How to Avoid 3 Common Fermenting Mistakes

Although traditional fermenting is pretty straightforward, making certain mistakes is easy. It’s important to pay attention, because making these mistakes can affect the quality of your ferment and, potentially, your health.

In this article, we look at three fermenting mistakes you can make, and how to avoid them like the plague. These are not small errors – they’re pretty fundamental mistakes that can put the quality of your food on the line.

Three Common Fermenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mistake #1: Using The Wrong Salt

Using the wrong salt has to be one of the biggest mistakes I see people making. This mistake has big ramifications, from destroying your ferment to potentially causing you or your loved ones harm.

Table salt will kill your ferment and should be avoided. Table salt contains iodine, which is an antibacterial. Therefore, it prevents the beneficial bacteria and yeasts from forming in your ferment. Table salt is also heavily processed, which means the important minerals have been removed.

The best salt to use for fermenting is Himalayan salt, which not only has minerals that are healthy for you but for your ferment as well.

Mistake #2: Not Creating the Right Environment

Another big mistake I see is exposing the culture to oxygen. This mistake is completely counterproductive because the oxygen allows the bad bacteria (the bacteria that rots food) to grow while inhibiting the good bacteria from blossoming. People do this by using the wrong tools.

So, how do you know if you’re using the wrong tools? If your food is able to rise above the surface of the liquid in your ferment, that’s one clue. Another way to know is if your vegetables begin to brown, smell bad, look slimy or begin to mold. If any of this happens, just toss your ferment out and start over.

Of course, you don’t need an elaborate set-up to begin fermenting; you just need the right tools to create the best environment to allow the beneficial bacteria to grow.

You can use a Mason jar, but make sure you also use an airlock, and that you set up the tool correctly. Another good tool to use is a glass fermentation weight, which will help keep your fermenting veggies below the surface of their liquid. A rubber gasket, which goes around the lip of the Mason jar, will also keep oxygen from returning to ruin your culture.

Mistake #3: Scraping Away Mold & Thinking it Can’t Harm You

At any time, if you see green or black mold on your ferment, you should immediately toss it, no questions asked. Sometimes I see advice out there that claims you can simply scrape it off, and as long as everything smells okay, then it must be safe. But this can’t be more wrong.

Although your ferment might look and smell okay, the mold spores are still in it – and have been in it longer than you can tell by the naked eye. All that mold has the potential to multiply and make you sick. Mold, of any degree, is unacceptable and has no place in fermenting.

These are three simple rules of thumb you should follow that will help you safely ferment foods. If you’re not sure how to start culturing foods for your health, you can read how to start fermenting here.


Because wide-mouthed Mason jars are easy to get, inexpensive, safe for fermenting and come in a variety of sizes, the Fermentools products are made to fit them. Find glass weights, airlocks, specially designed surgical steel lids and more at the Fermentools store.


Maat van Uitert is a professional writer and homesteader based in the South. Maat is a fermenting nut who specializes in making cheeses, yogurts, probiotic sauces and condiments to spice up and create flavorful meals. You can read more about Maat and her homestead at FrugalChicken, where Maat helps everyday people achieve independence by raising chickens, learning traditional skills, and becoming more self-sufficient. You can also catch up with her on her weekly podcast, What The Cluck?!, available on iTunes now.

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