Why I Don't Use Whey as a Vegetable Fermentation Starter



I attempted my first batch of sauerkraut the Nourishing Traditions way: by using whey skimmed from yogurt as a starter. Note the use of the word “attempted.” You got it: miserable failure. Rotten cabbage. Gross.

I consulted my friend Chris, a veteran fermenter, over at Lost Arts Kitchen. She told me to forget the whey and buy Sandor Katz’s book, Wild Fermentation. Incidentally, I suggest you do the same. For my next batch, I relied on the soil bacteria that came preloaded on my organic cabbage to ferment it and give me sauerkraut. It turned out beautifully.

The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to use whey from yogurt or kefir to supply the bacteria for vegetable fermentation. Milk bacteria like milk. They are specialized to eat lactose. Vegetables do not contain lactose, therefore they are poor food for these bacteria. What I’m looking for are the soil bacteria – those wild little friendlies with whom we had constant contact before the advent of modern farming, pasteurization, and regular bathing. We have more or less eliminated these bacteria in our everyday lives, much to the detriment of our health according to the “hygiene hypothesis”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of regularly bathing as the next person. I’m just saying that we need to eat as wide a variety of probiotic friendly bacteria as we can possibly muster in order to make up for enjoying clean hands. And rather than eating dirt, I would like to eat sauerkraut. Or pickles. Or pickled asparagus.

Take a look at the list of bacteria involved in the fermentation of vegetables:

  • Lactobacillus brevis
  • Lb. plantarum
  • Leuconostoc mesenteroides
  • Pediococcus acidilactici
  • Ped. pentosaceus

Now take a look at the bacteria found in regular Nancy’s yogurt:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lb. casei
  • Lb. rhamnosus
  • Lb. bulgaricus
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum

Jars of kraut in our fridge

My famous pink sauerkraut teeming with awesome soil bacteria! I keep a small jar for the table that I refill from the larger.

What species of bacteria do those lists have in common? Not one! There’s a reason for that: one group thrives in the soil, working together to break down organic matter. The other group thrives in warm milk, working together to break down lactose. Mixing the two can only lead to heartache, as in my initial sauerkraut experiment.

There are times when whey from yogurt or dairy kefir should be used to start fermentation, as when fermenting something that does not come with its own friendly bacteria. Examples include lactofermented mayonnaise, ketchup, and lemonade.

Vegetables grown in healthy, organic soil have all the bacteria they need to produce fermentation. If you absolutely cannot get organic vegetables grown in live soil, I recommend trying Caldwell’s Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables. This starter culture contains three of the bacteria strains (Lb. plantarum, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and Ped. acidilactici) found in healthy soil. A much better choice for truly delicious fermented vegetables!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday on Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Fresh Bites Friday on Real Food Whole Health and the Probiotic Food Challenge on Real Food Forager!

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84 comments to Why I Don’t Use Whey as a Vegetable Fermentation Starter

  • I completely agree and for the same reasons. There are quite a few things I don’t like about Nourishing Traditions, and the overemphasis on dairy is one of them.

    • Yep. I wish there was a book that just had the principles of the WAPF diet without the cookbook part. The recipes never turn out for me.

      • Johnny

        Um nutrition and physical degeneration, weston prices book, sounds like what you are asking for.

        The weston a price foundation is sally fallons interpretation of the book, and therefore is rather biased towards her thoughts on the topic.

    • I agree with you too! I currently have problems with dairy, specifically whey, and originally thought I couldn’t ferment without it. Then I got Wild Fermentation- thank goodness, because I LOVE fermented foods!

  • I haven’t made homemade sauerkraut yet. I’m still finishing up a jar of Classic Fennel sauerkraut from Farmhouse Culture. Do you find that it is much less expensive to make it verses buying it in a store? Thanks for the info about the “whey”…Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

    • Mama

      Hi Heather,
      Yes, it is MUCH less expensive to make your own sauerkraut! Here are the numbers from our step by step series on how to make sauerkraut.
      “I admit, sometimes I get lazy and pick up a jar of Bubbies at New Seasons. At $5.69 for 25 fl oz, it’s an expensive indulgence. Even with expensive organic grocery store cabbage, I can make an entire gallon for $13.50. That’s a savings of 50%. In the summer, the price of cabbage will drop dramatically and I can make kraut for even cheaper!”

