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UPDATE 8/11/12: Since I wrote this post, I no longer use Mason jars for my ferments (learn why here). I have moved exclusively to using Pickl-It jars for my ferments. With these jars, there is no need to use a starter for your ferment. According to the Pickl-It website, “the Pickl-It lacto-fermentation system efficiently increases acidity, drops pH, and locks out damaging oxygen that neutralizes a wide-range of beneficial components including antioxidants, enzymes, bacteriocins, as well as probiotic bacteria.” While there are still going to be certain occasions where a starter might be needed, I am finding that to be few and very far between.
I have decided to stop using whey in my vegetable ferments. WHAT??? But, but, Sally Fallon says to use whey! And, that’s how I’ve always done it! How can I stop now?
I’ve come to this decision after reading two things – Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and Kelsy’s post on The Liberated Kitchen. On my very first post of the Bad A** Bacteria series (lacto-fermented garlic), a reader posted a link to Kelsy’s article and from that point on, I’ve questioned whether or not to use whey as a starter in vegetable ferments. Kelsy makes such good points, that I’ve decided to stop using whey in my vegetable ferments.
In her post, Kelsy has us take a look at the list of bacteria that are found in fermented vegetables (from a book that I have now added to my to-read list):
- Lactobacillus brevis
- Lb. plantarum
- Leuconostoc mesenteroides
- Pediococcus acidilactici
- Ped. pentosaceus
Then, she shows us the list of bacteria typically found in plain yogurt, which is where I get my whey:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lb. casei
- Lb. rhamnosus
- Lb. bulgaricus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
Notice how there are no crossovers. Not one. The bacteria in the milk products are designed to eat milk sugars, like lactose. The bacteria in the vegetable products are designed to eat vegetable sugars. They are two totally separate organisms.
Hmmmm .. that got me thinking. Vegetable ferments and dairy ferments are two totally different things. The food itself is different and the bacteria needed to culture it are different. So, why would we add a dairy-based starter to our veggies? That is a good question. A question that I don’t think there is one right answer for. It does make me wonder if this is the reason why my vegetable ferments in which I’ve used whey have ended up with a slimy, goo-like brine, rather than a watery, refreshing brine (yes, you should drink the brine from sauerkraut, pickled garlic, etc. It is an awesome germ fighter!). Even though my ferments were not bad according to a thorough sniff test, they were not appetizing to eat.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Whey still has a place in my kitchen. It is great to use for items that don’t come with their own beneficial bacteria to help get the ferment started. Some examples of these are going to be lacto-fermented orange juice (and other juices), homemade mayonnaise, and fermented fruits that probably don’t have any exposure to soil bacteria. But, for vegetable ferments, we should strive to get the beneficial bacteria we need from the plants themselves. If you can get high-quality, organic veggies that are grown in live soil, then that should be all you need to get your vegetable ferments up and running.
If you can’t get organic veggies from live soil and you are in need of a non-dairy based starter, there are some options out there, such as Body Ecology’s Probiotic Vegetable Starter or Caldwell Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables.
So, what do you think? Do you think whey should be used as a starter for veggies? Or, are you already doing this and I’m the last one to the no-whey party? Talk to me below!
P.S. If you’re at all interested in fermenting, you simply must buy Wild Fermentation. And, if you need another fantastic blog to follow, then I highly recommend the Liberated Kitchen, home to a couple of lovely ladies – Joy and Kelsey. For a fantastic article about the nutrition of whey and why we should still consume it, even if we don’t start our ferments with it, read this post from Divine Health: “The Many Benefits of Whey“. Plus, I’m not alone in my journey of not using whey for a started. Melanie, from the Pickle Me Too blog, has stopped as well.
This is interesting info! I have stopped using whey in my fermented veggies ages ago. I only use whey in my bread and butter pickles since I don’t want them too salty. People often ask me why I don’t prefer whey and for me it was just a gut instinct preference, but now I’ll pass them along this article.
