In my last post, I tried to answer the most frequently asked question about Fermented Food. Having done that, I am proceeding to the next one, i.e. should Fermented Food be kept in the fridge?
Sadly, the frequency people ask this question indicates that the Western world totally forgot the idea behind the invention of Fermented Food.
Here it is: the reason behind the invention of Fermented Food was that people didn’t have fridges but had loads of cabbage and had to somehow preserve it for the whole Winter. They noticed that, when salted, cabbage turns into something edible that keeps for a long time.
Therefore, the logical answer is: no, Fermented Food does not need to be refrigerated.
However, it needs to be stored in a particular way, i.e. in a barrel or a stone pot and weighed down with a heavy object to make the veg constantly submerged in brine (or juice, if we talk about sauerkraut). It should be covered only with a cloth to keep the dust, insects, etc. away and to let the gases produced during the fermentation be released. The barrel or the pot must be kept in a cellar or other place with the relatively stable temperature around 8 – 12 °C.
Vegetables kept in this conditions will constantly ferment and become sourer. The more sour they are, the more lacto-bacteria they contain. The more lacto-bacteria they contain, the healthier they are. However, this process will not run eternally. See my next post for the answer to the third most frequently asked question, i.e. how long will Fermented Food last?
Going back to the refrigerating question. You can purchase a barrel or a crock with a bit of luck and determination, but where will you get A CELLAR in a place like Ireland?
Therefore, my friends, you rather have to use the jar method. It is a lame, inferior method and unfortunately the one I am using for my ferments. Basically, you ferment in closed jars and at some stage move them to the fridge. Otherwise, you risk a jar explosion*. For the full description of how to make sauerkraut this way, read my post.
Don’t get me wrong, the biggest gurus, like Sandor Katz, keep their veg in jars, but first they ferment them in barrels. See the video.
I hope, this post made most of you satisfied. If you still have any questions, please, drop a comment below or on my Facebook page or email me at FermentedFoodFreak@gmail.com.
If you live in Ireland, don’t forget to check the page with my Real Life Events. I would be delighted to meet you in person.
Thank you for reading and enjoy fermenting!
*The risk of a jar explosion is only theoretical, if you live in Ireland. Now, here is my very personal secret: at any given time I have a few jars with fermented veg in my fridge and the rest stays in a plastic box on my balcony. Some of them are as old as six months and it never happened that I would experience something close to an explosion (however, I got some serious leaks that made the balcony rather stinky). I use the jars from the fridge as samples on my events and as presents for friends and for my own salads, sandwiches and snacking. The ones from the balcony I use mostly for cooking sauerkraut soup and other cooked dishes.
10 thoughts on “Should Fermented Food Be Refrigerated?”
Great Advice Anna! 🙂
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A jar explosion sounds awesome!
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It’s actually rather nasty and not awesome at all, especially for the person who has to clean up all the mess.
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Meh. Good point.
I live in Wales (very similar to Ireland) and the way I do it is: ferment in jars with rubber gaskets, keep burping periodically until there is no gas forming, then store the jars out of the way in cool darkness. Seems to be working…. x
Thanks for the comment! Yes, burping is a good method, however, I personally am not a big fan of it as it exposes the veg to oxygen. I rather use non-airtight lids to allow CO2 to push the oxygen out. But it doesn’t mean that I never burp jars. The problem here in Ireland is how to find cool darkness in an average modern house or apartament. To me, cool darkness is a cellar. Well, ideally, of course. :-). Where do you store your jars?
My belief is that the food being fermented is largely safe as long as it is completely submerged below the brine. This also, for me, poses the biggest challenge in finding ‘things’ to weight down my veg. I usually use a large cabbage leaf, tuck it into the sides, and then place a glass weight on top. By definition, if all the veg is submerged, then there is no oxygen getting to the veg and the container need not be airtight … perhaps only covered to keep out bugs and ‘critters’. Would welcome your thoughts on this.
Thank you for the comment and apologies for the very late reply! Absolutely, keeping the veg submerged is the biggest challenge. Me too, I use a cabbage leaf on top but rather do not tuck in into the sides (you need CO2 to be released). However, I sometimes use a piece of another veg, like celeriac or carrot, both to cover and weight down. DEFINITELY, the container doesn’t have to be airtight. In fact, it CANNOT be airtight because you are risking an explosion (again, CO2). Yesterday, I opened a few months old jar of kimchi which had two pieces of celeriac on top. The whole product looked, smelled, and tasted perfect. Wishing you many delicious ferments 🙂
Please excuse my ignorance but I really am confused and new to fermenting. So it says that fermented foods do not need refrigeration, then goes on to say that it must be store at 8-12 degrees Celsius? So that means it cannot be kept submerged in a jar or crock at room temperature??
Hi Kate, thank you for the question! Fermented vegetables can be kept at room temperature but for a much shorter time than at 8-12 degrees. My post refers to the scenario where we want to keep the veg edible throughout winter, i.e. the original reason why fermenting as a food preservation method was invented. Hence I said it must be kept in a cellar. But, yeah, probably I have to re-edit the post as my average reader doesn’t have to worry about the surplus of cabbage :). Personally, I wouldn’t keep fermented veg on a kitchen counter for longer than 2-3 weeks because the intensity of fermentation would be too high and the smell would surely make my home unlivable. But, I would recommend some experimentation on your side. I am delighted you came to my blog and wish you happy fermenting 🙂