Fermenting vegetables is an ancient technique that imparts beneficial probiotics while preserving bountiful garden harvests. Rather than letting your crop go to waste, fermenting allows you to make tangy, crunchy delights that will last all year. By fermenting vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage, and carrots in large batches using quart- or gallon-sized mason jars and pickling salt, you can efficiently transform your garden surplus into a tasty source of nutrition. The brined magic of lacto-fermentation allows you to make sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and more that your family and friends will love eating all winter.

Benefits of Fermenting in Large Batches

More efficient use of time and ingredients

When fermenting vegetables, much of the hands-on time is spent washing, chopping, and preparing your vegetables, making a brine solution, and packing the Mason jars. By doing large batches, you only have to do these steps once, allowing you to efficiently process large quantities of vegetables. You’ll also use your ingredients more efficiently with one large batch of brine solution rather than several small ones. This saves time and effort while avoiding waste.

Larger yields of finished product

Fermenting in large batches using quart- or gallon-sized Mason jars allows you to maximize each round of preparation. Rather than ending up with a pint or two of kimchi or sauerkraut, you’ll finish with quarts or even gallons of the tasty fermented food to enjoy for months. With the probiotics and sour flavor improving over time, larger batches mean you can stockpile this nutritious food and let the flavor continue to develop.

You can experiment with different flavor combinations

When fermenting large batches, you can divide your vegetables between several jars and add different seasonings to each. Maybe you’ll try dill pickles, jalapeño pickle slices, and sweet bread-and-butter pickles all from one batch of cucumbers. Or make spicy kimchi, curry kimchi, and traditional cabbage kimchi by flavoring separate jars.

Equipment needed

Mason jars

Quart size or larger is recommended

When fermenting large batches of vegetables, it’s recommended to use wide-mouth Mason jars that are quart-sized or larger. This allows you to fit more vegetables into each jar, and the wide mouth makes it easier to pack the jars tightly. Quart-sized jars or half-gallon Mason jars work very well for larger-scale vegetable ferments.

Wide-mouth jars are easiest to use

Look for wide-mouth versions of quart, half-gallon, or gallon-sized Mason jars. The wider opening makes it much easier to push vegetables, seasonings, and brine solution down into the jar, removing air pockets. Regular-mouth jars make packing ferments more difficult.

Lids

Regular or airlock lids

You can use the standard metal Mason jar lids for fermenting, but for larger batches, airlock lids are recommended. These lids allow carbon dioxide to escape while keeping air out, avoiding pressure buildup. This prevents spoiled batches.

Pickling/Canning salt

Measure the specific amounts needed.

Use an accurate scale to weigh out the precise quantity of pickling or canning salt needed for your brine solution based on the size of the jar. Too little salt and vegetables may spoil. Too much can overwhelm the flavor.

Choosing the Best Vegetables

Cucumbers: Make large batches of dill or bread-and-butter pickles

Cucumbers are the classic vegetable used to make pickled products like dill pickles, bread-and-butter pickles, or pickled relish. Choose smaller cucumbers for the whole pickled cucumber. For relish and sliced pickles, use overgrown cukes as long as they are still firm. With an abundance of cucumbers, fermenting them into pickles is a tasty way to prevent waste.

Cabbage: Sauerkraut

Shredding and salting green or purple cabbage leaves leads to the beloved fermented food known as sauerkraut. Cabbage is an ideal large batch fermentation since heads of cabbage yield a lot of finished kraut. The salt draws moisture from the cabbage as it ferments, resulting in a tangy topping for sandwiches and side dishes.

Carrots: fermented carrot sticks

Rather than eating fresh carrots right after harvesting, you can preserve them via lacto-fermentation into probiotic-rich carrot sticks. Their sweet flavor balances nicely with the sourness. Small carrots or carrot sticks take very well to fermentation. Carrot juice may also rise to the top to be added to dressings.

Peppers: hot sauces or fermented salsa

Harvested bell peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, and other varieties can be kept from spoiling by fermenting into hot sauces, salsas, or pepper mashes. A mix of sweet and spicy peppers makes for a tasty fermented salsa using large Mason jars and salt. Capsaicin and flavors intensify over time.

Making the Brine

Salt type and ratio

use pickling or canning salt and a 3% brine solution. It’s important to use pickling or canning salt for fermenting vegetables, not table or iodized salt, which can cause cloudiness or off flavors. Use a ratio of 3% kosher or pickling salt to filtered water—for example, 30 grams per 1 liter or 1.5 tablespoons per quart. Dissolve the salt thoroughly so the brine is completely incorporated rather than gritty. This level of salty brine helps prevent harmful bacteria from growing while allowing beneficial organisms to thrive.

Water

non-chlorinated for best results. Because chlorine is antimicrobial, it can hinder the fermentation process. Use non-chlorinated water, such as bottled or naturally filtered water. Well, water or spring water works very well for fermenting vegetables. Do not use tap water unless it has been de-chlorinated by leaving it out uncovered for 24 hours. For the healthiest lactoferments, non-chlorinated water is key.

