Cultured Guru American White Oak Barrels | Why We Ferment Vegetables in Oak Barrels | Fermenting Vegetables in Wood Barrels
What I can tell you about our barrels
Why do you ferment in oak barrels?
The reason we chose to ferment in oak barrels is complex. So I'll break it up into a few points of reasoning.
First is the fact that we wanted the material of our fermentation vessels to be as natural as possible. Wood barrels have been used in fermentation practices for centuries. Wood barrels are historically used in the fermenting of beer, cheese, tempeh, tamari, soy sauce, and the list goes on. In European countries, helping grandma to make sauerkraut in a wooden barrel located in the basement is a common past time. The challenge for us was innovating ways to utilize oak barrels in a new era of food manufacturing, in a sanitary way that checks all the boxes for the FDA and Louisiana DHH.
Plastic and metal are a no-go for our fermentation process. Plastic drums would have been the cheapest option for fermenting large batches, but plastic degrades over time in the presence of lactic acid (which is very abundant in fermented vegetables). Since we don’t want to feed people plastic chemicals, that was out of the question. Stainless steel fermenting tanks, like what you would find in a beer brewery, could be an option for fermented vegetables. However, tanks like that are extremely expensive and do not work with our small batch way of fermenting.
Microbial communities thrive in wood. Our barrels are custom made new for us. When we ferment the first batch of fermented vegetables in each barrel, the wood becomes colonized with good bacteria. With each batch the microbial community within the wood gets better and better. Being a microbiologist, I have the skillset necessary to ensure that a proper balance within the microbial community is maintained.
So basically, wooden barrels were the only thing that checked all of our boxes: Natural, large enough, great for the microbes, and beautiful!
Does the wood change the flavor of the vegetables?
The first batch in a brand new barrel is SO freaking delicious. The flavor is just ever so slightly oaky. Other than that though, it’s more of the fermented vegetables adding smells and flavors to the wood, not vice versa.
How long do the barrels last?
Our barrels get better with age. With proper care they can last for 10+ years. Instead of depreciating in value, they increase in value with every batch.
How big are your barrels and how much do they weigh?
We use 30 gallon barrels, and we are in the process of having 55 gallon barrels made. Empty they weigh about 75 pounds. When full they weigh around 300.
Can you use old wine or whiskey barrels?
We do not reuse old barrels. I prefer to colonize fresh, new barrels with bacteria from our vegetable fermentation batches only.
Can you provide resources (books, published papers, youtube videos) on learning how to ferment vegetables in barrels?
Unfortunately, no. These resources do not exist, or they are hard to come by. I combined my education in microbiology with my spirit of innovation and problem solving to create our oak barrel vegetable fermentation process. There may be old resources in other languages on the subject, but we did not use them.
what I won’t tell you about our barrels…
Who makes your barrels/where are they from?
I created custom made specifications for barrels to be made specifically for vegetables instead of beverages. I have made the difficult decision to not share information about who makes our barrels… I spent months researching, innovating and finding a way to make these barrels possible. I hope you all can understand that I do not wish to give away my time and hard earned, researched information for free.
How do you clean them?
I studied microbes in college…for five years. I know quite a bit about microbial living parameters. So I invented a proprietary barrel care routine to maintain a perfect bacterial population within the wood.
What kind of barrel care do you perform?
see answer to previous question.
Aren’t barrels unsanitary? How do you deal with yeast/fungi growth?
We’ve been inspected and permitted by DHH and the FDA. They’re fine with our process and our barrels. Barrels are more sanitary than plastic or metal if you understand microbiology, which I do. 🤷🏼♀️
We deal with yeast or fungi growth by preventing yeast and fungi growth.
How much do the barrels cost?
They are an investment, and they’re worth it. That’s all.
Can you help me use oak barrels for my fermentation business?
We do not currently offer business consulting. We may in the future.