Can I use less than a full sachet of starter culture for fermenting smaller quantities of vegetables? Yes, just use the amount of starter culture that you need, and remember to adjust the salt in proportion to the recipe as well. Keep the remaining powder in the sachet, close it well, and store it in the freezer for future use.
Why is the starter shipped without ice? See answer to "I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather?"
I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather? Yes. Our starters are designed to remain active for several weeks in non-refrigerated transit in warm weather, without the need for express shipping or ice. The formula and the packaging provide excellent protection for the live strains. For this reason, we use ambient shipping (which is also significantly less costly for the customer). The starters are kept cold in our warehouse until your order is ready for shipping, and when your order is shipped, we send you the tracking number so that you can see when it is due to arrive. Even if left in direct sunlight for a couple of hours, the starter's viability will not be impacted by much, because reduction in viability is a slow process that does not happen immediately. Once received, the starter should be refrigerated (or frozen), and you can use it as normal. See 'How will I know my vegetables are properly fermented?' and 'I forgot to refrigerate the starter. Is it still active?'
I forgot to refrigerate the starter. Is it still active? This depends on how long the starter has been left at ambient temperature and if the Best By date is still valid. The starter is designed to remain active for several weeks at ambient/warm temperatures (usually for transit purposes). The formula and the packaging provide excellent protection for the live strains. If the delay is much longer and the temperatures are very high, the viability may be affected. That said, reduction in viability is a slow process that does not happen immediately, even past Best By date. You could try compensating for the possible decrease in viability by increasing the ratio of starter to veggies (for example, by using one whole sachet of starter, instead of just 1/8 of a tsp., to ferment a small batch of only one quart, leaving the rest of the ingredients unchanged), and by fermenting for a little longer, if needed, to let the bacteria 'catch up' by proliferation over time. See instructions. Also see 'How will I know my vegetables are properly fermented?'. There's no harm in consuming inactive bacteria; this is equivalent to consuming no bacteria at all. Remember to keep the starter refrigerated (or frozen) until you're ready to use it. See also 'I live in a hot place. Is the starter still active after being shipped unrefrigerated in hot weather?'
Why do I need to leave some headspace in the vessel? To let the mixture expand. Fermentation creates natural gas which causes the mixture to increase in volume.
My vegetables are rising in the jar. Is this okay? Yes, this is perfectly normal and expected. Fermented vegetables should rise and expand as they culture, and you’ll find that they can often be very bubbly.
Can cultured vegetables develop botulism? No. Botulism is an issue with canned goods and not cultured foods. The healthy bacteria in cultured foods prevent botulism from surviving.
Can I use metal utensils and lids to handle ferments? Overall yes, because the metal used in utensils and food-grade lids is most probably acid-resistant, and the utensil is not going to touch the ferment for that long. Metal lids can be used provided that they are acid-resistant and do not directly touch the fermented product for an extended period of time. Opt for the type of lids with a waxy interior, used for pickles, for example. If that interior is corroded though, better not use them. Also: the jar should not be full all the way to the top, to avoid direct contact between the ferment and the lid. There's no problem using stainless steel in the preparation stage, before fermenting.
How long do I culture my vegetables on the kitchen counter? Can I leave them longer?Shorter? This really depends on the ambient temperature in your home. For most vegetables, culturing takes 7 to 10 days at room temperature. In warmer homes, the vegetables might be ready much faster. The vegetables will continue to ferment after you place them in the fridge, but at a slower rate.
How will I know my vegetables are properly fermented? They will taste pleasantly sour, crunchy, and the liquid they are in will look bubbly. If your culturing has gone wrong, you will know this by the strong, unappetizing odor the veggies will give off.
Is fermentation affected by the temperature in my house? Yes. Warm temperature will accelerate fermentation, while cooler temperatures will slow it down. The ideal temperature for vegetable fermentation is 70 F°.
How long can I store my cultured veggies? In the refrigerator, cultured veggies will keep for up to nine months, and sometimes longer.
Why aren’t my vegetables crunchy? Salt is the key. Vegetables without salt become soft and slimy. Vegetables made with salt will stay crunchy.
