One of the great pleasures of fermenting is that it takes very little specialized equipment. It is possible to ferment most things by using salt, water, common kitchen containers (glasses, jars, bowls) and a kitchen knife.
Over the years I’ve found a few things that add to my pleasure when fermenting. They aren’t required but I often find myself using them. Few of them are specific to fermenting and many of them are already found in your kitchen.
Here’s my list:
- A good vegetable peeler. Once we discovered this $6 peeler we have never gone back to the ones I grew up with.
- A jar funnel (like you use for waterbath canning).
- A kitchen scale to weigh my salt and product that I’m fermenting. Weighing your ingredients is the only way to ensure that you can repeat results. I have a digital scale that cost around $30 that I use several times a week (and almost always when fermenting).
- Several large metal bowls (these come in handy when preparing the ferment).
- Wide-mouthed mason jars and smaller glasses or jars that will fit inside. I generally ferment in a bottle larger than I will store the final product.
- Ceramic crocks (such as this fairly typical one, this specialized crock or this giant crock) are handy for large ferments but purely optional. Most fermented goods are stored in the fridge; so I often ferment in smaller quantities.
- A mandoline. It makes slicing faster (once you’re comfortable with it) and the cut pieces are uniform length. I use my kitchen knife and mandoline daily, including when fermenting.
- Food processor. When I starter fermenting, I used this a lot. I use it far less today and generally at the end of a ferment (i.e. turning fermented peppers into hot sauce). I’ve used the other attachments such as the grater with decent success.
- Whey. It’s not really equipment but it’s handy to have it on hand to kickstart a ferment (we get it by straining yogurt and store it in the fridge for weeks-months).
- Extra salt. It’s very frustrating to reach for the salt and then realize you’ve just run out. I keep a jar of ‘extra‘ salt at the back of our larder so that if our main supply runs out ‘by accident’, I have a secret stash that saves a trip to the store.
- Multiple strainers. There’s a lot of straining with fermenting. Sometimes it’s done to separate the brine from the product and other times it’s separating mould from brine. Having different sized filters (including a chinois) is a big help.
- Coffee filters. I buy reusable coffee filters and they serve two purposes. The first is to keep flies out of a jar when fermenting (this saves a piece of cheesecloth and is reusable) as well as to use them to scoop and strain mould from the top of a ferment. Mould is a fact of life with many fermented products and, as long as you’re scooping it odd as you go, there’s no concern with it.
- Airlocks. These are purely optional but I use them in some of our ferments to help slow fermentation and prevent mould (I most commonly use these for kraut and aging hot sauce).
What would you add to yours?