      We grow cabbage here easily, so that makes it practically free!

  • Very interesting TinyHands – I had made sauerkraut (one of these times I’ll figure out how to spell it without the spell checker) and since I didn’t have whey at the time I made it the Wild Fermentation way. It turned out great (even with using regular non organic store bought cabbage). I just got NT for Christmas so I’m looking forward to trying the whey way. 🙂 But you make a great point about using milk based ferment with vegetables. I’ll still try the whey next time for experimentation sake but I can see why using only sea salt would work better.

    • I have had everything I’ve tried out of Wild Fermentation work for me, but I have just never had any luck with Nourishing Traditions’ recipes. I hope you do better than I do!

  • I’d never thought of this before! I’ve been planning on starting to ferment veggies, and would have failed miserably if I’d followed some of the recipes I have – thanks for the information.

    • Hi Jennifer! I’ve had people tell me they use whey as a starter and have fine results, so I don’t think it would have necessarily been a miserable failure. But I definitely believe in giving the soil bacteria the best chance at life.

  • My first attempt was using lactoferment and it failed horribly. The second time it went moldy. I’m going to try your recipe next. I’m crossing my fingers. Third time is a charm??

  • Cynthia

    Intersting post as I always wondered why Nourishing Traditions uses whey so much in its recipes. We are dairy (and wheat) sensitive in our home so I have only made sauerkraut following Sandor Katz method and have been successful every time. He has a helpful YouTube video on fermenting veggies too. 🙂

  • I am very new to fermenting, but I have to say that I have used whey from cream cheese that I made and followed the NT recipes for both sauerkraut and pickles, and both worked fine. I wonder if it matters what whey you use. I’m using whey from raw milk cream cheese (from our own cow), which will be rich in all kinds of lactic bacteria, whereas I would expect store bought yoghurt to be made under very controlled conditions, with only specific bacteria allowed to grow. Even if you’re making your own yoghurt, if the milk in pastuerised, again the bacteria will be limited to yoghurt bacteria, which grow at a higher temperature to typical room temperature, so I wouldn’t expect that yoghurt whey to work either. However, the raw milk cheese contains both my cheese starter and anything else that was in the milk, and it all grows at room temperature. I do take your point that these bacteria would logically eat lactose – and I’m not trying to be a smart arse here, I just got interested in why mine worked while some many others didn’t – after a bit of time on Wikipedia I’ve learnt that the lactic acid bacteria actually consume the GLUCOSE which is a component of lactose, as well as being the main product of photosynthesis, and therefore present in cabbage leaves. That means that it would make sense that if you inoculate vegetables with a range of lactic acid bacteria that grow at room temperature, they should be able to grow on the glucose in the vegetables. However, it is good to know that the whey isn’t actually necessary, as I realise that not everyone has access to a cow or raw milk, and this makes fermenting possible for more people if they don’t have to find a source of suitable whey! I think it can’t hurt to add a bit of raw milk whey if you have it though. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    • Yes, I was thinking all of these things. There is a *huge* difference between whey skimmed off of Nancy’s yogurt (even organic, it’s still pasteurized which removes anything good for you) and whey from good wholesome raw milk. There is also a difference in the way your body reacts to pasteurized dairy and raw milk. I have yet to meet a dairy-intolerant person who was intolerant to raw milk.

      Now all that being said, I’ve often added a tablespoon of raw milk whey when I soak something (oatmeal, beans, etc.) but I’ve never tried to ferment anything. So I guess all I can offer is an opinion on the quality of whey used. 😉

      • Christina

        Well, Dellaina, we have not officially met, but *I* am one who is intolerant to raw milk, and not only that, I am even intolerant to RAW PASTURED GOAT’S MILK KEFIR! Which as far as I know is about as intolerant to dairy as one can get. 🙁 It’s really sad for me, but true nevertheless

      • What kind of “dairy intolerant” person would be able to drink raw milk? I’m lactose intolerant and I can’t drink raw milk or even raw goat milk. Raw milk has lactose and since my body does not produce the lactase enzyme it’s impossible for me to digest. And actually, pasteurized milk has lower levels of lactose. I can however eat fermented milk because the culutres convert lactose into lactic acid etc.

