Although I will be reporting how the jars do in the fridge, I do consider this my Final Report.
Let me remind you why I did Sauerkraut Survivor in the first place- there was a lot of hullabaloo over which jars are safe for fermenting and which are not. There was a blogger or two who insisted the Pickl-It was the only safe jar to use – using mason jars was akin to eating junk food. Then there were those who insisted mason jars were safe and never got mold in them. And those who admitted to getting mold regularly, but skimming and tossing was not harmful.
Who to believe? The only way for me personally to know, was to do an experiment myself.
Before starting the line-up of 18 jars, I wrote The Science Behind Sauerkraut Fermentation which is based on my crash-course research when I was on a mission to find the truth. I learned a lot in those two weeks of research! I was convinced oxygen was the enemy – but how much was too much? I had to find out – and Sauerkraut Survivor was born.
The day before we packed the jars, we tested the seals. We proved mason jar lids do create a tight seal after all – and so does a lowly salsa jar. We also learned the Fido (with gasket that acts as an airlock) and Pickl-It (Fido with an extra airlock) are not airtight, but do allow for excess CO2 to be released if needed via the gasket.
Day 1 shows what all the jars looked like after the jars were packed. Baseline pH, glucose, and brine samples were taken. 24 hours later photos and samples were taken and recorded. Day 3 showed the beginning of the gaseous stage, which continued though days 4, 5 and 6. CO2 was dying down by Day 7. I had to purge some jars on Day 10, as they were getting moldy, or brine was no longer covering the top due to the pressure from tight seals and brine pushing out the test ports. Day 14 shows the second stage of the ferment. Day 21 shows by the drop in pH, glucose numbers, and brine samples that we are just about done. I transferred some jars to the fridge on Day 23 since the brine was starting to fall back down in the cabbage where the cracks were from the heaving (gaseous stage) and I didn’t want them spoiling. And, finally, you have the Day 28 results for when I opened the Harsch and Fido for the first time ever, and the Pickl-It for the first time since Day 7. Brine sample was reviewed using this AmScope microscope. Photos were taken on the microscope with this AmScope camera.
My goal in this experiment was to see which jars kept out mold and yeast. Did I really need an expensive jar to do the trick? Or was there a more affordable way?
After this experience there are jars I am comfortable with using, after having tested them, and jars I wouldn’t use. And then there are jars I would use if I had to, IF.
I also confirmed this: the longer you leave your sauerkraut out, the more LABs you get. Putting them in the fridge on Day 3 is a popular method, but one I don’t intend to follow. The pH hasn’t dropped enough to keep spoilage away, and the first stage bacteria have barely begun.
Before I post my final results, I just wanted to personally thank all of you who have been so supportive of my research. It has been a lot of fun to go on this journey with you.
One of you mentioned it was like watching a horse race in slow motion. I agreed!
Another said it was “like watching a National Geographic episode unfold, complete with the soothing deep voice of the narrator.”
I was fondly called a geek – and a nerd! Yay for geeks and nerds! And I think I saw the works “sauerkraut rockstar” – that cracked me up
I also want to thank those of you who gave financially. Many of the supplies purchased for testing were mostly covered due to the generosity of:
- Loving Our Guts
- Pickle Me Too
- Easy Natural Food
- Common Sense Homesteading
- Lisa M.
- Traditional Foods
- Grocery Geek
- Rachel C.
- The Urban Hearth
- Hybrid Rasta Mama
- Sarah M.
- Miriam R.
- Leslie C.
Jar #14, Pickl-It, was purchased through the generosity of GNOWFGLINS.
I could not have done this without your generosity! THANK YOU!
So…are mason jar ferments safe? You be the judge…
I fully expect everyone knows I am not a scientist. I did this experiment for my own personal research so I would know what jars are safe to use for fermenting. My conclusions are my own – you’re welcome to take them or leave them! Here they are…
Jar 1 (Cheesecloth)
I don’t think I need to go into why this jar didn’t make it This was booted from the line-up on Day 10.
Jar 2 (Olive Oil)
This jar is effective at keeping the oxygen out, although I probably wouldn’t use it unless I lost my lids. If you’re worried about dust on the oil – loosely cover it. it’s not easy to remove the oil when you’re ready to eat it, but you could always just mix it in. Full disclosure: a yeast was detected which seems to be the helpful yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Since I am not a scientist I am waiting for confirmation. At 28 days the LABs were mature and moderately populated.
Jar 3 (Baggy with Water)
I really don’t recommend this jar. I found it near impossible to prevent cabbage from being trapped between the baggy and the glass. Those pieces spoiled. I would only recommend this jar if you are sure you don’t have any cabbage pieces trapped.
Jar 4 (Cabbage Leaf held down by small jar)
You might be able to get away with this method if you don’t leave it out more than a few days. But to properly ferment the ‘kraut, you want to leave it out around 4 weeks. Of course by then the cabbage rots and infects the sauerkraut. Ew! I can’t recommend this jar.
Jar 5 (Cabbage Leaf, Shot Glass, White Lid)
This jar did well on all days, except Day 14 when spoilage was detected in the brine. I believe it is due to the brine not covering the cabbage entirely. No spoilage was detected on the cabbage when I moved it to the fridge on Day 23, though. I would only recommend this method if you are sure the brine stays over the cabbage.
Jar 6 (White Lid)
Low levels of spoilage was detected on Day 21. Until then, this jar did well and had nice LABs. I can’t recommend this jar (unless you use the added protection of a baggy – Jar #7).
