Lessons From Two Failed Ferments

This summer I’ve made some of my best ferments to date, however this week I had two failures. It happens from time to time, especially when you are trying something new. I’d like to share what I learned.

Photo by Hans Gerwitz

#1 Earl Grey Pickles = Yuck!

Fresh off the success I had using tea bags to make my pickles crunchy, I made an error. I was loading up my ferment when I discovered the only black tea I had in the house was an Earl Grey teabag I got for free from last years Northwest Tea Festival. I own lots of green oolong and puer teas, but no black tea. Earl Grey is a black tea with added bergamot oil. Don’t use it for making pickles. Regular black tea doesn’t impart its flavor onto the pickles. Earl Grey does. Another thing I noticed was I was scrapping surface mold every day. That didn’t happen with regular black tea.

Keep Earl Grey out of your pickle ferments.

#2 Paprika is Unpredictable

When I visited Ohio last December, I had kimchi at a grocery store food court. The pepper wasn’t hot. It had a sweet finish. I went back and talked to the guy who made the kimchi and he shared with me that they used paprika instead of Korean red pepper flakes. Since then I’ve tried to make a sweet kimchi using paprika a few times. It never tastes the same. Sometimes it tastes gritty, sometimes it is slightly sweet and my last batch tasted brackish. Night and day. Maybe something is wrong with my paprika?

I need to experiment with another pepper to get a fruity sweet taste other than paprika. Any ideas?


Add yours

  1. J. Scott Shipman

    Aug 17, 2012 — 1:35 pm

    Hi MAS,

    My last batch was finished today. On the kitchen counter top under a box it only took four days—and made a mess. I had the jars sitting on a towel. Lost one small jar to mold—-first time that has happened.

    I want to do cucumber, but the one batch I made was a failure.

    Many thanks for these posts!


  2. A few years ago when Cook’s Magazine did a piece on chicken paprikash they had the same problems with gritty and unpredictable paprika powders. Their response was to use paprika paste. Something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Univer-Sweet-Paprika-Paste-Pasta/dp/B001MPSR1G (Not that I’ve used that particular paste, it’s just an example).

    Worth a try, perhaps. Good luck!

  3. @Scott – Mold is not a show stopper. Just scrap it off and it should be fine. If you are still concerned, remove the top 1/2 of kimchi and the rest should be fine.

    I did two cucumber ones. It is a very short ferment, which is not ideal for the summer. I’m going to wait until my kitchen is good and cold before I do batch number 3.

    @Eric – I’m relieved to hear that I’m not the only one that has had issues with paprika. I might try that paste.

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