        • Some people who have trouble with pasteurized, homogenized milk are able to drink raw milk. Raw milk has lactose, but it also contains natural enzymes that can aid in its digestion. Certainly that is not enough for all people who have problems digesting lactose. Many people with lactose intolerance will not be able to drink raw, unfermented milk.

          There are other ways to have problems with milk as well. Personally, I react to both lactose and casein. I do well with fermented dairy from the right cows, but not others. As I have healed, I have been able to tolerate more lactose and “wrong” casein as well, just so long as I don’t overdo it.

    • You’re welcome! I take your point about the bacteria in raw milk being more diverse than the bacteria in pasteurized milk.

      You are correct when you state that the bacteria will consume the glucose in the cabbage. I should have thought that through a little better. In my defense, I’m a chemist, not a biologist!

      My point is really that it’s the soil bacteria I’m interested in and adding whey doesn’t help them out a whit. Thanks for your input!

  • Kristian Grove

    I have fermented all kinds of veggies for a few years, and I use whey almost every time, both from organic yoghurt and homemade kefir.. It turns out great every time, you can even taste what kind of whey that have been used.. Kefir makes it a little more sour..


  • Lynn

    I am new to fermentation, my first couple attempts at sauerkraut turned out lovely with only baltic salt and an airlock container. Using the same airlock container, wanted to ferment some beets, read that you need a whey starter, used one and under airlock after only 4 days I had mold on the top! I’ll bet it was the whey! I’m going to try it again using only the salt and see what my results are. Thanks for the info!

    • Some ferments just form mold on the top and I don’t know why! (Again, I’m a chemist, not a biologist.) My pickled beets totally got moldy in the fridge, so we scraped the mold off the top and they smelled fine underneath. We ate them and aren’t dead yet, so I think they’re safe.

      The rule of thumb with ferments is, if it smells and tastes ok, it’s ok. If it smells putrid, don’t eat it!

  • Some food for thought….

    I’ve been using whey from commercial non homogenized yogurt (with no fillers or modified milk ingredients) for years to start my cultured veggies and have rarely had anything “go off”. I suspect that the quality of the yogurt used could have been the culprit, or that there were milk solids in the starter culture.

    The reason that whey is recommended in Nourishing Traditions is because it makes your veggies culture faster (ready in 3 days even here in “Winterpeg”) and for the purposes of using less salt for people who don’t like too much salt . I also find “whey started’ cultured veggies taste much milder and less “vinegary tasting” than the salt brine ones.

    I also like that whey is accessible to people (and that you don’t have to order any packets which are generally not available in the grocery store).

    I like the how you have broken down the strains of bacteria. That is food for thought. I suspect though that one of the reasons that I recovered my ability to digest dairy is because of having these dairy loving strains of bacteria in my cultured veggies!

    Great post!

  • I agree with you totally. I know that with kefir people have vastly different experiences in getting their grains to grow and I suspect it’s because of the variation in kitchen environments. My kitchen may be unparalleled in growing kefir grains but it sure doesn’t make good lactofermented foods.

    I’d be honored if you’d share this post on our new weekly link up — Friday Food Flicks — Amanda

    • It’s true – I’ve had things ferment in my kitchen that I didn’t expect. I had a pot of broth that I forgot (whoops!) that took on a pleasant yeasty smell, but kinda scared me so I threw it out.

      I’ll definitely check out Friday Flicks – looks like a great link up!

      • That’s interesting that you say that. I had a pot of broth I finally threw out this morning that had been sitting, cold, for several days. 4 or 5? Anyway, it didn’t smell bad at all, despite being at room temperature for so long. Normally it would. I have sourdough, kombucha, and water kefir all going currently, so maybe all the good yeasties and bacteria in the air got into it and preserved it? I wasn’t willing to risk it, but very interesting thought.

