You want to start fermenting vegetables, but you are unsure of which equipment to choose? In this article, we will discuss the different types of lacto-fermentation supplies to help you succeed every time.
Whatever your budget, there is an option that will work for you. While there are complete fermentation kits to get you started, you can also DIY with recycled items!
No matter what equipment you use, the goal remains the same: to create an oxygen-free environment where good lactic acid bacteria can grow.
To create this environment, you need three key items:
- A container
- A weight to prevent vegetables from coming into contact with oxygen
- A way to release the CO₂ to avoid explosions
For each container options (below), we will explain which weight to choose and how to let the CO₂ out.
Can’t wait to learn? Jump to your preferred equipment:
Small Budget Option #1: Glass Jars (Screw-on Lids)
Glass jars with screw-on lids are perfect to get started. Bonus: you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen!
Which Glass Jar to Choose?
To ferment the vegetables, choose any glass jar: jam jar, tomato sauce jar, or the traditional “Mason” or “Bernadin” type jars.
The lids that come with these jars are either in one or two parts and often in metal. Be careful! Over time, these lids can rust. Do not hesitate to replace them with plastic lids, which are more durable in the long run.
Which Weight to Choose for a Glass Jar?
With glass jars, the challenge is to keep the vegetables covered with brine. Fermentation needs an oxygen-free environment to thrive. Since vegetables tend to float, you have to find a way to keep them below the surface.
Are you wondering how you can prevent pieces of vegetables from rising to the surface during fermentation? Cover your vegetables with a cabbage leaf or any large enough chunk of vegetables.
By wedging it in the jar like a small blanket, it prevents vegetables from rising to the surface. Be careful! The cabbage leaf must also be covered with water. Use a weight or a counterweight.
Glass fermentation weights are food-grade glass slices that are placed on the vegetables to be fermented.
They are adapted to the openings of conventional glass jars (standard or wide opening). We like them for their durability and their suitable size.
These little tools are devilishly effective! ViscoDisc counterweights are food-grade plastic inserts that are placed in jars. The lid presses down on the flaps, keeping food underwater.
No ViscoDisc on hand? Use a shot glass or whatever you find in your kitchen to apply pressure on your vegetables.
Be careful! Some counterweights have holes that allow small pieces of vegetables to go through during fermentation. To prevent them from rising, simply use the cabbage leaf!
To create a homemade weight, Ziploc bags are your best friends! Once your jars are filled up to 2-3 cm from the rim, insert a plastic bag filled with water, beads, or pebbles. The bag will fit the surface of your vegetables and keep them well covered. Handy to use!
You can easily use all kinds of small objects to keep your vegetables covered. However, if you use tools that are not designed for fermentation (like glass candlesticks, rocks, etc.), be careful – the salt and acidity of lacto-fermentations can alter some materials.
Note: No matter what weight is used, keep it in the jar throughout the fermentation process. You can remove it when you start using your vegetables, or before moving them to the fridge.
How to Let the CO₂ Out of a Glass Jar?
In the early days of fermentation, carbon dioxide (CO₂) is produced. It creates bubbles!
To prevent the jars from exploding, you need a way to let this carbon dioxide out, but without letting oxygen in.
By Hand (Burping Technique)
Most of CO₂ is produced during the first week of fermentation. If you use conventional lids, remember to unscrew them slightly each day to let the surplus CO₂ out.
No need to open them all the way! Just unscrew the lid a slight quarter turn to “burp” them. Then close the lid again immediately. Be very careful not to open it too much, otherwise, oxygen could enter the jar.
When gas production slows down, after about ten days, you can space out the gas release – or even stop it.
Silicone Valves and Strips
Pickle Pipe silicone lids fit over standard glass jars. Their small valve lets CO₂ out in a natural way.
Tough Tops lids, on the other hand, have a silicone strip that lets CO₂ out while keeping the jar perfectly sealed. Plus, they don’t rust!
Airlock bubblers are devices that let out gas. They are filled with water, vinegar, or alcohol to prevent oxygen from entering the container.
Widely used in alcohol fermentation, they are also suitable for fermenting vegetables. All you need to do is borrow a drill from your brother-in-law to fit them on your lids (you’ll also need a rubber grommet).
You can also opt for pre-installed airlock lids.
Advantages of jars with screw-on lids:
- Easy to customize with what you have on hand
- Convenient for small quantities
- Compatible with most fermentation accessories
Small Budget Option #2: Glass Jars (Lever Lid)
“Le Parfait” or “Fido” glass jars are ideal for fermentation. They can be found in hardware stores or supermarkets.
Which Lever Jar to Choose?
The lid, attached to the container, closes with a lever system. A rubber gasket ensures that the jar is watertight. Bonus: these jars are available in several sizes!
Which Weight to Use With a Lever Jar?
As with screw-top jars, you need to find a way to keep the vegetables covered with brine. Glass weights, counterweights, or improvised weights mentioned above are ideal for this type of container.
How to Let the CO₂ Out of a Lever Jar?
Lever-actioned jars usually release the pressure that is created inside the jar. You can hear them burp during fermentation! The inner pressure pushes the CO₂ out through the rubber seal, but the lever still holds the lid closed.