Also, my instructor Caroline Barringer tested some fermented veggies with Dr. Mercola to find the bacteria content – I can’t remember the exact amounts, but it was something like a tablespoon of fermented veggies had 54 billion live active good bacteria! How awesome is that!
That is awesome! I’ve always wondered just how many live bacteria are in my ferments. Thanks for sharing that … makes me even happier to eat my kimchi and kraut!
Do you wash your veggie when you ferment your veggie? How do we get the bacteria from the soil if we wash the veggie?
Hi Lin – I only ferment with organic veggies, so I will give them a rinse, but I don’t scrub or go overboard with cleaning them if I don’t have to. There will most often still be enough on the veggies to help inoculate your ferments.
I bought some of Dr Mercolas probiotic powder but there was no doseage instructions on using it to make cultured vegetables. I sent them an email and they couldn’t help me either, pardon?????
How much does one use, it is so expensive don’t want to go overboard.
Must admit am not a lover of saltyy foods so have aways used fresh whey as I make kefir from raw organic milk and then make kefir cheese which leaves me with whey.
Hi Pam – Thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry but I can’t offer any insight either as I have never used that product. I find it strange that the company can’t even assist you. That seems so weird. Maybe try Googling and see what you can find?
AHA!! I have been doing this as well, with the kefir whey and did not like how cloudy and…….something (slimy?, thick?) the brine was either. I will leave it out from now on and see if I like it better…after I finish all the pickles, beets kvas, carrots, etc etc
Yeah – the sliminess made my vegetable ferments almost inedible because of the texture. Now that I’m not using whey, the results are much more appetizing!
I would more interested in knowing how to make my own vegitable ferments,instead iof buying them. More than likly using kombucha or vinagar starters is this answer..or close to it.
Cindy – Stay tuned for more of my 52 Weeks of Bad A** Bacteria series. You can check out the archive here for the ones that I have done so far: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/category/food-news/52-weeks-of-bad-a-bacteria/
These will help you make your own. Buying them can be so expensive!
Thanks for commenting!
I am starting to get really frustrated about all pros and cons of …. eating. I am trying to do right for my family: soaking grains, fermenting milk, fermenting veggies, making bread, purchasing non-gmo, etc. But the efforts have started to become a chore–not because it is tedious and time consuming but because I don’t know if I am wasting my time or not. We humans have really messed up God’s system of food production and consumption. I just want to get back to Eden and I think it is impossible.
Heidi I so agree with you!! It gets so tiresome. We’re also doing the best we can.
Baby steps! I know it can seem so overwhelming at times. Heck, I’ve been doing this for awhile now and I STILL feel overwhelmed sometimes. But we have to remember that even doing little things like soaking and fermenting can make a huge difference in our health! I always say to try to master one thing and the move on to something else. When I first started, I tried to do everything all at once and it made me toss in the towel for awhile!
And, there is no right or wrong answer in regards to this topic of whether to use whey or not. It’s totally up to personal choice. There’s nothing wrong with using it as a starter for your veggie ferments. I just personally didn’t like using it.
I hope that helps! We as humans really have done a doozy on our food supplies. It’s sad, but we just have to try to do what we can to control what we eat and what we’re exposed to. That’s all we can do!
I also wondered how it made sense to use dairy cultures for veggies, but it makes a good safety net for beginners. I also found that whey ferments are mushier than wild ferments — yucky! I fermented jalapenos with kombucha, and have been enjoying them (refrigerated) for about a year now! I’ve made sauerkraut with both the Fallon and Katz methods; I just made some with water kefir grains [2T WKG (1Tbs will suffice) and 1T salt in 3 quarts of pounded kraut], and was delighted at how quickly it worked — 48 hours! …Be careful when fermenting with kefir because it produces carbon dioxide and must be allowed to off-gas.
