Wild Fermentation

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Wild fermentation is a lost art in our generation and the truth is that it is an inexpensive and accessible way for just about anyone to eat healthy. Wild fermentation is used to preserve fresh foods and at the same time cultivate beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. Some of the ferments you find at the store may be extremely expensive, but making your own fermented foods and drinks makes them very inexpensive and accessible. Making your own foods at home can reduce the cost to a fraction of commercial items. Eating naturally fermented foods that are rich in probiotics and vitamins is a great way to add beneficial nutrition and delicious flavor to your diet. It’s a myth that you have to be wealthy to eat healthy. If you grow your own vegetables, some of your favorite fermented treats can be practically free.

This blog and video series serves as an introduction to creating five different at-home wild ferments with a few of my favorite recipes. All of the ferments I cover here require minimal set-up, yet take some time to naturally cultivate. These ferments are very simple for anyone to make because in general, nature does the work. You don’t need any fancy ingredients or equipment for any of these recipes.

The information here is designed to get you started and show how easy it really is. However, the videos and this blog will not answer every question you have about fermenting. If you want to learn more beyond these basic recipes and videos, I would recommend finding some resources online and books for that.

Here are some resources:
Sandor Katz’s website: www.WildFermentation.com
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz


Sauerkraut means “sour cabbage” in German. It contains probiotic bacteria and large amounts of vitamin C, B, and K, as well as vitamin A, folic acid, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium. Live, raw (unpasteurized) sauerkraut has been declared a superfood. Commercially available sauerkrauts often lack most, if not all, of the diverse beneficial bacteria found in raw sauerkraut. Sauerkraut boosts the immune system, improves digestion by promoting the growth of healthy stomach flora, and contains potent antioxidants. Just a spoonful a day is enough to make any meal more delicious and nutritious.


5 pounds (2.3 kg) cabbage

3 tablespoons (45 ml) sea salt


Glass jars with lids

Large bowl


  1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. Place the cabbage in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle salt onto the cabbage and massage it vigorously with your hands. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage through osmosis and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. Sprinkle more salt on as needed and continue to massage until the cabbage becomes very watery. You do not need to add any water. Massage the cabbage until enough water has separated, then you can squeeze it out.
  3. If you would like to add other vegetables (such as carrots or beets), mix them in after you have finished massaging the cabbage. You do not need to massage the other vegetables.
  4. Pack cabbage (and other ingredients) tightly into jars. To do this add a few spoonfuls of cabbage at a time and pack it down tightly to get all the air bubbles out.
  5. Make sure all the cabbage is submerged in the brine. Leave an inch or two of space at the top of the jar because the cabbage will expand some. Cover with a whole cabbage leaf to keep cabbage shreds under the brine.
  6. Cover the jar with a lid and store in a dark place at room temperature such as a cabinet or pantry.
  7. Let ferment for at least 4-5 days to 2 weeks then enjoy! Serving size is 2 tablespoons per day. Refrigeration is not necessary, but optional after you have finished fermenting. Fermentation will continue if it is left unrefrigerated and the flavor will become stronger. To stop fermentation, refrigerate the jars. Always store ferments in a dark place out of direct sunlight.

The duration of fermentation needed for your sauerkraut to be ready varies according to your climate and the weather. In a warm and damp climate ferments will process faster than in a cool and dry climate. In a warm climate sauerkraut can take as little as 4 days and in a colder climate as long as 2 weeks.

Option to use bucket for larger batches:


Food-grade plastic bucket 

Plate that fits inside bucket (should be about the same size as the mouth of the bucket)

1 gallon (4 liters) jug filled with water or a clean rock 

Cloth cover

String or rubber band


  1. Chop cabbage as in recipe above but place directly into bucket rather than a bowl.
  2. Massage cabbage as in recipe above until there is substantial water.
  3. If you would like to add other vegetables (such as carrots or beets), mix them in after you have finished massaging the cabbage. You do not need to massage the other vegetables.
  4. Pack the cabbage tightly down into the bucket. There should be enough brine to cover all of the cabbage. 
  5. Cover cabbage with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the bucket. Place a clean weight (jar filled with water or a heavy rock) on the plate. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the bucket with a cloth and secure with a tied string to keep insects and dust out. Store in a dark place at room temperature such as a cabinet or pantry.
  6. Check the cabbage every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes mold appears on the surface. Skim what you can off the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove it all. Don’t worry about this. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight before replacing in the bucket. 
  7. When the kraut is ready you can store it in jars or leave it in the bucket depending on your preference. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the bucket repack it carefully and make sure all the kraut is submerged in brine. As above, refrigerating will stop the fermentation process. 