Jar 7 (White Lid with Baggy)
This jar has a leg up due to the baggy and is effective at keeping out oxygen. LABs from Day 23 (before placed in fridge) showed really great LAB density. I would use this jar.
Jar 8 (White Lid with Airlock)
I am not seeing much of a difference between jars 7 and 8. If you’re lazy, just go with the baggy and skip the airlock installation. I do recommend this jar.
Jar 9 (Metal Lid)
The metal lid and band makes for a tighter seal than the white lid. LABs for this jar (and jar #10) have always been better (longer and more populated) than the white-lidded jars. LABs on Day 23 were incredibly active and populated. However, I must tell you that I had a glass tube installed in this lid so I could access the brine for sampling. This is where the pressure was released in this jar. If you use the lid and ring tight without an airlock you could risk a bruise from the lid popping off – or worse. Screwing the ring on loosely could allow for oxygen. Be safe and use an airlock (Jar #10).
Jar 10 (Metal Lid with Airlock)
As I stated for Jar 9, this metal lid and band makes for a tighter seal than the white lid. LABs for this jar (and jar #9) have always been better (longer and more populated) than the white-lidded jars. I would use this jar.
Jar 11 (Cork with Airlock)
The cork goes into the jar quite a ways, not leaving much room for the brine to go anywhere – but out. I would try this jar again without filling the jar so full. I had to dispose of this jar on Day 10 because there was no brine left. I am not sure, at this point, if I would use this jar or not, but am willing to try it again.
This set-up is a white lid with a gasket to make for a tight seal. This jar has always done well. LABs were super dense when I transferred this jar to my fridge on Day 23. I would use this jar, and the price is right.
The LABs in this jar have always been active and “happy.” No spoilage ever detected. I would use this jar, and it is affordable.
Jar 14 (Pickl-It purchased through the generosity of GNOWFGLINS)
It was nice to be able to test this jar after having it untouched for a few weeks. The LAB activity was great, although the LABs seemed smaller than other jars. I would recommend this jar because it works, although I wouldn’t use it personally. The airlock installed is redundant as the gasket itself acts as an airlock. If you can afford this jar, I suggest grabbing a few Fido’s instead for the same price.
I am completely torn about this crock. I did get a faint whiff and taste of mold when I tried it on Day 28, but I didn’t detect any in the brine visually or under the scope. I am going to try it again with larger cabbage pieces that won’t float to the top and see how that works out. Even without the mold, there are other far less expensive jars that do a great job.
Jar 16 (Bucket)
I am not surprised this method failed. This was covered with cheesecloth, but just look at the mess. By Day 10 I had to toss it. I won’t be re-testing this set-up, and I don’t recommend it.
Jar 17 (Fido)
It was fun watching the brine foam out of the side during the gaseous stage. It was a blast opening it on Day 28 (did you see my video on YouTube?). LABs were mature, active, and densely populated. This jar didn’t let me down. This jar was sealed the entire four weeks and did a great job holding in plenty of CO2 for pressure – just like it was designed. Exploding jar myth? Pay no mind.
Jar 18 (Salsa Jar)
This little jar surprised me. It has a great seal – in fact it’s so tight the pressure in the jar had nowhere to go but out my test port. This explains why there was no brine covering the cabbage by Day 10, and I had kick this little guy out. By itself, it could hurt you due to pressure build-up, so I only recommend this jar if you install an airlock. You can get one for $.99 and a grommet for a dime, so for just over a dollar you could have a great fermenting jar.
To re-cap without photos… out of eighteen jars, four I do not recommend:
- Jar #1, Cheesecloth
- Jar #4, Cabbage leaf held down by small jar
- Jar #6, White Lid
- Jar #16, The Bucket
Six I would use…”if”:
- Jar #3, Baggy with Water – only if you can get all the cabbage pieces down with none trapped between baggy and glass. A tall order, unless you chop the cabbage bigger
- Jar #5, Cabbage Leaf with Shot Glass and lid – only if you can keep the cabbage leaf under the brine
- Jar #9, Metal Lid – seals wonderfully, but only works with airlock (Jar #10)
- Jar #11, Cork with Airlock – I need to repeat this with a less-full jar to compensate for the cork dropping below the top of the glass
- Jar #15 – Harsch – I need to repeat this. Whiffs of mold, taste of mold, but none detected in the brine
- Jar #18 – Salsa Jar – such a great seal – only use with an airlock, though!
Eight I would recommend and/or use:
- Jar #2, Olive Oil
- Jar #7, White Lid with Baggy
- Jar #8, White Lid with Airlock
- Jar #10, Metal Lid with Airlock
- Jar #12, Lacto-fermentation Air-Lock System
- Jar #13, Pickle Pro
- Jar #14, Pickl-It
- Jar #17, Fido
So there you have it!
Did any of the jars surprise you? Which ones?
Are you going to keep with the same method you’re currently using, or will you be changing jars?
I will report how the jars do in cold storage in a couple of weeks.
Thanks again for all the support!
|Lea Harris founded Nourishing Treasures in 2006. A mom passionate about her family's health and well-being, Lea believes education is power. Encouraging others to take baby steps in the right direction of health for their families, Lea's goal is to raise awareness of what goes into our mouths and on our bodies, providing natural alternative information that promotes health and prevents disease by using traditional foods and nature's medicine.|
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