Problems with Food Preservation

Learn how to address common issues with canning, pickling, dehydrating, and more.

  • Lacto-fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation. It is the process that turns cucumbers into classic deli dill pickles and cabbage into sauerkraut.
    Photo courtesy The Countryman Press
  • There is no end to the magic of food preservation, and in “Preserving Everything,” Leda Meredith leads readers – both newbies and old hands – in every sort of preservation technique imaginable.
    Cover courtesy The Countryman Press

Leda Meredith has been preserving food since she was a child at her great-grandmother’s side, and she covers all aspects of the many styles of food preservation in her book Preserving Everything (The Countryman Press, 2014). In this excerpt from chapter 13, “Troubleshooting,” she addresses the many issues that one may encounter when lacto-fermenting, canning, pickling, making jams, dehydrating and cold storing.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Preserving Everything.

Lacto-Fermentation Foes

Fermentation never begins, or the food spoils even after fermentation seemed to start

If after 1 to 3 days at a room temperature (somewhere between 60 and 85°F), your ferment still hasn’t started fermenting, you may have to compost it and start over. Definitely if the food smells bad (it should have a lightly sour smell when fermenting, not a rotten one), or if there are strings of cloudy muck in the liquid, the batch has spoiled and should be discarded. Note that mold is not necessarily a reason to abandon your ferment (see below).

Two things that can help prevent both a non-starting ferment and a spoiled one are adjusting the amount of salt according to the ambient temperature, and/or including a live culture starter from whey (such as that from strained yogurt; see the Dairy chapter).

There’s scum on top of your ferments

Jeannine Davaz
6/18/2019 11:18:36 AM

Thank you for sharing. We have hard water. These may be the tricks to crunchy!

6/18/2019 9:59:39 AM

(Mushy pickles-Crunch defines pickles just as much as their tangy taste) For years, My pickle's crunch was hit-or-miss. I read everything I could, but my solution came from an ancient neighbor with tons of experience. Here are her tips and advice. Slice a little off from BOTH ends of the cuke. ALWAYS use bottled or distilled water in the jars. (hard water interferes, soft water has issues) Process at the lowest temperature for the shortest time. Just long enough for the jars to seal and safety. If it is still a challenge- it is not a sin to use a 'pickle crisp' additive. Alum is an old standby, but there are newer, easier-to-use products. Ball puts out a reliable product. I hope this is helpful for some of you. Happy canning!

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