Sourdough Bread

Making sourdough bread might seem like a new idea to you but until very recently, all bread was sourdough! Commercial yeast had not been developed yet and only wild yeast was used. Adding a sourdough culture to bread dough allows the bread to rise naturally. The fermentation acts as a pre-digestion for the grains, making them more digestible for us to eat. So even if you have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, you can likely use this method to make your own bread. Allowing the dough to ferment for 72 hours, will allow the gluten fibers to be almost completely broken down and easy to digest by anyone.

Ingredients for Sourdough Starter and Bread:

½ cup wheat flour (any kind)

dechlorinated water (See Notes at bottom of blog)

½ tsp salt

oil (for greasing the pan)

Supplies for Sourdough Starter and Bread:

Glass jar

Mixing bowl

Bread baking pan

Small piece of cloth 

String or rubber band

Process for sourdough starter:

  1. In a jar mix equal parts flour and dechlorinated water (example: 1 cup water and 1 cup flour).
  2. Stir the mixture vigorously. 
  3. Cover the jar with a breathable cloth to keep out flies but allow for circulation of air. Secure with string or rubber band.
  4. Store your starter in a shaded place, at room temperature (70-80F /21-27C is ideal) with good air circulation. Check daily, and stir vigorously. Agitation stimulates the process. Ideally stir morning and night.
  5. In a few days, you should notice small bubbles and a sour smell. This indicates an active starter that is ready to be used. At this point you can use it to make bread. Steps 6 and 7 are for maintenance of your starter. If you keep your starter alive you will never have to make one again. Thus the first time you make sourdough bread will take the longest.
  6. Once the starter is active you need to feed it if you want to keep it alive and use it again. Flour is the starter’s food source and without it the starter can die. If you are baking at least weekly, leave the starter out in your kitchen and stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) of flour every day. The starter will get thicker and start to rise or hold some of the gas released by fermentation. You want the starter to remain essentially liquid in form so add more dechlorinated water if the sourdough gets so thick that it starts to cross over into solidity. If you bake bread less frequently you can refrigerate the starter. A refrigerated starter will need to be fed once every week or so. A day or two before you plan to bake bread, remove the starter from the refrigerator and feed it, to warm it up and activate the batter again.
  7. When ready to use for making bread, add up to 90% of the starter to your dough. Save the remaining 10% of your starter and add equal parts flour and water to the starter so that you’ll have ample starter for your next batches of bread. Note: If you are baking frequently, the starter can be ready again in as little as 12 hours after adding water and flour to the portion that you save.

Process for Sourdough Bread:

  1. Mix 6 cups flour, 2 cups dechlorinated water, 1 tsp salt, and about 90% of your starter into a mixing bowl. 
  2. Knead dough until it’s pliable and doesn’t stick to your hands. It should be stretchy when you pull it. If it tears easily, keep kneading. If it’s sticky add more flour.
  3. Let dough sit to rise for 5 hours. You can let it rise for up to 20 hours, if you desire a stronger sourdough flavor. You can let the dough sit for 72 hours to make it “gluten-free.” -Keep the bowl covered with a cloth and dampen the dough occasionally to keep it moist.
  4. Coat baking pan with oil. Shape dough and place in pan. You can lightly dampen the dough surface with water prior to baking to prevent the loaf from drying out.
  5. Bake at 360 degrees for approx. 45 mins.

Ginger Beer

Ginger beer is basically- homemade natural soda. The soda you buy at the store is bubbly because it’s pumped with CO2 with a machine. Naturally fermented ginger beer is bubbly from natural gases forming from live, active cultures. Fermented soda is alive with billions of bacteria and yeast that are all naturally present in every breath of fresh air.