I do not like salted, whey-fermented fruits at all, so I’ve started using water kefir grains, with no salt, and have been very happy thus far!
Lisa – good points. It is a great safety net for beginners and I think everyone starts off using whey.
I’m having a lot of fun experimenting with the no-whey methods. Love the fermented jalapenos and kombucha. Mind sharing your technique with me?
As soon as I get some water kefir grains up and rolling, I do think I want to try that method as well. I’ve been seeing a lot of people mention it recently. Thanks for the tip on the off-gassing though.
Totally makes sense 🙂 Sorry for the *dumb* question but then how do the veggies “ferment” – or how do you go about fermenting them if you do have access to organic veggies?
There are no dumb questions! 🙂
The fermentation actually happens on its own as the food breaks down. Depending on what you’re fermenting (like kombucha and kefir), you’ll sometimes want the natural yeasts and bacteria that are in the air to mix with your ferments. Other times you won’t and you’ll use a lid or an airlock on your jars (for most veggies and fruits).
You can ferment anything because natural bacteria are in all of our fruits and veggies. The reason that whey is used is because it gives it an extra little boost of good bacteria to get the ferment going. If you don’t use whey, then the ferments sometimes take a little longer.
Do you happen to have Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions? Or, Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation? Those are two outstanding resources for those who are wanting to get started fermenting. Here’s the links to the books:
Let me know if you have any other questions!
I agree that article sealed the deal for me. Just made sense. Veggie bacteria for veggies. I did add a spoonful of my fermented garlic to the fermented cabbage that I started today, wanting to add a little garlic flavor to it, and wondering if maybe it would add a little helpful bacteria??? Has anyone else ever used a spoonful of juice from the previous ferments to inoculate the new batch?
I meant to do that! I just started a new batch of kraut and I saw your comment and was going to add some of my pickled garlic brine and totally forgot. I’ll have to remember to do that next time. I bet it’s wonderful! I think it would be a great way to add some starter bacteria to a ferment.
I use both techniques, they both work equally well and they both have their own set of pros and cons…let’s not split hairs here everyone, people have been lacto-fermenting veggies for a mighty long time before all of us greenhorns came along!! it is often a preferred method for those attempting to reduce their salt intake 🙂 as long as you are fermenting somehow then AWESOME!!
I agree that doing something is better than nothing! And, that’s why I stated that there is no right answer to this. It all comes down to personal choice!
I don’t use a starter of any type and mine always turn out great. Just salt and the veggies!
That’s what I’ve started doing and it’s working great!
yes it is frustrating. But life is that way…Imagine Eden for Eve & Adam…they had the perfect & blew it..so out they went…they had to try & make it happen without the rules & without the “knowledge”…I am sure they were frustrated too. But, all we can do is experiment…don’t grow weary ladies…get back to tradition…learn from the past & make the adjustments you know work for you…but keep searching…we have a wonderful gift in the internet to search..my past did not allow for this blessing…when something isn’t working, search to find what does..we will pass on the do’s & don’t’s to our children who can get it right one day. Like Great Granny’s Recipe’s! Chelsea Green’s book How to Preserve without Freezing or Canning is a great place to start~ do what works for you..
You’re right Judith. Mankind really has messed up our food supply. We just have to do the best we can with what we have!
I always try to master one thing before I move on to something else. Helps me not to get overwhelmed!
This is such a timely post for me, helping me sort out my thoughts on the matter.
I had been doing kraut for a while last year, and only 1-2 batches out of maybe 5 were coming out good, the rest were really, really bad. Last week, I went to a class on fermenting and the teacher taught the technique with whey. I got some whey from her and did some kraut, and it came out great- eventually.
In the first couple of days, it was salty, and only a little sour. Then, it smelled bad, like rotten bread, moldy. I let it keep going, as an experiment, and suddenly after 9 days, it was great, no moldy smell and yummy taste. But, I wondered about that in-between time when it smelled bad. None of the few ferments I did before that worked ever smelled bad- they just went salty-sour-yummy. But, most of the previous ones I did didn’t work at all, so there’s that vote for whey.
