Fermented Vegetable Terminology from A to Z

Fermenting vegetables is a simple way to preserve food with just a handful of ingredients! We've compiled a list of commonly-used vegetable fermentation terms to help guide you through your fermentation journey. Remember: You can do this!

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A device used in fermentation which attaches to the lid of the fermentation vessel being used. An airlock is designed to allow fermentation gasses to escape while keeping any foreign bacteria or oxygen out of the vessel.

LEARN MORE: Choosing the Right Fermentation Supplies



A salt and water solution used to ferment vegetables. The average brine calls for 1-3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water, depending on the temperature at which you are fermenting and the vegetable you are fermenting. The recipe should tell you the correct proportions for your application.

Brined Pickles

These are fermented vegetables which are fermented in a brine of salt and water. Vegetables can be pickled whole (cucumbers to make Kosher Dill Pickles) or chopped into large pieces (carrot sticks, radishes).

LEARN MORE: How to Prepare your Vegetables for Fermentation.


Cold Storage

The long-term storage place or time period called for in many lacto-fermented vegetable recipes. The options for cold storage can include refrigeration, storage in a cool root cellar or basement, or storage in an unheated room during cooler weather.

LEARN MORE: How to Know Your Vegetables Are Ready for Cold Storage


A  vessel used in making fermented vegetables. Some old crocks come without lids while others are designed with airlocked lids, or with a combination of a water seal and a lid for ease of fermentation.

Culture Starter

An ingredient sometimes used in fermenting vegetables which lends specific bacteria strains to the fermentation process. While the inclusion of culture starters does allow for more control, they are not necessary for proper fermentation.



Natural chemicals produced by microorganisms found in fermented foods that work to break down starches and proteins. Enzymes are present in the final fermented vegetable and are said to have many health benefits.


Fermentation Period

The period of active fermentation generally involving a period of several days to several months. This is usually done at 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit and precedes the cold storage period.

GET MORE DETAILS: How Time & Temperature Affect Vegetable Fermentation

download our lacto-frementation guide and recipe books

Fermentation Weight

An object often called for in fermented vegetable recipes for weighing the vegetables down below the level of the brine. These can be made of glass or ceramic or can be vegetables like heavy cabbage leaves or root vegetable slices.

LEARN MORE: How to Keep Fermenting Vegetables Submerged Under Brine


Harmful Mold

This is a type of mold to watch out for in fermented vegetables. Harmful molds are often colorful (black, blue, green, or red). They also often produce unpleasant odors and flavors. As such, any fermented vegetable with harmful molds should be discarded.

LEARN MORE: Dealing with Mold on Fermented Vegetables


Kahm Yeast

A common white yeast that forms on the surface of fermented foods. This is described as a non-harmful yeast and can be removed from the surface of the brine so long as it has not rooted deeply into the brine.


Lactic Acid

The organic acid produced by the lactobacilli or lactic acid bacteria. This is the primary acid produced in the process of fermenting vegetables and works to substantially lower the pH of the brine.


The primary fermentative bacteria present during lactic acid fermentation. This is the bacteria responsible for the proliferation of lactic acid which is one of the primary organic acids that work to acidify, and therefore preserve, the vegetables.


Also known as lactic acid fermentation, this is the process by which vegetables are pickled through the proliferation of lactic acid bacteria and the production of lactic acid. During the process the bacteria are multiplied as well as the acids, lowering the pH thereby preserving the vegetables.

LEARN MORE: BustingLacto-Fermentation Myths



An organism so small it can only be seen using a special device such as a microscope. In fermentation, several microorganisms are present such as bacteria, yeasts, and in some cases molds.



Often referred to as a kraut pounder, these are wooden utensils designed to break down the vegetable fibers of self-brining shredded vegetables such as cabbage. Potato mashers are also often employed, though pounders specifically designed for fermented vegetables have the advantage of fitting within the mouth of the fermentation vessel for packing down the vegetables.

LEARN MORE: Choosing the Right Fermentation Supplies



A primary ingredient in lacto-fermented vegetables. Works to preserve the texture and flavor of vegetables, slow down the fermentation process, and create a better pickle with a longer shelf life.

READ ONHow Much Salt?

Self-Brining Pickles

Fermented vegetables made from shredded vegetables mixed with salt. These sauerkrauts and kimchis tend to make most of their own brine, with some additional brine called for only in the case that the vegetables themselves did not contain enough moisture.



The byproduct of straining cultured dairy products such as yogurt or kefir. This transparent liquid contains lactobacilli and other bacteria and yeast strains specific to the cultured dairy product. It is often used as a culture starter in vegetable fermentation, though it is not necessary for successful fermentation.


Fermented foods are not only full of probiotic goodness, they connect us with traditions from the past, and getting started is easier than you think! From crocks to airlocks to DIY kits we have all the supplies you need to get started!

Happy Fermenting!