  • Kind of off topic … but can you give me a good suggestion on where to get a good kefir starter? I was thinking water and dairy, but I’m flexible for either 🙂

  • Natalia

    I made my first batch of sauerkraut using raw kefir whey and it turned out great. However, my second batch was a complete disaster. It began smelling like chlorine on the third day of fermentation and after a week the cabbage was so SOFT that I could swear it would dissolve if I let it ferment any longer. It tasted Ok, though. I made a gallon, ate maybe 1/2 pint and the rest went to the garbage.
    My third batch is on the 4th day of fermentation (using whey), I tried it and it seems to be ready. Isn’t that too fast?
    I also tried fermenting shredded beets and they got moldy. I skimmed the mold, but didn’t like beets at all. I am trying to make beet kvas instead now.
    I will skip whey next time. I am curious to see how it turns out.

    • Mama

      It really can be ready in 4 days! Trust your tastebuds 🙂 What’s the temperature where you are doing your fermenting? That can make a big difference.

      Our pickled beets turned out great, but the beet kvass we did wasn’t yummy at all. We’ll have to try that again.

      • Natalia

        The sauerkraut is on my kitchen counter. The temperature is about 70-73F depending on what I am cooking:) it really tastes like it is done, this time it turned out “spicy”. I think it is tie to transfer it to the fridge. I haven’t tried beet kvas yet.

        • Mama

          That explains it! 70-73 is really warm. About 60 usually does it. Too cool and it won’t go at all, though. It sounds like yours is ready for the fridge. We just pulled out a batch of kraut from our front closet on the north side of the house… it sat there successfully for several months because it stayed so nice and cool.

          • Natalia

            I did not know that about the temperature. It always says in the recipes to leave on the counter for 5-9 days.
            Thank you so much for the help! It goes in the fridge today!

  • […] come to this decision after reading two things – Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and TinyHands’s post on The Liberated Kitchen. On my very first post of the Bad A** Bacteria series (lacto-fermented garlic), a reader posted a […]

  • I tried making sauerkraut a few years ago and it failed terribly. I don’t remember whether I used NT or Wild Fermentation for the recipe. I found a crock at Reading China and Glass year, and I still haven’t tried making sauerkraut. I have the Wild Fermentation book. Sounds like I need to try again.

    • Mama

      Yes! It is definitely worth trying again. Do you remember what went wrong with your previous batch? Temperature can make a big difference in how fast it ferments.

  • DavidLeo

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m new to ferm’in, and was confused about this issue. I hope you can answer some of my question, if any-buddy still walks ’round these parts? *crickets* I was clear on fermenting salt, but I was totally confused about other items that aren’t I suppose the norm foods you think of, or at least I didnt, that can be ferm’d.

    1. So for example ‘ Look at me erybody, I made pickled garlic, or onions. I have them handy. Say, maybe I should make some ferm’d salsa, or mayo, or ketchup, or whatever I want. Now even though I love salt, and will put it in the recipe, I dont want to put the normal amount you would to ferment. SO, I wonder… If I add enough of the pickled garlic, or onions (how much really?) would that suffice to get the organisms buzzin? Or if handy, use some kraut juice? Or what about the juice of the garlic or onion brine? See now my confusion is, wait… Will the bacteria if I pickled organic garlic and onion need a starter, No right? The salt will get things buzzin. Right?

    2. When fermenting things such as condiments, would you do it for the same duration? I have read differing things?

    3. What about water kefir, or there grains? I have been water ke-firing as my intro into this fermented world. Love the stuff. My grains are growing like crazy. Can the kefir water, be used the same way you would a starter, or the juice from kraut or previous brines from veggies? Or is the kefir water, or grains, actually also only good for specific foods? So to encapsulate, When should I use Salt, when should I use Why, Or could I use water kefir or there grains?

    4. Okay, Im wrapping it up… Is the bacteria in Water Kefir, different (family groups strains) different from the bacteria in wild ferments? I’m very curious about that. Water kefir grains, not the milk (vegan here smile)

    Thanks soo much. Hope someone comes around.