She also changed a few other things about how I was doing it- sealing the jar so it’s anaerobic, instead of just under a weight but open, for one. And I think she used much less salt than I had been, even accounting for the whey. But, the ferments that she had there to taste, all done with whey, were good, not spoiled, but just not yummy to me somehow.
I understand that the whey seems to be needed for fruits, but I haven’t even tried them yet, since I don’t seem to be consistently mastering the basics. But, I think on my next batch, I will go back to salt only, it made sense to me intuitively already, and now, scientifically. Thanks!
Hi Micah – Thanks for stopping by and commenting and for sharing your experience. I have a batch of kraut going right now using the weight method. I have two wide mouth quart Mason jars and I’m using water glasses filled with water as my weights. The glasses fit perfectly in the Mason jars with only about 1/16th to 1/8th inch of open space. I followed Sandor Katz’s recipe and he says to remove the weight and taste it every day or so, but I decided to skip that. I figure each time you remove the weight and add it back, you’re adding more air. My setup is far from air tight, but my kraut is all safely under the brine and I really don’t want to disturb that. I’m going to leave it for 5 days or so and then taste it. When I was using whey for my ferments, they would turn out slimy and unappetizing. They weren’t bad, but the texture was gross. It made me not want to ferment. The only vegetable that didn’t get slimy with the addition of whey was my fermented garlic. Not sure why.
My batch is making two quart jars that are a little over half full. I didn’t measure the salt, but I estimate I used about a tbsp. and a half of salt for the whole batch. I tasted the cabbage as I was packing it into the jar and it was salty, but not inedible salty. That’s another problem I have with some of the ferment recipes is the amount of salt that is “required” makes it inedible to me.
I personally think that fermentation is pretty flexible and really can be adapted to our own personal tastes. I don’t think there is a standard amount of salt that you must use. I say play with it and see what works for you. Because our environments are all so different, what works for one of us may not work for the other. And, it’s not right or wrong to use whey. It just comes down to personal preference. Whey is a great way to get started fermenting and I think like another reader mentioned, it adds a bit of a safety net for beginners.
Thanks again for stopping by! 🙂
I am so excited to get started with fermenting some veggies after this article. I have never really attempted it. Now that I know it can be done without the whey, I’m going to start some this weekend. I look forward to your continued posts on the subject.
It’s so much fun. I think you’ll really enjoy it. And if you eliminate the whey, it gives you more freedom. I always would forget to get yogurt at the store and make whey, so I never had it on hand, so I wouldn’t ferment. Now that I’m comfortable doing it without the whey, I’m fermenting a lot more often! I hope you enjoy the fermenting series I’m doing this year. I look forward to seeing you around some more!
I found this post really really interesting. When I was a girl, my Granny made kraut, pickles, ketchup and other things. And yes, they were fermented. But she never used whey.
Fast forward a few decades and here I am once again returning to my “roots” passed down to my by Granny. I was MYSTIFIED that authors such as Sally Fallon advocated whey?
I thought . . .why would you need whey? This isn’t yogurt! lol
And now I know there are different ways to do this. Maybe not bad, just different.
However, I am going to continue what Granny taught me . . . .using the salt and Grape leaves.
Thanks for your help!
Genet – thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I say keep it simple and if your Granny did it that way, then continue on with the tradition! There’s definitely is no one right way to ferment. I love that it’s so flexible and adaptable. You really can tailor it to fit your own personality, tastes, and environment!
So glad to hear it can be done without the Whey. I am casein allergic and have been afraid to try the whey. I would love to incorporate more fermented foods in an attempt to heal my gut. A new science article release speaks about how bad gut flora can lead to type 2 diabetes. (I am trying to avoid that, but got gestational diabetes with my last 2 pregnancies so have a higher chance of developing it.)
