitwoods are suitable. Also be aware that the wood will absorb and harbor live cultures. This could be good or bad. Bad because it could cause cross-contamination with other ferments if you use the wood in them...good because it can kick-start fermentations too.

Wooden vessels and pressing lids are very traditional and still used today for a variety of ferments. There's nothing particularly special about the wood used in wine barrels. Wine barrels are treated (with heat, smoke and sulfur fumes) to prevent "contamination" of wine, but because you're doing a wild ferment, this is completely irrelevant.
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Tim Hall on Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:12 pm

christian0710 wrote:The second question is: does fermentation have to happen with a lid on it (anaerobe condition) or is it sufficient that it's just submerged under the brine without any lid on (perhaps a cheese cloth covering it) i mean it's still submerged under water right?


Most lacto-ferments are not truly, 100% anaerobic to begin with, and probably shouldn't be. Lactobacillus doesn't need oxygen to do it's job, but it will utilize oxygen (up to a certain point) when it's available.

Canning is totally anaerobic. If you have bugs that start to grow in this environment...bad news.

To answer your question though, many feel that placing a lid or airlock on your veggie ferments improves flavor and aroma. It will slow oxidation of the food and help prevent things like mold from growing on the surface. BUT it is not absolutely necessary, and fine ferments can be made with covers as permeable as cheesecloth. You do want to keep your veggies as well submerged in brine as possible. This again prevents oxidation and prevents mold from growing on the vegetables. Salty, sour brine protects your food.
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby christian0710 on Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:33 pm

Hi Tim, thank you for the answer and for the link to your homemade wooden weight. I think it's time to get creative.


actobacillus doesn't need oxygen to do it's job, but it will utilize oxygen (up to a certain point) when it's available.

So lactobacillus, the bacteria responsible for fermentation and lactic acid production, actually uses oxygen? I thought unfriendly bacteria used oxygen to putrefy food, but for what purpose do the lactobacilli utilize it?
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Tim Hall on Sun Jan 23, 2011 12:47 pm

Putrefying bacteria and fungi indeed use oxygen. Clostridium botulinum, on the other hand does not. Putrefying bacteria and fungi usually release competitive "factors" or chemical agents to prevent other organisms from competing with their food source. Sometimes these "factors" are also toxic to us...in varying degrees. Penicillium mold, for example, releases antibiotic agents to prevent bacteria from taking over. This is where our modern antibiotics originated. Alcohol produced by yeast is a competitive factor, and is often referred to as a mycotoxin. Too much alcohol is toxic to us. Botulinum toxin is highly toxic, even in small quantities.

Lactobacillus does not use oxygen for it's metabolism. It is speculated that LAB converts oxygen into peroxide (an antiseptic factor) to compete with other bacteria and yeasts. Small amounts of peroxide are not harmful to us. LAB also creates lactic acid as a competitive factor...many organisms simply cannot survive such an acidic environment.

But the most important thing about LAB with regard to vegetable ferments is that it is a halophilic bacteria. That means it thrives in saline conditions. Many spoilage organisms cannot, or are very slow to grow under such conditions. When you use salt in your ferment, you are providing an environment that allows LAB to rapidly dominate, acidify and further inhibit the growth of spoilage organisms.
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby healthybeet on Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:13 am

I only have experience fermenting cabbage and beets (separately or together), and we always keep vegetables covered with brine using weights. We get creative with the weight and lids. Just find a plate that fits the opening of the glass jar (or we use enameled cookware sometimes) and put some weights, like dumbells, into a ziplock bag on top of the plate. Then I just cover the whole thing with a clean dish towel. Never failes.
I do wash the plate and the weights periodically once the foam starts accumulating on the surface.
"A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil."
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
http://www.healthy-beets.com/
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby pickledpeach on Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:18 am

Re lactobacilllus producing peroxide - I notice a pronounced smell of peroxide whenever I squeeze the air bubbles out of my fermenting sauerkrauts (and other pickles). The smell dissipates quickly. Am a relatively new pickler, so keen to know if this is normal.
I am in Australia, and it's summer here, so is the room temperature perhaps making things ferment too quickly?
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Fubar on Mon Mar 07, 2011 6:29 pm

I use marbles when I dry hop beer. I just boil them to sanitize them, then throw them in my hop bag. I don't see why that wouldn't work with veggies.
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Tim Hall on Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:31 pm

Fubar wrote:I use marbles...


This is a really good idea. I used to have a heavy glass muller (chunk of glass used for hand-grinding artist's paint) that fit perfectly into one of my bigger jars, and used it for pressing kimchi. Non-porous and easy to clean.
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Re: Making a fermentation weight?

Postby Tim Hall on Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:50 pm

pickledpeach wrote:I am in Australia, and it's summer here, so is the room temperature perhaps making things ferment too quickly?


There aren't really any rules as to how fast veggies should ferment. Warmer temperatures can produce stronger flavors and aromas, sometimes not so desirable to some palates. Warmer temperatures may also make it more inviting for mold to grow on the surface. But that doesn't make it bad or wrong.

Some commercial ferments are deliberately produced at fairly high temperatures simply to complete the process faster. For example most miso ordinarily takes months or years to ferment at cellar temperatures, but can be pumped out in a matter of weeks or days if incubated near blood temperature. But the faster miso probably doesn't have the character and more rounded flavors of a well-aged miso.

I wouldn't worry too much about the smell of peroxide, unless it's just off-putting and inedible.
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