Ingredients (to make 1 gallon/ 4 liters):
3 inches (8 cm) or more fresh ginger root

2 cups (500 ml) white sugar (don’t substitute honey)

2 lemons

dechlorinated water (See Notes at bottom of blog)


Large cooking pot

Glass jar

Small piece of cloth 

String or rubber band

Recycled plastic or glass bottles with caps (enough to fill 1 gallon/4 liters) (See Notes at bottom of blog)

Strainer and funnel (optional)


Process for “ginger bug”:

  1. To make the “ginger bug” the first time, add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) grated ginger (with skin) and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar to 1 cup (250 ml) of dechlorinated water. 
  2. Stir well, cover with a breathable cloth and store in a dark place such as a pantry or cupboard at room temperature. Add the same amount of ginger and sugar as above every day or two and stir until the ginger bug starts bubbling. This should take about 2 days to about a week depending on your climate. Fermentation occurs faster in warm, moist climates and slower in cold, dry climates. Once the ginger bug is bubbling, it is now active and ready to be used to make ginger beer. Step 3 is for maintenance of your ginger bug.
  3. When you make ginger beer you will use about 90% of your ginger bug and save 10% to keep your ginger bug alive. To remake your ginger bug simply add about the same amount of ginger, sugar, and dechlorinated water that you poured out. If you are making ginger beer frequently, leave the ginger bug out in your kitchen and feed it a little ginger and sugar every day or two. If you use it less frequently you can refrigerate it, feeding it a little ginger and sugar each week. If refrigerated, let it sit out for up to 12 hours prior to using to make ginger beer to let it become active again.

Process for Ginger Beer:

  1. Grate the ginger root. Use 2 inches (5 cm) for a mild ginger flavor or up to 6 inches (15 cm) for an intense ginger flavor.
  2. Juice the lemons.
  3. Boil 1 gallon (4 liters) of water. Add the ginger and 1.5 cups sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Let it cool.
  4. Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled completely strain out the ginger for a smooth ginger beer. If you don’t have a strainer you don’t need to remove the ginger chunks. Add the juice of the lemons and 90% of the strained ginger bug. 
  5. Bottle in sealable bottles (glass or plastic) and store in a dark place at room temperature such as a pantry. Your ginger beer should be ready in 2 days to 2 weeks depending on climate. 
  6. How to know when it is ready:(See Notes at bottom of blog also) Make 1 bottle of ginger beer in a plastic bottle to be used as a gauge. I would not typically recommend using plastic bottles because of the health and environmental destruction that goes hand in hand with them but for safety purposes I recommend making just 1 plastic bottle per batch of ginger beer. Ginger beer becomes highly carbonated to the point where it can explode glass bottles. This can be quite dangerous. To prevent this you can check your plastic bottle each day by squeezing it to gauge if the batch is ready. As the bottle fills with carbonation, a byproduct of fermentation, the bottle will become more firm. When the bottle is firm to the point where you can’t squeeze it in, then you know the batch is ready to drink. Place all of the glass bottles in the fridge to stop the fermentation so they will not become overly carbonated and explode. When bottling in glass it makes sense to leave extra space for carbonation. If you don’t have refrigeration you can still make ginger beer but it would be wise to stick to plastic bottles and make only enough to drink within a few weeks. When opening the ginger beer you may have to open it slowly and continue to “burp” it to avoid losing a lot of it on the floor!

Apple Cider Vinegar or Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a highly useful food that also has countless uses around the house or for natural personal hygiene. I like to drink ACV almost every day. Research shows it to have antiparasitic properties, it promotes circulation and digestion, and supports a healthy immune system. Externally it can help maintain healthy, youthful skin, relieve burns, bites, stings and kill infections, soothe irritated skin, and more. It also makes an amazing natural cleaning product.


¼ cup (60 ml) sugar

apples or scraps of any fruits high in sugar (apple, pineapple, grape, berries, etc.)

dechlorinated water (See Notes at bottom of blog)


Glass container (we recommend 2-liter size)

Small piece of cloth

String or rubber band

1-liter glass container with lid (recycled wine bottle with cap or cork works great)


  1. In a jar or bowl, dissolve sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) of dechlorinated water. 
  2. Coarsely chop apples. The more you chop up the apples the more you increase the surface area of the fruit, which speeds up the fermentation.
  3. Fill jar with chopped apples or fruit scraps and the sugar-water mixture. You can add a little vinegar from a previous batch as a starter to speed up the process. Make sure all the fruit is submerged in liquid. You can do this by placing a glass cup or small plate over the apples. Cover the jar with breathable cloth to keep flies out and leave to ferment in a dark place at room temperature. 
  4. When you notice the liquid darkening, after about 1 week, strain out the apples and discard. In colder climates this step could take a few weeks to a month.
  5. Ferment the remaining liquid for 2 to 3 weeks more, stirring or agitating periodically. You can taste the vinegar to see if you like it- if you prefer it to be stronger, let it ferment longer. When the desired taste is achieved, you can transfer the vinegar to another container with a cap or cork for easier long-term storage.