I think that unhealthy guts are the cause of almost every disease out there! True health starts in the gut is what I always say. Good for you for taking charge of your health and making changes! 🙂
We appreciate the research you are doing regarding ferments. We are also small producers of fermented foods (have not used whey for veggie krauts, etc.) However, we are using whey in making our beet kvass. Our thinking has been that the sugar in the beets will cause the kvass to ferment toward alcohol unless we use a whey inoculant. Our kvass does not turn out slimy, etc. but you have us wondering whether we should use kraut juice as an inoculant (we plan to experiment). Do you have any experience with this? Thanks for what you are doing.
Hi Beverly – Thanks for your kind words! It’s all a learning process, that’s for sure! I have not yet made kvass … it’s on my list for this year though. The kraut juice would probably work fantastic as a started. I have used kraut juice and my lacto-fermented garlic brine to start new batches of things. The garlic brine tastes fantastic in salad dressings too! I always think it’s a great idea to use the brine from a previous batch to start a new batch. Plus, I think it helps the flavor. I hope to hear more about your adventures along the way! 🙂
hi Jessica, i’ve been reading through the blog, and the site, and thoroughly enjoying it — i built a mason jar offgasing lid using a brewing airlock [i’ve been making fruit wines] and sealing it with Sugru.
sadly, i stumbled on this post after already starting my pickled garlics … and while i’m hopeful to see that your whey fermented garlic was good, please take a moment to go back and edit that post [and any others you feel inclined towards] to update them with this information and the piece on anerobics. i’m afraid that there are folk like me who’ll start from the beginning and be as surprised as you were to first learn some of this info …
excellent job, thank you for leading the charge.
Hi Reed – Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words! I will certainly go back and make a note of that in some of my older posts! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂
Hi Jessica and all. It was interesting to find this post as I was looking for information about how to lacto-ferment leeks. I just bought a bunch of organically grown leeks this morning from a farm that I’ve known for decades. I’m trying to figure out whether to cook them or preserve them. Anyway, on to the general topic at hand…
I have made some wonderful ferments using starters for dairy products (rather than whey) based on recipes found on the Internet, including a kefir starter from Body Ecology. One thing I noticed in the list of bacteria is that the dairy cultures included LB Plantarum and I suspect that the reason these recipes worked is because of the inclusion of that culture.
I’ve also done many ferments with just the natural bacteria already present on the vegetables. But when I can’t find a a tried and true recipe for a particular vegetable I worry a little about the bad anaerobic bacteria (especially C. Botulinium). Pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut are easy to find recipes that have been evaluated and I feel comfortable that the lactobacillus bacteria will win out over the bad stuff.
So when I ferment vegetables for which there is less academic support for the recipe I like to use a starter to give the lactobacillus a head start. And like you I concluded that I should be using a vegetable starter rather than a dairy starter.
I’ve used both of the starters you cited (from Body Ecology and Caldwell) with good success. I sometimes use them just to speed things up even with organically grown product. I notice the bubbler in my airlock gets active a day or two earlier with the starter as compared to a completely natural ferment.
Sometime soon I want to actually begin measuring the Ph of my ferments (acid is what suppresses the C. Botulinium) but for now I just try to be careful and evaluate my risks.
I’m not a food scientist and I don’t mean to sound like it on the Internet, but I hope these thoughts are helpful.
