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I’ve received a lot of questions about how long a lacto-ferment should ‘perk.’ Particularly, I’ve been asked how you know something is ready and when to transfer it to the fridge and then begin consuming the food.
How do I know it’s done?
Like much of what takes place in your kitchen, lacto-fermentation is both science and art. Just as a bread dough doesn’t have a specific number of minutes on the counter to proof each time you make it, you must learn the art of looking for the signs to know when a lacto-ferment is ready.
Curing time isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There’s no magic formula giving you a set number of days due to the variations in produce and in temperatures ranges. Instead, there’s cues you should look for that take place within a number of days. So in lieu of a chart giving number of days, I’m going to tell you general guidelines of what to look for instead.
I’m still doing a lot of research and reading on the topic and we’ll go into deeper details in a future post.
First, leave your ferments on the counter until the active bubbling stops. Depending on what you’re fermenting this can go from 3-10 days. Then you can transfer it to the fridge for it to finish lacto-fermenting.
Second, if you pull a ferment out of the fridge and taste it and it tastes too salty or not tangy or zippy enough, it’s not done. Put it back in the fridge and try again in a few weeks. The lactic acid bacteria use the salt, which affects the amount of salt you taste when you sample it. Give them more time to use it up.
Third, if your sauerkraut tastes more like cabbage and less like kraut, it isn’t ready. Once a ferment is done, the cabbage flavor won’t be there because the LABs have eaten all of the sugar and starch in the vegetables. Kraut takes 10-12 weeks to go through all four stages of fermentation. Other ferments don’t take nearly as long- most are ready by 10 days.
Want to read more about fermentation, including articles with references and more information on vessel types? See our Related Posts for all of the articles in this series.