Fermenting vegetables in a warm climate can be a challenge. Some people have reported problems with mould and mushy veggies and ask what could be done.
Even though a warm climate presents challenges, it’s still possible to produce great fermented vegetables. You might need to experiment a little 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 might not make a big difference. However, the higher the temperature the more challenging it becomes. And leaving the veggies to ferment at temperatures around the 80s (27 C) will most likely cause problems like these:
- Soft and mushy vegetables (not palatable)
- Mould or other unwanted microorganisms
- Dark coloured veggies
When fermenting vegetables at a cooler temperature, the vegetables can be left for weeks to ferment without ruining the product. Sometimes the veggies might become a little softer, but still enjoyable.
When the temperature is close to ideal, fermentation is usually completed in 7 days. However, fermenting at a higher temperature will shorten this to 5 days or less to avoid problems.. Fermenting in a warm climate also requires frequent tasting of the veggies.
Taste the veggies
Fermenting in warm climate speeds up the process so you need to keep track on when to stop fermentation to avoid problems. This might be after 2-4 days or a little longer depending on what kind of vegetables you are fermenting. Start tasting on the second day to determine when the taste seems right. Then refrigerate right away.
Ferment during the right season
One time my wife and I prepared a new batch at home when suddenly the weather turned very warm. We had already prepared the batch so we just had to leave the jars to ferment at room temperature. But we left them too long at room temperature. The veggies were still okay to eat, but they had turned soft and mushy. We should have interrupted fermentation earlier. We learned a valuable lesson.
When the room temperature rises get 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. Still, keep them as cool as you can.
Using air condition
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.
Using a starter culture
Highly recommended! This makes fermentation much more stable and introduces good bacteria strains that help protect the vegetables. A starter culture also tends to lower the pH (make it acidic) much faster, thereby helping to protect the veggies from mould develop very easily in a warm climate.
Use 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. But it’s effective in a warm climate.
Try 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 until 90%. And don’t worry, the fermented veggies will not taste celery as the fermentation process completely transforms the taste.
Fermenting vegetables in a fridge
Some people have tried to ferment vegetables in a fridge that is set on cool, not cold. This works 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 not get the result you want after 7 days since many bacteria strains slow down. Instead, be patient! You might need to wait 10-15 days or longer until fermentation is complete. Again, taste the veggies to know when they are ready.
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 3-4 days. Very clever!
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 in the jars to block oxygen out. If you have a water lock on your crock pot, 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 should open the lid for a second every now and then to let pressure out.
Fermenting vegetables in a warm climate is possible
Be very careful with hygiene, use a starter culture, and follow the principles outlined here. Then you can succeed in preparing delicious fermented vegetables even in a warm climate.