Hi Geoff – Thanks for sharing your experiences! It’s always great to hear from fellow fermenters! 🙂 Since I wrote this post, I no longer use Mason jars for my ferments and I have moved exclusively to using Pickl-It jars. With these jars, there is no need to use a starter for your ferment. According to the Pickl-It website, “the Pickl-It lacto-fermentation system efficiently increases acidity, drops pH, and locks out damaging oxygen that neutralizes a wide-range of beneficial components including antioxidants, enzymes, bacteriocins, as well as probiotic bacteria.” While there might still going to be certain occasions where a starter might be needed, I think it will be few and far between. Since switching to the PI jars, I have had no need for a starter culture. At some point, I am sure I’ll come across something that might need a starter culture. The Caldwell on is a really good one in my opinion. I would never use whey again for a starter and personally, will try to avoid using a starter, unless 100% necessary. Happy fermenting! 🙂
I never use whey as a starter and never have. Vegetables don’t need a starter unless they are cooked or otherwise processed. And if a starter is needed, I like to use the brine from a recent batch of sauerkraut or similar brine. I say recent because you want the brine while it’s still rich in acidifying bacteria. If you use brine from sauerkraut that is ready then that will already be acidic and most of the early bacteria will have died off. I suppose you could acidify your brine with vinegar and skip the early phase but that’s the fun part! (It is also important for flavor development according to wikipedia.)
So is you issue with whey in general or whey in veggie ferments? What about using whey for other things like soaking oats, making a fermented lemonade, mayo etc?
Sara – The issue lies with using whey as a starter for ferments. The fermentation process must go through certain steps in order to ensure a healthy ferment and the growth of the beneficial bacteria. When you add a starter, it messes up that cycle and causes the ferment to miss critical steps. That is the reason I don’t use it in any of my ferments since moving to a truly anaerobic fermentation process. Whey itself is very nutrient dense and has many uses, but it’s just not appropriate for ferments (despite what many of us have been taught). Does that help?
Whether you add add whey or not doesn’t matter, since the wild fermenation will occur anyway and, as you’ve pointed out, the cultures in the whey are not designed to live in the salty brine and will not be able to participate much in the ecology of your fermentation vessel. I never add a starter to my ferments and they usually turn out awesome. They’ve never failed to ferment properly and my only “failures” were veggie combinations that didn’t taste as good together as I’d hoped. I always thought Sally’s advice to add whey to everything was just naive superstition, but if you want to be superstitious then go ahead; it might be fun!
Hi Dave – I totally agree! I stopped using starters about a year ago after I started doing some in-depth research on fermenting. My ferments have never been better! 🙂
I’m still fairly new at fermentation and I learned something important from this post. Thanks!
Hi Judi – Happy to help! It’s a constant learning process. I’ve been fermenting for years and I still consider myself a novice! 🙂
I tend to agree on the whole whey thing. It’s a wonderful ingredient and has many uses, but not a panacea. In studying lacto-fermented mayonnaise I’m trying to figure out, what’s fermenting – the oil, the eggs???? Everyone blogs that it’s good, but what’s the science behind it as I don’t really think it’s a traditional process unless someone can prove me wrong.
Hi Judy – I personally don’t ferment my mayo and never have. I use it up within a week though, so I don’t need it to stay shelf-stable. I have often wondered exactly what is fermenting in the mayo. I need to do some research on that, I guess! 🙂 Whey is really good for us and has lots of uses, I just don’t use it in ferments anymore! 🙂
So what do you use the whey for then?
Hi Sara – Whey is a great source of protein and probiotics. Here are a couple of great posts that I love:
I was wondering if anyone had experimented with coconut whey (from coconut milk with milk kefir grains) instead of dairy whey. I have used coconut whey in my liquid fermentations with great success and they flavor is good and less sour than with the dairy whey. I think it might be an interesting idea to see how the cultured veggies come out with that. Any thoughts?
Hi Ann – I have not personally tried that, however, I do not use whey as a starter in any of my ferments any longer. Here’s a post I wrote on why I don’t: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/02/by-the-whey-side-why-ive-stopped-using-whey-in-my-vegetable-ferments/
Jessica, obviously the benefits of organic vegetables over convential in fermenting goes without saying. Since I keep reading about the importance of the bacteria present on the surface of the fruits/veggies for the fermentation process, it has me wondering should you wash the produce before preparing it for ferment?