  • although i agree that NT is lopsided in several aspects of their approach, and your experiment notwithstanding, we have had pretty good luck fermenting with whey – but – whey from raw milk cheese making. do you have any data regarding the actual mix of bacteria in raw milk whey? b’cause it would seem to me that with the cows eating ground-level day in and day out, the presence of other soil bacteria would be expected –

    like so many other problems with milk caused by pasteurization, this could be yet another….?

    • You very well could be right, Ravi. I don’t have any data on the bacteria present in raw milk. I imagine it would vary from cow to cow depending on many different factors.

  • I have had excellent luck fermenting with whey the Nourishing Traditions way. From your description I wasn’t clear on how you extracted the whey from the yogurt. When I do it, I put the yogurt in cheese cloth and hang it up. The whey is what drips out of the yogurt leaving an nice yogurt cheese in the cheese cloth. And right now, I am going to lacto-ferment some zucchini.

  • Hi,

    What is your thought on using Kombucha as a starter? I was using it in my Beet Kvass only, not my other vegetable ferments.


    • I’ve never tried it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I know some people use sauerkraut juice to ferment their mayonnaise.

      • Crystal

        Good points in your article… So what’s your opinion on lacto fermenting guacamole and salsa. These being fruits bring the question, should they be voided from this lacto/soil rule like the condiments you listed above? Kind thanks 🙂

        • Whether or not avocados and tomatoes are fruits is kind of moot – plenty of people lactoferment fruit without whey. Cucumbers are fruits and I definitely don’t put whey in my pickles!

      • Crystal

        …..oh also, I’m curious if you mean to say that lacto cultures will actually harm soil cultures if mixed.
        Thanks again and great subject to put out there!

  • JH

    Dear TinyHands, I too had a mishap with “fermented whey” but the problem was that I didn’t understand what “fermented” whey actually was. I did something similar to what you mentioned. I used whey from yogurt. THERE IS WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES!!!! Real fermented whey as I latter learned can only be attained from RAW MILK. If you leave raw milk out for a few days it will become= cream cheese (quite delicious by the way! just add a bit of sea salt) and fermented whey !!!!!!!! WOOO HOOO success !!!!! I made sauerkraut, kim chi, and pickles, all a success. And quite a success. Bottom line , you need raw milk and you have to make your own whey.

  • Emily

    You said, “Vegetables grown in healthy, organic soil have all the bacteria they need to produce fermentation. If you absolutely cannot get organic vegetables grown in live soil, I recommend trying Caldwell’s Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables.”

    If I purchase organic produce from the grocery store, is that adequate for having the bacteria needed? If so, do I just follow a recipe without starter? Trying to figure out how this works. I don’t want to buy $20 vegetable starter for every six or so fermentation projects if I ca avoid it!

    • It’s probably good enough, but of course we can’t say for sure. If I were in your shoes, I’d try it both ways and see what gives the best results. Good luck!

  • Greetings from Australia

    I don’t use whey in my sauerkraut or other vegie ferments as I prefer my sauerkraut to be crunchy and whey tends to speed the process to much. Also, as a suggestion, don’t try Donna Gates (Body Ecology Diet) fermentation process which DOES NOT include salt. Yuk! Salt is very much required for digestion let alone taste. I made several batches of salt free vegies years ago and had to tip them out – YUK!

    • Crystal

      Interesting… I use body ecology culture starter and love mine. Donna Gates doesn’t say not to use salt just because she doesn’t send a salt packet with hers…I don’t think any merchant sells salt with theirs. The outcome depends on the ingredients added yourself I think. I use ginger, lemon and jalapeño….yummy:)

    • Crystal

      ….also, I love that her culture starter has planterum strand in it (antibacterial, anti microbial, survives in the lower intestine blah blah) which I’m sure you can HOPE a wild ferment would carry, but not guaranteed unless you use it in your starter 🙂

    • GR

      My wife is very sensitive to sodium (consequence of a heavy bout of antibiotics a couple of years ago). We absolutely love(d) the “live kraut” at Whole Foods, but it is loaded with sodium, so we gave it up, and when I looked online all the kraut recipes I found relied heavily on salt. I recently discovered lacto fermentation and found recipes that use only celery juice, which is high in sodium content relative to other veggies, but much lower then salt itself (we try to limit dairy intake, so whey is not an option).