Why do I need to add salt to the mixture? Salt is an important ingredient in vegetable fermentation. It keeps unfriendly micro-organisms at bay, and helps to improve texture.
Can these foods be stored out of the fridge after they have been fermented? Technically, cultured vegetables can be stored in a cooler basement or cold cellar. However, they will continue to ferment, and in short order they won’t taste very good.
What are the white spots on my veggies? This is called Kahm yeast. This yeast is not harmful. It may adversely affect flavor but it won’t hurt you. Not using the freshest vegetables seems to be one of the fastest ways for Kahm yeast to appear.
What do I do if the liquid is leaking from the jar while my veggies culture? If your jar is too full, the brine might leak out. Simply open the jar, push the veggies down so they are fully covered, and remove a little bit of the liquid or some of the veggies.
What's the best way to store the starter culture? Store the starter culture either in the refrigerator or in the freezer.
Should I use some of the liquid from my previous batch of fermented veggies as a starter for my next batch? No. As opposed to other ferments, the original strains do not all survive the acidity of the more advanced phases of the fermentation (which they helped achieve). We therefore recommend using a sachet (or sachets) of starter culture for each batch. Each pouch of our vegetable starter contains 6 individual sachets. Each of those sachets ferments 5 lbs. (about one gallon) of vegetables. That's a total of 30 pounds of fermented veggies per pouch!
There's not enough brine in the jar to cover the vegetables. The veggies need to be submerged. This can often be achieved simply by packing them down as tightly as possible. Some vegetables (like cabbage) produce their own 'juice' upon pounding, and this helps to have more brine. Another option is to add more of the solution of water and salt, until the veggies are submerged. There's no need to add more starter. Keep the water and salt in proportion according to the instruction table: Dissolve 3/4 tablespoon of salt in 1 quart of water and add however much is needed to the vegetables until they are submerged. Press down several times to help with even distribution of the newly-added solution with the existing liquid.
What are the starter's caloric/nutrition facts? These are printed on the back of the pouch. But overall, our starters contain such minuscule quantities of powder, that they are too tiny to have any impact on the final ferment's caloric values. Our starters come in sachets of 1g - 3g of powder (depending on the starter), most of which, apart from the live strains, is either a carrier fiber containing no caloric value, or a trace of a natural sugar containing only a negligible value. When these teensy quantities of 1g - 3g are added to a gallon of vegetables, the starter's original caloric values, if ever there were any, become entirely diluted in the overall mass, and are practically non-detectable. The final ferment's nutritional values of calories/fats/carbs etc., come directly from the vegetables that the starter was added to, not from the starter itself. For example, fermented cabbage will contain some small amount of natural sugar because cabbage contains some natural sugar inside its leaves; carrots and beets also contain natural sugars, etc.
Where is the starter made? In the USA.
Is the starter gluten-free/dairy-free/lactose-free/vegan? Although the starter contains no animal products, no gluten, and no dairy (and hence no lactose), it is packaged in a shared facility that also handles products that may contain wheat, soy, eggs, milk, and fish.
Is the starter certified Kosher? No. Our starters are not certified Kosher.
My starter has expired. Can I still use it? This depends on how much time has passed since expiration, and whether the starter has been kept refrigerated/frozen. After expiration date, the starter's viability slowly decreases over time. If the starter had been kept cold, there is a chance it is not entirely inactive, even after several months or a year and longer past Best By date. You could try testing it by making a small batch of only one quart (to minimize waste in case this doesn't work). Use one whole sachet of starter, instead of just 1/8 of a tsp., to compensate for the loss of viability. You could also extend fermentation time, if needed. See instructions. Also see bullet 'How will I know my vegetables are properly fermented?' If all goes well, you could later use the rest of the starter to make future batches, either according to the ratios mentioned in the instructions, or by increasing the ratio of starter to vegetables, in order to compensate for reduced viability (for example, by using 2-3 or more sachets to make one gallon). No harm in consuming inactive bacteria. This is equivalent to consuming no bacteria at all. Remember to keep the starter refrigerated (or frozen) until you're ready to use it. If purchasing a new starter, the Best By date is printed on the pouch and on each sachet inside the pouch. If kept frozen/refrigerated, the starter will last a few additional months beyond the Best By date.
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