Fermenting vegetables in a warm climate can be a challenge. Most common is mold and mushy veggies. Even though a hot weather presents challenges, it’s still possible to produce great fermented vegetables. However, you might need to experiment to see what works best in your circumstances. Here are a few factors to consider.
The ideal temperature for fermenting vegetables is around 68 to 72 (20 to 22 C). A few degrees warmer or cooler is okay. However, the higher the temperature the more challenging it becomes. And leaving the veggies to ferment at temperatures around the 80s (27 C) can cause several problems:
- Mold or other unwanted microorganisms
- Soft and mushy vegetables
- Dark coloured veggies
Fermenting vegetables in a warm climate speeds up the process. At an ideal temperature, fermentation is usually completed in 7 days. However, fermenting in a hot climate might shorten this to 3-5 days before you need to refrigerate.
7 tips to succeed
Fermenting vegetables in a hot weather requires you to be extra careful. One time, we prepared a new batch of fermented vegetables when the weather suddenly turned very warm. We left the jars to ferment at room temperature, however for too long. And sure enough the veggies turned soft and mushy. We learned from this to interrupted fermentation earlier.
When room temperature rises above 77 (25 C), then risk of mould increases dramatically. However, if you can get through the first couples of days of the fermentation when the acidity increases, then the vegetables will not be as sensitive any more. Just keep them as cool as you can.
1. Turn on the air condition unit
You can successfully ferment vegetables in a warm climate by turning on your air condition unit. This is especially important during the sensitive first three days of the fermentation process. After this, the acidity level will raise and protect the veggies.
2. Use a starter culture
Highly recommended! This makes fermentation more stable and introduces bacteria strains that help protect the vegetables. A starter culture also tends to lower the pH (make it acidic) faster, thereby helping to protect the veggies from mold.
3. Add more salt
Salt protects the vegetables against harmful microorganisms as mould. Traditionally, much salt was used when making sauerkraut. A simple reason is that there were no fridges and salt helped preserve the veggies for a long time. So increasing the amount of salt is simple but effective. However, it’s a delicate balance. You don’t want too much salt either since it might prevent the growth of good bacteria.
4. Use fresh celery juice as brine
Celery juice is great and helps protect the vegetables from the main enemy in a warmer climate, namely mould. If you have a juicer, then you just need to juice celery and mix this juice with the starter culture and you have a great, protective brine for the veggies to ferment in. Fill the jars with 70% vegetables and then add celery juice. Don’t worry, the fermented veggies will not taste celery as the fermentation process transforms the taste.
5. Fermenting in a fridge
Some people have tried to ferment vegetables in a fridge that is set on cool, not cold. This might work quite well even if the temperature is cooler than ideal.
However, be aware that the cooler temperature will slow down fermentation so that you might need need 15 days or longer until fermentation is complete. Taste the veggies to see when they are ready.
6. Cool down with water
Some people have tried putting the jars to ferment in cool water. They even put re-freezable ice packs around the jars to keep them cool during the first 2-3 days. Very clever!
7. Oxygen is bad
Oxygen is a main enemy of fermented vegetables because it promotes the growth of mould, yeast and other unwanted microorganisms. Therefore, make sure that the brine is completely covering the vegetables to block oxygen out. If you use a water lock, then make sure it’s always tight and will not let any air in. If you use mason jars, don’t screw the lid on too tight since pressure will build in the jars and gas needs to escape. You could open the lid for a second every now and then to let pressure out.
Fermenting vegetables in a warm climate is possible
If you are very careful with hygiene, use a starter culture, and follow the principles outlined here you can succeed in preparing delicious fermented vegetables in a warm climate.