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Fermentation Failure, What's Yours?  RSS feed

 
garden master
Posts: 2232
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Anything worth doing well is worth doing terribly. And I sure as hell fucked this up big time!

So, I was itching to get into fermentation, because I was reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and I really wanted some "live" food.

It is accurate how one of my friends described me as a Golden Retriever, because I got a tad too excited about this project of mine and forgot to take note of one important detail:
The surface I was working on was a piece of glass.

This mistake of mine resulted in:
-the breakage of the surface I was working on (which I will have to pay to get replaced)
-the loss of two mason jars
-two cut fingers-
an hour cleaning up my floor and the broken glass
-and one inedible fermentation jar (because of the risk of glass shard being inside of it)
-and one greatly humbled human being who has learned several lessons the hard way

So, the hope was to make a good big jar or maybe three jars of vegetables to ferment. As I was finding out, I learned that vegetables are extremely compressible. I thought that my big bag of all organic foods: chives, dill, green onions, dino kale, regular kale, collard greens, dill, and cilantro would make a large batch. But I was able to compress it all into one jar and use enough force to break a pane of glass. I hurriedly stuffed everything back into the onyl jar that survived, which was a bag idea. But maybe not, I have a good observation piece. The general recipe I did was add a whole bunch of unrefined sea salt to a bunch of filtered, stuff veggies in a jar, fill with water, stuff in more and more until all the veggies I possibly can were in the jar.

Now, I won't be giving up. I am still going to use this piece as an observation piece to learn more about the fermentation process, and I will continue my adventures with making fermented vegetables, while living at college. But I will do so more carefully and pay a lot more attention.

So, this was my first attempt at fermentation and it went spectacularly wrong! I hope this brings to some people a few laughs and perhaps memories of their fervent youth!

What's gone wrong when you've tried to preserve food by fermentation?
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the groceries I recently bought
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there's some kale, green onions, dill, collard greens
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some nice mason jars one a glass pane
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a kombucha jar for making up sea salt
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some nice unrefined sea salt
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putting sea salt into jar
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adding some of the veggies I bought
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putting everything into just one jar
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adding a whole lot more
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adding even more into the jar, oh my!
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shit went down between this and the last picture that I'm too embarrassed to show
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the first finger that was cut by glass
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the second finger that was cut by glass
 
pollinator
Posts: 316
Location: Virginia
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I hope your fingers are feeling better.  I suspect today they may be more painful though, but tomorrow better. Try an ice pack if they are throbbing.

I didnt lose the dish I was making, but I did slice off the top of my thumb. We superglued it back, but I still am missing some feeling and have recut it over the years because I cant always judge the distance right.  My tablet doesnt always recognize when I type with my thumb so I have a lot of typos to try to catch.  Its why nearly every single post I make is edited.  This was for a zucchini chowder.

For my ferment, it was a matter of a nasty flavored kombucha.  All I can figure is I forgot to add sugar to the secondary ferment. It was a type I had done successfully before using apple butter and extra ginger fo flavor.
 
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Yes! I've had fermentation failures

One that was similar to yours...I was 'pressing' more and more salted cabbage into a gallon jar and cracked the jar.  I suspect it might have had a crack to begin with but I was also pressing it in with a wooden masher that really allowed me to lean in to it.

I used to try many of Sally Fallon's recipes...many times with perfect results, but also a few jars that I let go to long and had to carefully take outdoors and slowly remove the lid...always sure that a food bomb was about to explode and throw glass everywhere.  Those jars never broke but the ferment inside was always over done and did spew all over as the lid was removed.

Now I mainly make sauerkraut and have consistent results EXCEPT for two batches recently where the whole gallon turned to mush.  I make it once a month or so and can not figure out what happened to those failed ferments...air temperature? length of fermentation time? salt? store cabbage was irradiated? moon in virgo?  I gave up trying to figure it out and just keep making more.

 
gardener
Posts: 1672
Location: Middle Tennessee
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Oh man I've had lots failures. I used to brew beer, and I mean lots of it. In fact, I liked making and drinking beer so much, I went to school to learn as much as I could about it and I'm an alumni of the American Brewers Guild. So I started home brewing back in the mid-nineties when I was 18. I couldn't buy beer, but I discovered I could buy all the ingredients and make my own and I thought that was just stellar. My first failure may have been my first batch, or the second one since it's been so long I can't remember exactly. I was adding pelletized hops to my wort on the stovetop in my dads kitchen, and I had a vigorous rolling boil going, and as soon as the hops hit the wort it erupted in a boil over, all over the stove, countertop, floor, and the pots & pans in the cabinet below. It took a few hours to clean that up.

A few years later after learning to take measures to avoid boil overs and now brewing outdoors on a propane burner so I can just hose everything down when I'm done, I had finished brewing a batch, poured it into a 6 gallon glass carboy, pitched the yeast and was done. I grabbed the handle, started to head indoors and the handle slipped off, and I immediately had 5 gallons of wort and a ton of broken glass on me, the steps, sidewalk, everywhere. I stood there for a second, uttered a few choice words, and walked inside and went to bed. I cleaned it up the next day.

