A question I get asked pretty often is about what fermenting supplies are necessary to get started culturing vegetables.
I would sum up the essential items as:
- fresh food (this could be vegetables, milk, fish, meat, etc.)
- high quality salt
- a fermentation vessel
- a scale to weigh the food and salt for optimal results
- clean water
There are other supplies which are great to have, but these are the most important, in my opinion.
In this guide, I will go over all the products I consider essential, as well as the fermentation equipment that make my life easier.
High Quality Salt
Let’s start with salt. I no longer use Himalayan pink salt because I’ve heard concerning information that the pink color may come from rust. I no longer use wet, gray salts because they may harbor mold. I use this sea salt which is unprocessed (solar evaporated) and pure. It tastes great and my ferments turn out beautifully. I’ve been using this salt for about 2 years now with great results.
There are many, many, many types of fermentation vessels available. I personally use and love Pickl-It jars. But traditional fermentation crocks are a great option as well. The most important equipment for fermenting is the vessel you choose–make sure it locks out oxygen while allowing the gases that develop during fermentation to escape.
Water lock crocks are great for fermenting and a very popular choice. They are one of the more traditional supplies for fermenting vegetables. I chose not to use them because they are heavy, expensive, and they don’t offer as many sizes as Fido jars.
When fermenting it is best to leave very little headspace, and I know many people have had failed batches because they only wanted to make a small amount of a ferment so filled their crock (or jar) half-way or less.
I love being able to make as little as a 1/2L of a ferment, depending on what it is!
To check out pricing, sizes and reviews for water-sealed crocks click here.
Anaerobic Glass Jars With Airlocks
Pickl-It Jar (the original) and The Probiotic Jar are the two anaerobic jars with airlocks that I know are great for fermenting. I was unable to find either one on Amazon at this time. It is basically a Fido jar with a hole drilled into the lid to perfectly secure the airlock. I do know some folks have had great luck buying Fido jars and drilling their own.
The Fido jars themselves are made in Italy by Bormioli Rocco. They are lead-free, very strong, and durable. Most importantly, the clamp or wire-bail closure creates a truly airtight seal. They provide the anaerobic environment for your ferments because they are hermetic. The airlock on top allows fermentation gases to escape, which leads to a healthier ferment and eliminates the need to “burp” the jar (let the air out occasionally) as there is no risk of the jar exploding this way.
I have a large assortment of Fido jars, ranging from 1/2L to 5L. I use smaller jars for fermenting fruit salsas and chutneys since they don’t last very long. I use the larger jars for sauerkraut, kimchi, carrots, daikon and more.
Every size of Fido jar uses the same size lid. So I generally purchase Pickl-It lid kits then change them out with the size Fido jar that I need.
You can check out the wide assortment of Fido jars available by clicking here.
I bought most of my Fido jars at really amazing prices–$10 or less per piece brand new. If you are in the US, you can check stores like Marshall’s, Ross, TJ Maxx, Homegoods, Sur La Table, and Crate & Barrel for discount prices on these amazing jars.
Just make sure they have the appropriate logo as there are inferior jars that look very similar. Crate & Barrel sells them online as well, and I usually wait for a sale (or at least free shipping) before purchasing.
If you are serious about creating safe, healthy ferments, then you should really invest in a kitchen scale. It is on my short list of important fermenting supplies for two reasons:
- Weighing ingredients allows you to create consistently perfect ferments
- Different kinds of salt have different weights, so measuring by the spoonful will not ensure the proper salt ratio.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked how they can fix their salty ferment, I’d be rich. I’d also be rich if all the people who have tried my ferments and noted that they are not salty as they would expect gave me a dollar each.
I’ve had the Ozeri kitchen scale for 4 years now and it works as well as the day I bought it. I’ve bought 2 other brands before that and neither one served me very long. Since I ferment so often and in such large quantities now, I wish I had the kitchen scale on the right. However the one I have does work fine, I just sometimes have to peek below what I’m measuring to see the weight.
The Nicewell can hold double the weight of the Ozeri, and since I use a glass bowl to prepare my ingredients, the bowl alone already takes up most of the weight. I’m only able to weigh about 4lbs of food at a time on the Ozeri.
There are multiple options for sourcing water for fermenting, but I am a big fan of the Berkey water filter. The Berkey is on the pricey side, but we make good use of it and use it for drinking water, making broth, and all of our fermenting needs. The charcoal filters last a very long time, but we have to change the fluoride filters more often.
To save money on the fluoride filters, I order on Azure Standard. If Azure Standard delivers to your area, it is actually less expensive to order the entire Berkey system from them. Click here and then click on “Where we deliver” to see if they deliver to your area. Azure Standard can be a great way to save on organic groceries!
These are the weights I love most. I’ve had them for 3 1/2 years and have never had one randomly break (something I’ve seen happen to others with other brands), and they are heavy and large and hold food below the brine swimmingly. I don’t use weights for all ferments, but I find them especially useful for certain ferments, like onions, green beans and peppers!
