Fermenting: Large vs. Small Batches

pickled carrots

You can pickle nearly anything following the same basic steps in this article. Really. My family doesn’t really care for pickled carrots, but I absolutely adore pickled garlic, onion blooms, and radishes. And of course, there is always sauerkraut too! If you are interested in pickling eggs, please read this article.

pickled-carrots pickled-garlic

When I ferment anything, I no longer use the large “crock” method. Perhaps that is because I have never owned a real fermenting crock but have tried other hacks such as food grade buckets. I much prefer fermenting in very small batches and so I stick with mason jars.  This is purely experiential opinion, but you’re welcome to it:

Less Risk. If you’re new to fermentation, I better tell you right now: you will have some go bad.  It’s just part of it.  If you have a vat of sauerkraut go bad, you cry when you have to bury the whole vat to keep the animals from getting sick in it. If you have a jar go south, it’s not so sad. And you will also find that each jar somehow tastes ever-so-slightly different—it’s like fine wine or fine cheese (which makes sense, they’re fermented too)!

Faster Fermentation. Because I want it yesterday. You need to check your fermentation frequently anyway, but there’s something about checking it that makes me wish it was table-ready now; smaller batches ferment much faster.  A glass jar of pickles will be ready in 3-5 days (depending upon preference).  A food grade bucket can take a month or more.   If I want a slower fermentation or have a crazy-large harvest to preserve, I will use multiple 1/2 gallon jars.  They take a least a week longer to ferment properly.

half-gallon mason jars
half-gallon mason jars

Easy storage. While your food is fermenting, you need to allow it to rest in a fairly warm place. I keep them all on a shelf that is positioned over a heating vent when I start fermentation in the winter, whereas the counter is good enough in the summer. But once the fermenting concoctions are perfecto (mwah!), you will need to move them to the refrigerator, cold and dark basement, or some other nook or cranny. Well, some of us are short on that space and smaller jars are easier to navigate this requirement.  Check out “Cold Storage for Fruits & Vegetables” or “Root Cellaring” to learn more about cold storage.


pickles with mason tap
The Mason Tap allows the gases to escape during fermentation.

Great gifts. We frequently have dinner guests, and because of how we eat and cook, I’m often asked about old-fashioned kitchen skills like fermentation. People cannot believe they actually enjoy sauerkraut or fermented vegetables; I’ve converted more than a few. And I usually send them home with a jar of something. This means I never make enough, no matter how I increase production from year to year, but alas…I’ll probably send you home with something. It’s a bit awkward to do in a barrel.

Recycled Jars. I save my canning jars for canning. I save every other glass jar like a hoarder ready for a cable network reality show.  Glass jars from sauces or other store-bought foods are great for fermentation.  Yes, I would love to have a German-made fermentation crock one day but I could never justify that expense.  I love have many foods fermenting and at various stages in the process.  A crock doesn’t allow for that.  I have used food grade buckets, but then you are back to plastics.  Glass is the way to go!


Do you share Chaya’s opinion, or vehemently disagree? 

Let us know in the comments section!


3 thoughts on “Fermenting: Large vs. Small Batches

  1. Oh I’m going to have to add fermenting to my list of things I want to learn. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. I hope you find all of the resources you need at Pantry Paratus. Fermentation was intimidating to me for some reason; so when I discovered how simple it was, I felt silly for waiting so long to start! I hope that you jump in on the adventure, and thanks for joining us at Pantry Paratus.

  2. Love this article 🙂 am building up the courage to start fermenting etc. Wish me luck and keep up the good work!

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