Nothing is more frustrating than putting up a supply of food for the winter and having it go bad. Whether the lids are popping off your canned goods, or mold is growing on your ferments, having to throw out food is a big disappointment for anyone. Keep reading for some great tips on how to safely store fermented foods and you may find yourself throwing away less this year.
When you start falling in love with fermented foods, from the unique taste to the huge health benefits, it’s hard to not want to ferment everything! But what do you do with all of those pickles, sauerkrauts, and salsas that you can’t eat in one sitting? How do you store ferments?
As you probably know, room temperature plays a huge part in the fermentation process. In the middle of the summer when the temperatures start rising, your food is going to ferment quickly. When it’s getting cooler out and daytime temps inside your house are a steady 68°F, your food ferments much slower.
This variable is one reason recipes give a time window for fermenting rather than an exact number of days. Occasionally tasting your ferments when the weather has changed can help you to know if they’re done. But do so sparingly, because each time you introduce oxygen to the container, you compromise your anaerobic environment.
The answer to the question is pretty simple: to store ferments, keep them in a very cool place (like a refrigerator or root cellar). Here are the specifics on what you need to know.
How to Safely Store Fermented Foods
When your ferment is ready, remove the airlock and put on a regular lid. Transfer your ferment to cold storage that is between 32 and 50°F. A refrigerator works well, but for those who use fermentation as a way of preserving the harvest, a refrigerator will fill up quickly. A root cellar is a great place to store ferments too and is probably where your grandparents kept theirs!
Why does storing fermented foods in a cool place work? As I mentioned, the cold slows down (but doesn’t stop) the fermentation process. It will continue to ferment while it’s in storage, but at such a slow pace that you’ll be able to keep your fermentations for a while. Some folks think that this slow continuous fermentation adds tons of flavor to the food.
How to Lengthen the Life of Your Ferments
Though placing your finished ferments in cold storage is probably enough to keep them from going bad, there are a few tips that can improve the chances of your fermented foods making it a whole year.
Place them in cold storage a bit early. Since they will continue to ferment slowly you can keep them from getting too sour or soft by storing them a little early.
Keep an eye on brine levels. You may need to push down veggies or add a bit of brine to keep everything below the brine (and avoid mold).
Consider a higher salt ratio which will help store your ferments for longer (though it will make them taste saltier too).
How to Store Fruit Ferments
Fermented vegetables will last for a year or more in a cool storage location. Fermented fruits should be consumed within a few weeks. The reason is that fruit has a lot of natural sugars and a low acid level which causes spoilage and helps it turn alcoholic. Adding lemon juice may extend this window slightly by increasing the acid content but fermented fruit still won’t last as long as fermented vegetables.
If you want to store fruit ferments for longer than a few weeks, consider freezing them. Freezing will stop the fermentation process altogether. You may lose some probiotics but the enzymes and acids should survive. Ideally, you would freeze the fruit separately and then make new ferments every few weeks as needed. But freezing your ferment is a suitable alternative. It’s certainly better than throwing out ferments that can’t be eaten within a few weeks.
Can Fermented Foods be Canned?
I don’t recommend it. Heat and/or pressure kills the probiotics and enzymes that make fermented food so great. Freezing is a better alternative.
Grandma may have kept her sauerkraut down cellar in a huge crock, but you don’t have to. With Fermentools, you can make smaller portions using Mason jars you already own. Try a Starter Kit from our store, today!
Mindy Wood is a writer, wife, mother, and homesteader, living in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She writes at Purposefully Simple where she shows people how to live more self-reliant and healthy lives by growing their own food and learning other homesteading skills.