25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

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25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby dciolek on Mon Aug 27, 2018 8:26 pm

Sauerkraut, yes.
Pickles, yes.
Kimchi, yes.
Sourdough, kefir, yogurt, yes.

But fermenting beets? Never thought about it until the bulk beets went on sale at the CSA and now 25 lbs. are showing up tomorrow.

The current plan is to peel and spiralize the beets, then add about 3.5% by weight of himalayan pink salt with some stalks of fresh dill and caraway seeds sprinkled in. Pound and pack as much of it into a gallon jar that I can get in there and top off with 3.5% brine to the neck of an air-locked fermenter. I read that 2% salt was probably enough for beets -- but I am going on an international trip just a few short days later -- so if the ferment gets too aggressive and starts spilling over, or I get some mold forming on top without being able to remove there may be a problem on my hands when I get back (angry wife and lost beets). Thought the extra salt would help slow things down and maybe help against the mold along with the airlock.

Any other advice on a beet ferment vs. the few posts that are in the archives?
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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby gardener on Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:11 pm

Please take into consideration that I have not done beets before, though pickled beets are one of my comfort foods and eating them sitting in an infant chair is one of my earliest memories! Hopefully, someone else will be along-- someone with real experience.

How long are you going to be gone? If your mate is not going to be willing or able to keep an eye on the beets, I would suggest you set them up for a slower ferment. In fact, raw beets are very long keepers, so you could delay the project until you return home. My home grown beets can be sugary sweet at harvest, and if I spiralized them or even chipped them for fermenting, I think they bubble like crazy and overflow. Older beets will be considerably less sugary, more starchy. I think that would slow down the fermentation.

Things to do to slow the fermenting include raising the salt level, leaving the beets whole, putting them somewhere cool.

Gotta tell ya, the first ferment I tried was cucumbers that I left submerged in an open bucket in my un-air-conditioned kitchen in the summer in the Mississippi valley while I took off for the Rockies for two weeks. It was a 5 gallon bucket o' nastiness when I returned! I was quite ignorant about fermenting, and the muti-color, mult-itexture results put me off trying fermenting again for several years. I would not foist your project off onto an unwilling other person.
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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby dciolek on Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:34 am

Hey -- I didn't think of lowering the temp to control the ferment. That's helpful, I have a small refrigerator that I can use with a temperature controller to create a warmer than fridge, but colder than room temp chamber to keep the batch under control while I am gone. Maybe 55 degrees or something like that? That sounds like it would definitely help...

Here are the veggies before going into the fermenter.

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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby dciolek on Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:39 am

And here is the fermenter after 18 hours. You can see the first traces of fermentation beginning at the top edges. This is in a Fido jar without an airlock and has the bottom 1/3 of a round pint mason jar that just barely fits inside the Fido opening to weigh down the veggies and gives a little space for expanding liquids to drop into. Am hoping it will be obvious after 3 days if the explosive fermentation is going to happen, so I can clean up anything before then and place in a cooler environment to slow it down if necessary.

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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby irie1029 on Fri Aug 31, 2018 9:52 am

I love beets I look forward to seeing how it tastes. I love dehydrated beet chips and of course Kvass right now I have beet stems fermenting.
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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby gardener on Sat Sep 01, 2018 12:29 am

Looks wonderful. Hope it will still look so cool once fermented.

How did you cut down your pint jar?
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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby dciolek on Sat Sep 01, 2018 6:25 am

Cutting a mason jar is easier said than done. ;)

I used a glass scoring tool that was mounted to a frame (two PVC tubes mounted to a board with a stop guide for depth) that held the jar in the same position as I rotated it around for the scoring.

Then (carefully) over a sink with eye protection in place, I used a table top micro butane torch to heat the scoring line -- rotating the jar and directing the torch along the line all the way around several times.

A quick dip in cold water after that and the mason jar snapped pretty clean. Then I sanded down the snap line by rubbing the cut side down on wet sandpaper on a flat surface -- moving the glass in a circular motion (80 then 150 then 220 grit in succession before I got it to the smooth I was looking for).

I had tried multiple small glass bowls to see if I had something stock that fit (which would have been easier) but couldn't find anything that would either fit down into the neck or was tight enough against the neck to exclude bits and pieces of the ferment from reaching the surface. Maybe I'll buy a round half pint jar (squat not skinny) and see if that fits next time?

I was starting to get worried about the fermentation not taking off -- as there hadn't been much action through day 3. In reading further -- I realized that I had peeled all of the beets with an apple peeler and rinsed, so most of the natural LAB were removed. Almost stopped the ferment and canned the beets thinking something ugly would take over instead -- but the morning of day 4 found the 1/3 mason jar trap filled with brine and an extra cup had escaped the fido jar as it released pressure. I had the fermenter sitting in a larger tray to catch this just in case. Maybe the seeds and dill helped contribute the starting LABs and it just took time and a good environment to take over?

A quick pH check found the 3.5% brine had reached safe levels at 4.5 and a taste test found it salty (of course) and starting to get a little tangy with noticeable trace of caraway seeds and dill. I think we are on our way -- and will leave it alone for at least another week before opening for a taste test.

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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby gardener on Sat Sep 01, 2018 11:19 am

How many jars did 25 pounds of beets fill? Did you cut jars for all of them?

When I was about 13 years old I was given a bottle cutting kit, but I did not succeed in cutting a single jar, so I respect your success. Instead of a torch, my kit had a weak little birthday candle. The glass on one side of the bottle would heal before the glass on the other side could be heated.
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Re: 25 Pounds of Beets Coming Soon

Postby dciolek on Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:37 pm

I have a single 5 liter jar packed with about half of the 25 lbs. of beets. They lost at least 10% of their weight when trimmed and peeled then run through the spiralizer -- but I didn't measure that loss.

So I would estimate that one 5 liter fido jar holds about 10-11 lbs of beets fully trimmed and packed tight, which was about 12.5 lbs before trimming. The only issue is that the fermentation is quite vigorous -- so I lost a good bit of brine before it settled down and the top layer is definitely not submerged any longer.

I am currently wondering if I should open the jar and "top off" with fresh brine or just leave well enough alone since there is NO OXYGEN in there now and its probably a very safe pH. Diluting with brine will get the stuff on top submerged again -- but will raise the pH and taking the top off will introduce oxygen.

I suppose I could pH pre-treat the brine with vinegar, but then I am putting something in there that I was trying to avoid in the first place when fermenting naturally.

I will probably leave it alone for another few weeks or until I start seeing any discoloration before putting on the brakes in the refrigerator.
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