During my decade and a half of brewing I've had countless batches get infected with undesirable yeast and bacteria resulting in un palatable beer. Some I noticed early and dumped carboys on the ground, others I didn't discover until I went to have an evening of quality control and opened a bottle, just to open the remaining fifty or so and pour them out. I've also had several batches either accidentally get over-primed with sugar when bottling or have remaining unfermented sugars I was unaware of, resulting in exploding beer bottles a few weeks later. I recall one batch reaching critical mass inside their bottles in the middle of the night. I woke up after hearing something in the other room. After laying there in bed for a while, I heard it again. One of the boxes that contained these exploding bottles had the top open, so upon bursting, the bottle necks or what's remaining of them were ricocheting off the ceiling and around the room. Pow-plink-a-plink-plink-plink. Thankfully that place I lived in didn't have carpet, so it was just mopping up the hardwood floor.
 
gardener
Posts: 1562
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I haven't had any explosive or broken-glass failures, only some batches came out yucky, usually when I was experimenting with new ingredients.

BTW, we always press ours by hand, not with a tool. I wonder if that reduces the chance of broken glass. We soften the cabbage, carrot, radish and other vegetables by salting them for a few hours or overnight, and then it's easy pack in tight.
 
pollinator
Posts: 256
Location: PNW
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I've never broken anything either or injured myself but I made a large batch of sauer kraut that was just.... wrong.  I followed all the instructions correctly but I mixed it by hand and I had been doing a lot of work that morning and don't think I washed them well enough.  Homemade sauer kraut gas always smells funky when you open the jar (IMO) but when you smell the actual sauer kraut, regardless of where it is in the cycle, you want to eat some.  This stuff was so off-putting, I couldn't do it.  Everything inside me recoiled.  I had to throw out the batch and was discouraged for awhile.

I have since fermented successfully.  If you're into fizzy/sweet drinks, fruit kefir is great.  And I love kimchi because it's quick and very flexible.

I don't agree with much of Sally Fallon anymore but the fermented food section is a keeper and I'm looking forward to seeing your efforts.
 
Dave Burton
garden master
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My fingers are doing fine. I'm going to get some new mason jars and sea salt this week so I can start all over again, and one of my friends was wondering what to get his friends for Christmas, and so, he and I will be grocery shopping together to get some more organic veggies to make a new batch.

And after reading these replies, thank you! They have brought some more joy to my life, knowing I'm not the only one who has really messed stuff up before!
 
pollinator
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I have had kefir soda, get pressurized and the soda made it to the ceiling.
I have added flour to kefir to turn it into sourdough, which turned into "pancake" batter soda that ended up on the wall and table.
I have made hard cheese (kefir) and didn't expect the cheese to release so much liquid and the table was a mess.
I fermented some garlic and it turned green and was still raw/too strong. I was scared, but it turns out it is normal and safe.
I tried fermenting pear pulp and it tasted too weird, but it was safe. Straining before fermenting fixed it.

But the kefir soda was wonderful, I only lost 1 bottle from that batch. (Don't shake the bottle)
The sourdough ended up being good, just give enough head space and don't made the cover airtight, change often increasing the water to flour ratio until the kefir turns into regular sourdough consistency
 
pollinator
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I think disasters are part of the learning curve of pickling and especially brewing beer. I've also had bottles explode, but it only adds to the charm of it being homemade.
Here there are a lot of german immigrants, nearly everyone has a grandma or great-grandma who made the beer, and lots of older people have told me that when they were children at Christmas they would hear bottles exploding under the house (south america, hot as heck at Christmas time, the bottles were under the house in the crawl space, coolest place there was). So I guess I'm in good company!

My first lacto pickles were the slimiest, most miserable colorless alien-snot looking things I've ever seen. But practice practice and a little bit of info from Dr Google and they're much better now.  
As for Kombucha, somewhere in kombucha-land there is probably a poster with my picture on it and a bounty on my head for killing so many kombucha mothers.
 
steward
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People frequently give me canning bottles. Most often they still have fruit in them -- which is 10 to 20 years old. The texture isn't to my liking, but the flavors are fine, and they are loaded with sugar. Hmm! Time to make Old Fruit Wine. I love it, so many delightfully fruity flavors.

So one time, I made a batch of Old Fruit Wine, and it was hyper horrid!!! Nothing I could do would fix it. So I dumped it on the compost pile and started over with the same lot of donated bottles. And, since I was feeling cautious, I tasted every bottle of fruit as I opened it. Cause at the very foundation of winemaking is the premise that you get out of a batch exactly what you put in.  

And then I discovered the product that had broke my fermentation: Smoked Barbecue Sauce!!!
 
Posts: 58
Location: Coastal British Columbia
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Oh gosh Dave, how terrible that you cut yor fingers! Don't give up though (sounds like you're still excited!). Yes, we've all had lots of failures. I've made kombucha vinegar too many times to count. I would get busy and forget about it, and instead of enjoying a sweet tasty glass of kombucha...it was vinegar.

Make sure you burp your jars! I've never had a jar explode on me because I burp them 2-3 times a day. Your lid doesn't have to be tight, in fact I've fermented stuff with just the lid resting on the jar, and no lid sleeve on it. That way you never have an explosion. It might bubble/foam over the top if you fill it too full, but that's much easier to clean than broken glass!
 
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