You can click here to check them out as well as the many great reviews. These are perfect for use with Fido jars, but you might need smaller weights if you choose to ferment in mason jars.
I have had this mandoline slicer for for about 7 years now. It’s still as sharp as the day I got it! I originally bought it to shred cabbage and onions, but now I use it for so many things!
I have the older version that doesn’t have the tray that catches the sliced food (5pc). From what I can see there’s no difference at all, but the 7pc is less expensive. I love to use it to make cucumber salad and also to slice perfectly thin (or thick) slices of tomatoes for salads, sandwiches, or just to have as a snack. It can help make fruits and veggies more fun for little ones and adults, as well!
Some people cut up the cabbage for their sauerkraut with a knife, but it leads to uneven shreds of cabbage, and generally shreds that are too big.
How can they be too big? You might wonder. Well, if the kraut turns out crunchy (as it should), the shreds are big and tough. The texture and flavor are a world’s difference from finely shredded kraut. It can make a huge difference in acceptability for picky eaters and sauerkraut skeptics!
This slicer is seriously amazing. It gets such great reviews yearsss later and that’s really saying something. Check out the reviews by clicking here, it’s such a great value!
This slicer I got after I started making huge batches of sauerkraut. I can fit about 9-12lbs of shredded cabbage in a 5L jar, and at times I’ll fill 5 full 5L jars in a day! All that on the mandoline is a chore, but this makes shredding large amounts of cabbage thinly a breeze! Check it out here!
Strainers & Pitchers
A nylon strainer can be an invaluable tool for fermenters, as can a pitcher.
I’m not a huge fan of plastic, especially when it comes to ferments, but it can really make your life easier. This pitcher is lightweight, so it cuts down on the time handling and straining your ferment so you can move on to the next task in your busy day.
Some folks do you a silicone colander like this one over a bowl to strain. I find that I am too clumsy to strain into a bowl and always end up making a mess.
This setup is most useful for straining fermented beverages such as milk kefir, water kefir, beet kvass, ginger ale, kombucha, etc. Straining into a pitcher then filling swing-top jars is so much easier with a pitcher! But don’t think that it doesn’t have its place with other ferments!
My strainers and pitchers are among the most important fermenting supplies I use after the ferment is complete. When I make large 5L jars of fermented vegetables, and want to decant to several smaller jars, I often find it easiest, quickest, and less messy to strain out the brine, pack the veggies into the smaller jars, then pour the brine back on.
I really love the swing-top jars by Bormioli Rocco (maker of the Fido jars). They are high-quality and last forever. I’ve even dropped several on ceramic tile that didn’t break (but maybe that was just luck?).
There are some cheaper swing-top jars on the market now, but be sure to read the reviews. Some jars are not meant to withstand the pressure from fermentation and will more easily explode, which can cause a huge mess and even be dangerous as you might imagine.
Fermenting Supplies You May Already Have
These are some of the common kitchen items that make great fermenting equipment that you might already have. If you don’t, read to find out more about how I use each one to see if you might need to add them to your arsenal.
Wooden spoons are great to help you strain fermented beverages and stir vegetable mixes before packing them into your jars.
They’re also especially wonderful for handling kefir!
The wide-mouth funnel included in this set is great for packing Fido jars and mason jars.
The smaller funnel is great to have to neatly and quickly fill swing-top jars.
Mixing bowls are of course necessary for multiple stages and types of fermentation! They’re great for mixing, kneading and the initial ferment for sourdough breads, pizza dough, tortillas and more.
They’re great for straining things into if necessary.
They’re great for grating/shredding/chopping vegetables in, and of course mixing them with a variety of herbs/spices. It’s nice to have more than one because for some ferments you might have multiple stages of mixing you do. For example, for my kimchi, there are several ingredients that I mix well before adding to the napa cabbage.
Now this one is a hefty purchase, but if you are super serious about fermenting a large portion of your family’s food, then you’ve probably already considered it!
And I would tell you that if you have the money to get one, go for it! This is a one fermenting equipment splurge that I would fully support if you
I have dealt with this company personally and the fridge they have makes a great fermentation fridge as it has easy temperature control. You can set it as low as 30oF or as high as 50oF. It’s also great for storing raw milk.
I had a different brand before, but it was an older model. While I paid considerably less for it, it was not energy efficient and it broke down on me multiple times. This one comes with a one year warranty, and the company has great customer service. If you’ve ever considered getting a separate fridge for your fermenting needs, click here to learn more about this model.
Another option would be to get another regular kitchen fridge. For this I have found that older models can generally fit more ferments. The type that have 3 or 4 shelves inside that are really wide. But again, it all depends on what size ferments you make on a regular basis, and whether or not you also need additional freezer space.
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This is a fantastic post!! I’m a total beginner, but I’m hooked and want to expand beyond sauerkraut and coconut water kefir. I learned so much! Thank you!