Method

Dissolve salt in water and cool before pouring over vegetables. Start by completely dissolving your pickling salt (not iodized table salt) in lukewarm filtered water using a 3% ratio. Allow this brine to fully cool to room temperature or cooler before pouring it over your prepared vegetables. Otherwise, if the brine is warm, it could kill beneficial microbes needed for fermentation. Always cool the brining liquid before adding it to your fermenting vegetables in the Mason jars. This protects the living cultures.

Packing the Jars

Salt the vegetables first

Once your vegetables are prepped, chopping larger ones and leaving smaller ones whole, place them in a bowl and lightly salt. About 1-2 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of vegetables is sufficient. Mix well and let them sit until moisture begins to pool in the bowl from the salt drawing liquid from them. This will take 30–60 minutes, typically.

Leave headspace

After salting, tightly pack your kraut, kimchi, carrots, or other veggies into clean Mason jars. Do not overfill; leave 1-2 inches of empty headspace at the top so there is room for the ferment to bubble without overflowing the jar. Tamp vegetables down firmly using a flat utensil that fits inside the wide-mouth Mason jars.

Topping off

Slowly pour your cooled brine solution over top of the packed vegetables, working carefully to prevent overflow. The brine should fully cover and submerge your ferment, topping off each jar while leaving the headspace intact. If the brine does not cover vegetables, make another batch to top off. Next, add your lids or airlocks.

Fermenting

Fermentation vessels

Once your Mason jars are packed and topped with brine solution, they will need to ferment for 1-4 weeks, depending on the vegetable and temperature. Set the jars in a large fermenting vessel, crock, or tray to contain any spills. A 5-gallon plastic bucket or a ceramic crock both work very well for large batches. Ensure your fermentation vessels are thoroughly cleaned beforehand.

Temperature

Lacto-fermentation relies on bacterial activity, which works best at 60–75 °F. At temperatures above 80°F or below 55°F, fermentation slows. Use a thermometer and aim for 65°F if possible; a corner of a kitchen, pantry, or basement works well. Avoid direct sunlight, which can overheat ferments. For slower fermentation during colder months, you can use a heating mat or high-wattage light bulb positioned near (not touching) jars.

Duration

The length of fermentation depends on factors like the vegetables used, the desired sourness, and the fermentation temperature. For example, summer greens and vegetables ferment more quickly at warmer temperatures; taste your ferment after 5-7 days. Heartier fall and winter vegetables like cabbage need a minimum of 1-2 weeks to sour. If it’s still not sour enough for your liking, simply allow the batch to ferment longer until the desired tangy flavor develops.

Dealing with problems

Kahm yeast

Kahm yeast appears as a white film that can form on the surface of fermenting vegetables. While harmless, many find it unappealing. Carefully scoop off any yeast and discard, washing your hands after to avoid cross-contamination. The ferment underneath is still good! Top with a new brine solution and extra salt, and continue fermenting if more sourness is desired. The yeast may reappear but can be continually removed.

Mold

If fuzzy mold appears, this batch has been compromised with oxygen and must be discarded. Mold spores can withstand boiling temperatures, so do not try to salvage the batch. Clean your fermentation vessel and jars thoroughly with vinegar to kill mold before restarting. Ensure vegetables stay fully submerged in brine next time.

Not sour enough

It takes time for lactic acid bacteria to produce acid, converting vegetables’ sugars into tangy lactic acid. Taste after 1 week, and allow to continue fermenting for up to 4 weeks if a more sour flavor is desired. Temperature also impacts sourness; aim for 60°F to 75°F.

Too salty

Excess saltiness can be remedied by soaking finished ferments in fresh, cool water for a few hours to draw some salt out. Drain and repeat as needed to lightly desalt the fermented vegetables. For the next batch, reduce the quantity of salt used in your brine solution.

Storing Completed Ferments

Canning

Once your fermented vegetables reach your desired level of sourness and flavor, there are several preservation methods for storing them long-term. Canning is the best option for extended room temperature stability, allowing enjoyment for 1-2 years. To ferment hot water baths, ladle vegetables tightly into sterile jars, cover with brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, wipe rims, apply lids, and process for shelf stability.

Refrigeration

Simply sealing your Mason jars with standard lids and moving them to the refrigerator is an easy storage approach, allowing enjoyment of tangy fermented vegetables for 6 months up to a year. Monitor jar lids for popping and release built-up CO2 as needed before pressure builds. The cool temperature drastically slows fermentation while allowing probiotics to remain intact.

Freezing

Some fermented recipes, like kimchi, hot sauce, and salsa, freeze well for long-term storage. To maintain texture and flavor, briefly blanch in boiling water before freezing to deactivate enzymes, then allow to cool and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving. Raw vegetable ferments don’t freeze well unless blanched first. This stops the fermentation at peak quality.

Fermenting surplus garden vegetables into tasty, probiotic-rich foods is easy and fun with a little guidance. By fermenting large batches using Mason jars and following a few simple guidelines, you can easily make delicious homemade pickles, salsa, sauerkraut, kimchi, and more that your family will love all year while avoiding any wasted produce!

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