Caution! If the rubber gasket is old, it may not work properly. If your jar is very old, simply replace the gasket. Otherwise, there may be a risk of explosion.
Also, some lever-actioned containers found in large stores are less resistant than “Le Parfait” brand jars. The lever could warp over time.
Advantages of lever jars:
- Easy to find
- Let the CO₂ escape with no other action required
- Some levers are less resistant than others
All-in-One Option: Crazy Korean Cooking
The Crazy Korean Cooking fermentation container is an all-in-one option for any kind of vegetable.
No wonder these containers are everywhere in Korea, where kimchi is served at almost every meal!
Why Choose the Crazy Korean Cooking?
The Crazy Korean Cooking container is made of food-grade plastic, specially designed for fermentation. This material imitates traditional fermenting jars, but in a much more compact size!
These containers are available in different sizes, from 3.4L to 6.4L. Therefore, these kits are more suitable for larger quantities. When you love kimchi, you don’t count!
As a bonus, the double lid reduces the release of fermentation odours.
Which Weight to Choose for the Crazy Korean Cooking?
The Crazy Korean Cooking container comes with an inner lid, which sits directly on the vegetables, preventing any contact with oxygen.
This lid is equipped with a valve that helps create an oxygen-free environment for fermentation.
How to Let the Co₂ Out of the Crazy Korean Cooking?
The inner lid system also lets out the CO₂. During the first week, you can leave the valve open. When the gas production slows down, just seal the small hole and you’re done!
Benefits of the Crazy Korean Cooking:
- All-in-one and easy to use
- Reduces fermentation odours
- Not so convenient for small quantities
High-Tech Option: Vacuum Bags
Did you know that you can make fermented vegetables with a vacuum sealer? Put some vegetables and salt in a bag, vacuum it, and you’re done!
This is the perfect option for restaurant owners or those who want to experiment with small quantities of fermented vegetables.
Why Choose the Vaccum Bags?
Your vacuum sealer doesn’t need to be professional grade to make delicious fermentations! A standard device is all you need.
Use food-grade plastic bags to avoid food contamination by plastic. You can reuse them easily and seal them several times. This will avoid the unnecessary generation of plastic, the downside of this method.
Which Weights to Choose With Vaccum Bags?
No need for weights! Since the vacuum sealer removes the air from the bag, there is no risk of mould. Easy, fast, and efficient!
How to Let the Co₂ Out of the Vaccum Bags?
If during fermentation, your bag inflates like a balloon, it’s not because it’s poorly sealed, it’s because of the gas produced by fermentation!
If your bag is about to burst, make a small incision to relieve it, then reseal with your vacuum sealer. Fermentation can be carried out without difficulty.
Advantages of the vacuum bags:
- Safe and you can’t fail
- Convenient for experimenting and small quantities
- Suitable for restaurants
- Generates plastic waste
- More expensive
Traditional Option: Clay Fermentation Jar
Fermentation is not something new. Before glass, plastic or stainless steel, there was plain clay!
You can still find, nowadays, many fermentation jars that look like the ones used hundreds of years ago… A timeless format!
Why Choose the Traditional Jar?
Traditional fermentation jars are often made of ceramic, sandstone, or terracotta. They come in various sizes, up to several gallons. Enough for your fermented vegetables to last all year long!
Which Weight to Choose for the Traditional Jar?
Most of the time, traditional jars come with ceramic fermentation weights. Often shaped like a half-moon, these weights fit perfectly to keep the vegetables underwater.
You can easily replace them with small plates, or even other ceramic pieces.
How to Let the Co₂ Out of the Traditional Jar?
Some jars have gutters that go around the opening, where the lid sits.
By filling the gutter with water, it acts as a natural airlock! The CO₂ comes out smoothly through internal pressure, but oxygen cannot enter the jar.
Not (yet) ready to invest in a traditional jar? You can easily do your fermentations in glass jars with bubblers, or even food-grade buckets with a modified lid.
Advantages of the traditional fermentation jar:
- Time-tested system
- Easy to use, suitable for large quantities
- Natural, healthy, and durable materials
- Harder to find
- Heavy and bulky
Other Tools to Have on Hand
Although not essential, we like to have these utensils in our fermentation kit!
The chef’s knife is perfect for preparing your vegetables for fermenting. Easy to handle, it will allow you to slice or chop all your vegetables.
Very practical for cutting cabbage in no time! There are many compact mandolines or larger ones with a carriage.
Perfect for amateur fermenters who can’t get enough sauerkraut, or for restaurant owners. However, watch out for your fingers!
We love the fermentation tamper! It is perfect for compressing sauerkraut and kimchi into jars or other fermentation containers. The pestle easily fits into narrow-mouth jars.
No tamper in your kit yet? No problem! You can replace it with a large vegetable, a small bottle, or just using your hands.
Most fermentation recipes calculate the amount of salt needed based on the weight of the vegetables. A small accurate to the gram kitchen scale is a handy tool. That way you won’t end up with a sauerkraut that’s way too salty!
This is not a necessity, but we like to have a funnel on hand to avoid spills! You will find it in specialized kitchen stores or supermarkets.
Please note that we encourage creativity in the choice of equipment. However, if you use recycled objects that are not designed for fermentations, please ensure that they are food-grade, either plastic, glass, or stainless steel.