      So far we’ve made sauerkraut, fermented veggies, and have salsa and pickles brewing away on the counter. We LOVE fermenting, and I’m going to start a ginger bug today.

  • CandyMan

    Kelsey, I hope you don’t mind a late bump to this thread. I’ve been fermenting for about six months now and I’ve had a lot of success, especially with krauts. I approached this whey question from the perspective of someone that uses Caldwell’s Starter exclusively on every ferment. The cost of Caldwell’s is a real factor to consider but the current non-existent supply makes the question very pertinent: ‘What’s the difference between using Caldwell’s vs kefir whey?’ I’ve just started 2 identical 2.5L krauts (except for the starter culture) in Pickl-It jars with fennel bulb/caraway seed/juniper berries. After 3 days of a fairly constant 65F, both are bubbling away just fine. We’ll see what taste tells at 9 weeks. As side note on the whey used, it came from the 2nd fermentation (anaerobic) of pasteurized organic milk kefir. I’ve subscribed to comments to answer questions if you want this thread to continue….

  • Kirk

    I always thought the purpose of the whey (like salt) was to inhibit the bad beasties (in wheys case providing a slightly acidic environment) therefore giving a jump start to the native lactobacilli and other probiotics (and also to be able to reduce salt content), rather than as an inoculant for the veg. I made many, many ferments over the years, using whey if I had any, and have never been able to tell a significant difference in the outcome. Additionally, I’ve always had great success with recipes from Nourishing Traditions.

    • I’ll stick by my premise that successful fermenting with whey comes as a result of the soil bacteria overcoming competition from the whey bacteria. I have only ever had ferments fail when I’ve used whey (yes, from cultured raw milk), which tells me that whey doesn’t do the friendly bacteria any favors.

    • Without knowing the specifics involved but being an old microbiologist, I know that in order for certain organisms to “take over” it often takes certain environmental factors to give them an advantage over other organisms present. If I remember correctly, Lactobacillus has its run and is then superceded by Leuconostoc, etc. I would posit then that slight salinity and an acid (low Ph) in the absence of Oxygen would give the Lactobacillus present from the soil the advantage needed to become the dominant organism and anaerobically metabolize the sugars present in the vegetables. If not present in overpowering numbers, organisms from whey would function to make conditions favorable for the soil bacteria to bloom, but having no suitable substrate would soon be replaced. However, if the whey organisms are present in too large a number, metabolites produced due to having no suitable substrate source might make conditions unfavorable for the soil microbes and the culture would fail. Too few whey bacteria and the conditions would also be unfavorable.

  • I am a big fan of the probiotic bacteria found in kefir, yoghurt, and Kombucha.
    I fully agree that we live into a far too clean environment, and we need to supplement our bacteria and yeast intake in any way we can.
    I encourage my boy and my whole family to crunch on veggies such as carrots, kolrabi, just by shaking the excess dirt off, and also eat apples and nectarines straight from the tree, because we grow them organically.

    • Marius, while I agree with you whole heartedly, I trust you are taking a second to make sure there is no animal scat nearby before eating something right out of the ground. There are some things that even the strongest immune system should best avoid.

  • Tara

    Does anyone have a healthy kombucha mother /baby they would be willing to send to WA state?! 🙂

  • Elizabeth

    I haven’t read Wild Fermentation, but what about the possibility of e coli contamination?

  • I just mixed up my first batch of beet kvass. I decided to try celtic sea salt (with no added whey). I’m eager and excited to see how it turns out!

  • Khara

    Are we supposed to not wash the organic produce… To get more of the soil?

  • Valerie Wright

    Have learned from Cultures for Health that CABBAGE is the important ingredient if you are trying to ferment without cultures. You can ferment successfully using salt when cabbage is a major ingredient but believe for jars of beets, for instance, a starter is required. Check the Cultures for Health site. I am making Kefir and have started making Kefir cheese (the same way you would strain the yogourt). It is producing beautiful whey. I plan to make one of their sauerkraut/mixed vegetable recipes using Caldwell’s starter and a second jar using my Kefir whey. (Also learned from them that the salt makes veggies crisp.)
    I am rather new to all this. Been making Kefir for a few months – started Kombucha 2 weeks ago and now about to venture into veggies.