Hi Shane – I do recommend washing your produce prior to fermenting, unless perhaps that produce has come out of your garden, where it’s already clean and guaranteed safe. In that case, I’d still just give it a little rinse. Even if you wash your produce, there will still be good bacteria left to help the ferment get going! Happy fermenting! 🙂
The fact of the matter is, there is no difference between cultures for kefir and vegetable ferments, it’s nothing to do with dairy vs vegetables, it’s all about temperature. Yogurt cultures are thermophillic meaning that they are more active around 120 degrees F(45C) and kefir/pickles are mesophillic meaning they are more active around 75 degrees F(22C) or room temperature. The problem with using starters is that a mature ferment has high proportions of peddiococcus bacteria, which are very anaerobic and need a lot of acid to grow, so they grow best later in the ferment. Lactobacilli are less oxygen sensitive and less acid tolerant so they get things going. Good fresh vegetables have plenty of bacteria and by not giving the bacteria extra competition you can ensure a healthy ferment.
Hi Sean – Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Great points! 🙂
I started having success with fermentation when I stopped using whey! I use it only for things like chutney where I don’t want it too salty and there is extra sugar, or for mayonnaise. (I sometimes add a little coconut sugar for mayo to give the whey microbes something to eat. Not sure why it works, but it does work to keep mayo fresher longer.) The other secrets are to understand the difference between cabbage-based shredded ferments and those requiring additional brine, and the importance of keeping the veggies under the brine. I also use airlock lids with mason jars, or rarely, a Harsch crock.
I live in NZ but my parents are from samoa, we ferment the coconut milk and the by product we have whey in the bottom. How can we use this?
Thank in advanced
Hi Tiana – I would just stir that back into the fermented coconut milk. You could probably use it like you would any form of whey, but keep in mind that it is not going to have the same nutrition as dairy whey. Cheers!
Thanks for this great info. I’ve been making homemade yogurt for 2 years, water kefir for 1 1/2 years, sourdough breads for 1 1/3 years and dairy kefir for 14 months. I’ve been doing condiments for 6-9 months. I’ve been doing Kombucha off & on for 6 months. My first scobey was a dud, but the second is fantastic. Now I am attempting to master veggie ferments. Very informative debate on starters, whey, airlock etc… I will experiment & do more research. Thank you!
Awesome! Sounds like you are doing great! Happy fermenting! 🙂
You had me scared for a minute because I love making whey and cream cheese from unpasturized milk. I’ve only been doing it for about a month, but my ferments using whey have been amazing and FAST. One of my new favorites is beet kvass which is ready in 3 days thanks to the wonders whey from my RAW MILK!
I read in the comments on that site you linked to, The Liberated Kitchen, that others have had the same success when using whey from Raw Milk. I have never tried any other whey but just wanted to share this here to hopefully help guide people to trying and loving RAW (unpasteurized) milk. It is amazing stuff, complete and nutritious, I mostly turn it into whey for fermenting and kefir, but which are probiotic and gut healing. I use the cheese to make a wonderful cake with two other ingredients, coconut sugar and eggs–no crust. It is a wonderful treat.
Thanks for almost freaking me out since home ferments are a new passion for me and I love my whey!
Hi David – Whey is an excellent food, especially if you’re lucky enough to get it from raw milk! But, the reason I no longer use whey as a starter in my ferments is because it does not allow for the proper fermentation process to take place, which inhibits the proper growth of the good bacteria. This is a quote from my friend Lisa’s site (she is an expert fermenter and has written books and teaches courses on fermentation):
“Whey is a dairy culture, which is not useful or necessary for vegetable ferments. Whey actually interferes with the natural stages that LAB bacteria need to reach the correct pH and nutrient development as well as breakdown and consume the antinutrients. End product LABs are different than initial LAB.
If you were fermenting in a mason jar or another vessel where air is able to get in and out, then the whey serves as an inoculant or vaccine for your ferment. Another negative of using jars that are not airtight is that the salt content has to be higher and the duration of the ferment is cut short to avoid spoilage and mold. But a shortened duration does not allow the ferment to complete all the stages of LAB fermentation.”
