FERMENTATION 101 with Laura Denning of Broken Barn Farm

The audio portion of this session didn’t work out due to a microphone issue. Apologies! Laura has graciously provided additional details & instructions, below.

During this Knowledge Session Laura Denning of Broken Barn Farm taught us how to preserve vegetables with fermentation in two ways:

1. Making sauerkraut/kimchi style fermented veggies with sea salt.

2. Making pickle-style fermented veggies with salt water brine.

· Fermentation is the most nutritionally dense method of food preservation. Fermentation can actually increase the amount of bio available vitamins B, C, and K. Fermented vegetables retain all of their nutrients and vitamins!

· Lacto-Fermentation: The process that promotes the growth of naturally occurring lactic-acid bacteria. Lacto- refers to lactobacillus.

Kraut Making – Using a shredded vegetable and salt to draw out the brine (liquid)

Do not wash your wands with anti-bacterial soap before massaging kraut. Anti-bacterial soap can kill good bacteria we want in our kraut.

Brine Pickling – Whole vegetables submerged in a premade brine of salt and water. A true pickle brine is ¾ Cup Salt : 1 Gallon Water

Do not use refined salt or salt containing iodine, preservatives or anti-caking agents! Use mineral rich salts like Redmond Real Salt or Celtic Salt.

Do not use tap water! If you do not have a well or access to spring water, get filtered reverse osmosis water. Chlorine in tap water kills bacteria and we want to cultivate bacteria.

You will need:

A Fermentation Vessel made of Stoneware, Glassware, or Wood

Do Not ferment in aluminum, copper, plastic, cast iron, or low quality stainless steel

A stainless steel bowl

A primary follower (holds the veg under the brine) – cabbage leaf, grape leaf, horseradish leaf, cheese cloth, plate, silicone…

A secondary follower (a weight to keep the veg under the brine) – ceramic weight, glass weight, jar filled with water, zip lock filled with water…


When making kraut you want your vegetables to be as fresh as possible! A fresh cabbage is a moist cabbage. If you don’t grow your own – look for a firm, crisp and shiny cabbage.

Do not shred your cabbage ahead of time. Shred your cabbage and immediately add salt and massage.

You want your kraut to be salty – but not so salty that it’s unpleasant to eat.

Massaging your kraut helps release the liquid that becomes your brine. You may need to let it rest and come back to massage again.

Once your cabbage looks nice and wet and has reduced in size start to pack it into your fermentation vessel.

A stoneware crock is great for large batches, but must be transferred to a mason jar when finished. You can also make your sauerkraut in a mason jar from start to finish – its see through and will not need to be transferred when finished!

Top your ferment with a primary and secondary follower, add a loose lid or an airlock valve, and place in a dark room that is about 55-75 degrees.

When your ferment is done you can hold the fermentation process by storing it at 45 degrees or below. The flavor will continue to develop, but very slowly.

Variables that will affect fermentation time:

· Room temperature

· Size of fermentation vessel

· Thickness of vegetable

How do I know when my fermentation is ready?? LOOK, SMELL, TOUCH, & TASTE

LOOK – As your vegetable begins to ferment you will start to see little bubbles appear in your brine. The color of your vegetable will start to change.

SMELL – You will start to notice a sour and funky aroma. This should still be a pleasant smell (although an acquired smell, if you’ve never eaten fermented foods)

TOUCH – The texture of your vegetable will start to change. Hard, crunchy vegetables will begin to soften.

TASTE – Your fermentation is ready, when you like the way it tastes! Sauerkraut can be ready in 7 days or 14 days. How crisp do you like your texture and how funky/sour do you want it? Experiment and see where your family’s preference is.

Your jar of kraut is a living organism! Each batch of fermented veggies will be unique.

Brine Pickles are even easier. Simply pack your crock or mason jar with prepared veggies, add any desired spices, pour over liquid brine, add primary and secondary followers, add loose lid or airlock valve and wait.

With either fermentation it can be totally normal to develop a white bubbly film on top of your brine. This is called Kahm Yeast and is totally harmless. Just skim it off before storing your fermentation. As with all foods, use your senses. If it looks good, smells good, and tastes good… it’s good!

Laura Denning is the owner of Broken Barn Farm and manager of the Lake Village Farmers’ Market. She has been raising, preserving, and selling food locally for three years. She got her start making and selling her grandmothers dill pickle recipe. After she found success in her specialty canned foods, she branched out into pasture raised eggs, organic produce boxes, and raw dairy. After going all in on the farm the last couple years, Laura is scaling back the business to spend more time with her two young boys. Broken Barn Farm now offers workshops on canning, fermentation, butchering and more! Laura teaches traditional skills that allow you to homestead at any scale and have sovereignty over your food.

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