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Fermentation an option to canning for summer bounty

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On Saturday’s edition of “Homer Grown” with Desiree Hagen, we heard some tips for preserving this summer’s bounty through fermentation. Yes, fermentation -- it’s not just for sauerkraut any more.
    In Homer Grown’s “Tech Minute,” Nicole Arevalo of the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District suggested fermenting in crockery, whether vintage and found at a garage sale, or newly purchased from a potter locally.
    She said if using vintage crock pots, make sure to check them for safety.
      “If you find a used crock, make sure to check it for cracks, especially if the interior glaze is brightly colored or decorative,” Arevalo said. “As older glazes may contain lead, you can pick up a lead testing kit from hardware stores or online to tell us the glaze inside is led based.”
    The crocks will also have to be thoroughly cleaned.
       “To make sure hairline cracks don't harbor, unwanted molds, or bacteria scour the crock with vinegar, maybe hydrogen peroxide, and then wash it out with hot soapy water,” she said. “You don't need vegetable fermenting vessels to be perfectly 100 percent sanitized like you do for brewing vessels. With hairline cracks treated in this way are just fine to use.”
    Arevalo says there are options other than traditional crockery.
       “You can also ferment in wooden vessels, cookie jars, crockpots. Get creative,” she said. “Some people really like using food grade plastic buckets. Considerations are that cracks may harbor bacteria, and some people have concerns over chemicals leaking out into the acidic environment, do make sure to avoid using buckets that once contained things like building materials.”
    Arevalo suggests avoiding metal containers as the acidity in the liquid could corrode them and contaminate the batch.
    To achieve peak fermentation, the veggies have to remain submerged in the liquid. She says weighted plates are good for that, but to be careful using wood.
       “If you’re going to use a wooden plate for your crock, just remember wood can expand in the liquid, so you’ll want to make sure you can get that back out.”
    Arevalo also cautions against using chlorinated tap water or iodized table salt, as both chemicals can inhibit the fermentation process.
    You can hear more about fermentation on this week’s “Homer Grown” with Desiree Hagen.

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Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Desiree has called Alaska ‘home’ for almost two decades. Her involvement in radio began over 10 years, first as a volunteer DJ at KBBI, later as a host and producer, and now in her current role as a reporter. Her passions include stories relating to agriculture, food systems and rural issues. In her spare time, she can often be found riding her bicycle, creating art from handmade paper, or working in the garden.
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