You may enjoy her site and recipes here: http://www.lisascounterculture.com/.
I say do the best you can with what you have, but that is my reasoning for no longer using whey in my ferments. Plus, the quality and taste of my ferments have improved immensely since stopping using whey. Also, I have developed allergies to dairy, so I would have not been able to continue using whey regardless. Hope that helps!
I enjoyed reading the article, although I’m not sure I quite understand the rational given within the article above …, if the aim is to preserve vegetable, why set vegetable eating bacteria against them? I would have thought this reduces the viability of the ferment as a method of storage.
If the aim of fermenting is the health benefits of beneficial bacteria, and you have a refrigerator, then vegetables become food for the bacteria and the medium by which they reach the gut in tact … thus the distinction should be ‘what beneficial bacteria is most beneficial to the digestive system’ and ‘how long should you leave the ferment to get the best from it’.
Hi Rich – I am not sure I understand your question here. The goal of fermentation is to increase the number of healthy probiotics (good bacteria) in that food. In order to cultivate the correct amounts and strains of bacteria in a fermented product, there are very specific stages that the ferment must pass through during the fermentation process. When you add whey (or other starters) to a ferment, it often leads to the ferment not going through those correct stages, therefore impacting the quality and quantity of the bacteria present in the end product. I used to use whey in all of my ferments, but after coming across new information I stopped doing that. I also learned about the proper stages of fermentation from a couple of fermentation experts and how crucial those are when creating an end product that has the right strains in the right amounts. Hopefully that helps! Have a great day!
When you said “If you can’t get organic veggies from live soil and you are in need of a non-dairy based starter, there are some options out there, such as Body Ecology’s Probiotic Vegetable Starter or Caldwell Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables.” does that mean that the Caldwell starter would need to be used for vegetables that are grown hydropnically?
Hi Dawn! Thanks for stopping by! I actually need to update this post, as I no longer use any starters in my ferments since switching over to anaerobic methods. I have never used hydroponically grown veggies for fermenting, so I am not sure what the answer if for your question. Are you on Facebook per chance? If so, my friend (a fermenting guru) has an awesome group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CounterCultures/. She would most likely know the answer! 🙂
Thank you. I have neverr used whey for veggy ferments. I will however make an easy sauerkraut to use the juice as a starter. To expand it I will often mix 1part kraut juice with 3-5 parts celery juice and let that rest from 4-24 hours and use that for a starter.
Hi Owen! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!! 🙂
I’ve always done my fruit chutneys with whey before, I’d like to try one without, can you explain how you would make it without any starter? I’ve got a mountain of kiwifruit to use!!
thanks so much!
Hi Jodie! Thanks for stopping by! To be honest, I have not done chutneys before. I have never been a fan of fermented fruit so I think I only tried one or two fruit ferments in my life (outside of kefir and kombucha which I used some fruit and juice in the second ferment). Are you on Facebook? I highly recommend my dear friend Lisa’s group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CounterCultures. She is my fermenting guru and the one I turn to when I have questions. 🙂
I made fermented carrots once (whey was used) and they turned out great! Second time slimy using whey.
Made them a third time, this time making sure they were submerges in liquid, NO slime. I’m thinking there may be a variety of factors as to why slime appears. The third batch was awesome!!!
Hi Carolyn! When it comes to fermenting, yes, there can be a variety of factors as to why they don’t turn out well. It’s a little bit of science and little bit of art. 🙂
Thanks for your very informative post but i think i will continue using raw goat whey as a starter as it is light years away from commercial yogurt (that gets dumbed down, has weird additives plus being pasteurized… a touch of dairy is good for me healing my gut from lyme antibiotics.
Hi Dabney! Do what works best for you! So glad you’ve found a method that supports your health! 🙂