Note: To make fruit scrap vinegar you can use any fruit scraps that have sugar in it. This includes apples, pineapple, grapes, berries, etc. By using fruit scraps you can make vinegar for free. You do not need to add sugar but this will create a much longer fermentation process, so you just need to allow more time.

Pickles and Pickled Vegetables

By fermenting vegetables into pickles or fruit into vinegar, it increases the nutrients by adding probiotics and vitamins. It is also a great way to preserve vegetables. If you have an abundance of vegetables from the garden fermenting will allow you to store them and eat them for months to come.


vegetables (as many as you can pack in the jar)


dechlorinated water (See Notes at bottom of blog)

whole peppercorns, garlic, spices (optional recommendation)

Any of the following tannin-rich items to maintain crispness: handful of oak leaves, grape leaves, horseradish leaves, OR a black tea bag (optional)


Glass jars with lids 


  1. Make a 5% salt-water mixture. Add 3 tablespoon salt per quart (liter) of dechlorinated water. You can boil the water to dissolve the salt but it’s not necessary.
  2. Cut up vegetables into any shape you want. We recommend long strips.
  3. Place tannin-rich item(s) in the bottom of jar. Then add whole peppercorns, garlic, and spices (optional).
  4. Pack vegetables vertically as tightly as you can. Much like our human bodies, the vegetables will want to float in the salty water once submerged. Packing them tightly prevents them from floating. Note: You can put wilted vegetables in the fridge or an ice bath for 6 hours prior to help retain crunchiness.
  5. Pour salt-water mixture over the vegetables, submerging them completely. 
  6. Place a lid on your jar and let veggies ferment for 4 to 7 days in a shaded place at room temperature. Store the jars on plates to catch fluid that may spill out from expansion during the process.
  7. Taste periodically. Place in the refrigerator or cellar when desired flavor is reached in order to slow fermentation.


Chlorinated water
All of these wild fermentation recipes must use water that is free of chlorine. In the USA, 98% of municipal water supplies are treated with chlorine. Chlorine inhibits the growth of the bacteria and yeast that are needed for fermentation. The safest and surest way to dechlorinate your tap water is to boil it for 20 minutes. Make sure to let the water cool before using it. You can also fill up a container and let it sit for 24 hours. The chlorine will evaporate. However, some municipalities use a form of chlorine that has a bond that doesn’t break from evaporation so this may not work in some cities. If you are using water from a well, it is chlorine-free.

Fermentation varies greatly depending on climate. Fermentation happens much more rapidly in warm, damp climates, especially anywhere near the equator. Fermentation is much slower in cold, dry climates. Because of this, there is a large range in how long your ferments will take to be ready. A sourdough culture could take anywhere from 2 days in Florida to a week in the winter in New York, for example. Fermentation also depends on the heating or air-conditioning in the house. For example ferments will take longer in air-conditioned houses in the summer than if the windows are open.


You will typically store your ferments either at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Store ferments in dark places such a pantries or cupboards. Never in direct sunlight. All of these ferments can be done completely without refrigeration. If you are in a warm area and don’t use refrigeration, you may have to make smaller batches more frequently rather than larger batches that would last for months.

Caution using Glass Bottles to Process Ginger Beer!

Ginger beer becomes highly carbonated to the point where it can explode glass bottles. This can be quite dangerous. To prevent this, you can either use only plastic bottles OR fill one plastic bottle at the same time as you bottle the rest of the batch in glass bottles. Then check your plastic bottle each day by squeezing it to gauge if the batch is ready. As the bottle fills with carbonation, a byproduct of fermentation, the bottle will become more firm. When the bottle is firm to the point where you can’t squeeze it in, then you know the batch is ready to drink. Place all of the glass bottles in the fridge to stop the fermentation so they will not become overly carbonated and explode. When bottling in glass, it makes sense to leave extra space for carbonation. If you don’t have refrigeration you can still make ginger beer but it would be wise to stick to plastic bottles and make only enough to drink within a few weeks. 

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