  • My daughter and her children cannot tolerate any kefir. She was told that some people are allergic to the histamines that are in the kefir. Have any of you heard of that before. They can tolerate sauerkraut! She wouldn’t make sauerkraut with kefir grains.

  • Patrik

    You picked one yoghurt and listed the ingredients. However, if you use any number of probiotic supplements, they would contain L.brevis and L.plantarum. Also the species you list as ‘milk’ bacteria are not exclusively milk bacteria. They can thrive quite well in non-milk environments, it just depends on what they are adapted to feed on at that given moment. Vegan yoghurt cultures contain the same species as dairy yoghurt cultures. The vegan yoghurt cultures are normally used to ferment nut milks etc. but there’s no reason why they couldn’t ferment vegetables. I have personally had mixed success with using whey from different yoghurt cultures, but more success than failure personally.

  • Hi! I’ve heard (and my experience has been) that fermenting straight cabbage doesn’t require a starter (like whey) because of some properties of this particular veggie and relatives like broccoli and kale possess- perhaps the friendly bacteria from the soil. However, if you are trying to ferment other veggies (a mix of carrots and beets, for example) it might be easier if you start with kefir whey because for some reason non-cabbage veggies aren’t as good at supplying or picking up their own friendly bacteria as cabbage is. That said, I’ve started a couple things like yellow squash with kefir whey and after a week or so had to rescue them with salt and vinegar brine because they turned to the dark side and started stinking. This start-with-kefir-whey-and-rescue-with-vinegar method accidentally worked really well, though- those were the best pickles i’ve ever made!

  • sha

    i never liked the fermenting recipes from NT myself, but mostly from taste and texture and not from failed attempts. our body wants/needs a diverse array of different bacteria to give our gut lots of variety. so since i eat yogurt i get enough of that bacteria, when i do my ferments i like to rely on the natural bacteria in the veg. that way i am assured that i have a wide variety in my belly and not just strands from whey. i guess this is just my way of seeing things.

  • […] we can’t eat dairy. When I did use whey, the results were soggier and prone to white scum. The Liberated Kitchen explains why she doesn’t use whey for vegetable ferments, demonstrating that whey and […]

  • […] If the ferment is too salty for you, a bit of water can be added to your glass of Kvass when drinking. Some recipes call for whey to counter the saltiness of ferments but I disagree. […]

  • Something to keep in mind when/if your fermentation system grows mold is that fungi (molds) must have oxygen. The fact that fungi is growing tells you that your system is not anaerobic which is necessary for bacterial growth (which causes the fermentation). The problem you are having is in your technique – you are not removing and/or keeping air/Oxygen out of the system.

    There may of course be some fungal growth on the surface of the liquid where there is natural contact with air.

  • Jerry Anderson

    I agree with you. The natural probiotics that come with veggies is the best way to go. I like wild fermentation.

  • Zouzou

    Maybe try with milk kefir whey, because L.Brevis, Lb plantarum and Leuconostoc mesenteroides are all present in Kefir. It is worth mentioning commercial yogurts are made using only few strains of what natural yogurt has. The industry better controls product uniformity that way. Organic has nothing to do with it. It only means they used organic milk. It does not mean, obviously, that they are culturing yogurt with the entirety of organisms usually present in traditional, old-fashioned yogurts. Louis Pasteur isolated 2 or 3 strains of bacteria among the thousands present in Bulgarian yogurt so the founder of Danone could commercialize a stable product in the 1900s. Long story short, try with kefir whey or any old-fashioned yogurt culture still alive (Vilii, filmjolk…) although using salt is also a very good way to ferment vegies. But whey, from the right kind of fermented milk, allows lowering salt intake (important for some suffering stomach ulcers and-or high blood pressure) and, as you already know, speeds up the fermentation process.

    • Sorry for the delay in approving your post, but thanks for the ideas. I agree organic is in reference to the milk used, not the strains of bacteria used in fermentation!

  • dan

    Can I effectively make UHT pasteurized coconut milk kefir using cow milk kefir whey as a starter?

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