Fermentation Controversy


I would like to take a moment to address the controversy that I unwittingly created. I must say upfront I have been rather confounded and surprised at the response that has taken place and how my words have been twisted by some and condemned by others who admit they haven’t even read what I wrote.


The Science

First off, some have asked about my background. I have a background in science, having a bachelors of science in geology and I’m only one class away from two more bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry. I have taken courses in microbiology and cell biology. My dad did fermentation professionally, taught classes and more. I have called on his knowledge more than once.

As far as I am aware, no one being held up as an expert in this situation has a science background. I realize that it will not appeal to everyone, but it is the mindset from which I approached my search for answers- trying to meet tradition and science to explain what happened with my health. When I discuss science in my writings, I have tried to put it in terms that any of my readers could understand. This resulted in me being accused of attempting to insult people’s intelligence. In this post I simply wrote about science in terms that were easy to understand so any reader who was interested could follow along.  It is not my intention to only write to those who are interested in science, but to anyone interested in fermentation.

I have posted about the science behind fermentation and why keeping vegetables under a brine does not make them anaerobic.  Yet in all of this controversy, hardly anyone is addressing or attempting to refute the science in my posts. Those that have haven’t offered proof, just their statements that the studies or information I posted was incorrect but with nothing else to back up their assertion. The science is being ignored and I really hate to see that because I believe science can offer many clues as to why some people heal and some do not, do well and some do not, and some people can get ferments to turn out and some do not. Science won’t hold all of the answers, of course, but it can explain some things and it’s a good place to start when you’re looking for clues.



My motives have been questioned. My motive, simply put, was to figure out why some people, such as myself, don’t heal using mason jar fermentation but do heal once they switch to using a truly anaerobic method.

My intention was to reach those in the community who have not seen health improvements or probiotic responses from mason jar fermenting to let them know this could possibly be the reason why. I’m not trying to dog mason jar fermenting but to let people know that if it isn’t working for them, they might want to consider another option.  

The mason jar and the Pickl-It aren’t in competition with each other.  I outlined the reasons why they are not competitors in this post and again in this post.

Personally, I used mason jar fermenting all through the time I was desperately ill. I saw no strong probiotic response and I had to take both probiotics and digestive enzymes anyway. I didn’t see a change in that situation until I changed to using an anaerobic Harsch crock. That’s when I was able to get off of the enzymes, I saw a probiotic response and I was able to quit taking the extra probiotic pills. I do believe there is a difference in the bacterial types and amounts in the foods fermented in different containers and I’m trying to get to the bottom of what that difference is and why.

Since starting the series, I have had a lot of people contact me to let me know they had the same experience. I’ve also had a number of people come forward who had unknown allergies to mold who were made very ill by open crock and mason jar fermenting. This information needs to be out there so that people who are having problems or aren’t getting good results won’t give up on fermenting but will instead try a different method.

It was NEVER my intention to discourage people from fermenting. My intention was to give a voice to those who haven’t had good results until they changed methods and to reach those who might be in the same situation.  Some people who live in more humid climates or in warmer temperatures consistently have batches fail from mold or slime.  They deserve to know that those problems can largely be solved using an anaerobic fermentation method.  I’ve met many people from the Southeast and the humid portions of the Southwest who had given up on fermenting until they found out why they couldn’t get it to turn out right- they just assumed it was their fault.

If you are convinced mason jar fermentation is for you, go for it; your health is your business. However, if you are concerned about the issues surrounding mold, aerobic bacteria encouraging yeast and candida, you have gut healing to do or you aren’t getting the results you wish from a mason jar, I encourage you to consider other options so that you can receive the wonderful benefits of fermented foods, too.


Want to read more about fermentation, including articles with references and more information on vessel types? See our Related Posts for all of the articles in this series. 

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I'm KerryAnn Foster. I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with my husband, Jeff, and our two kids, a teen and a tween. I blog here at Intentionally Domestic (formerly Cooking Traditional Foods). I blog about Paleo, beauty, health, family, homeschool and lifestyle for women in their 30s and beyond. I have over sixteen years of real food and natural lifestyle and health experience.

I am also an It Works! Global Triple Diamond Independent Distributor. I love that crazy wrap thing! I have been extremely happy with how the It Works Products have tightened up my loose skin and healed my stretch marks after losing 179 pounds and having a 10-pound baby.

Read about my journey to health through celiac disease, PCOS, food allergies, obesity, adrenal fatigue and heavy metals.
Categories : Lactofermentation


  1. Twyla says:

    Soooo many reasons for people to get their knickers in a twist. Yes to the Tolstoy quote. There’s also the reason of money: the anaerobic fermenters are expensive, and a large number of people who ferment are looking to pinch pennies. It’s all wrapped up in their online persona.

    Don’t let it get to you. The Paleo community is also all up in arms over things that shouldn’t really matter too. Something is in the air. There was once a day when people could assimilate information without taking something they disagreed with as a mortal personal insult (even when they knew in their secret heart that the information was correct.) I miss those days.

  2. I echo Twyla’s comment….don’t let it get to you.
    I have so appreciated the time and effort it must have taken to put these posts out…even though much of what you said was Greek to me! (you said enough of it in plain english for me to quite get it, but the scientific stuff is good for those who need that!)
    I have used both methods of fementation and though I have not physically seen a difference, i was also not out to heal my gut. I just wanted the flavors that fermentation offered, and was quite happy with the tastes of my ball jar ferments. I DO own a Pickl-It, and have been using it more of late. Right now there is beet kvass fermenting in it. When it is done, however, I will have to transfer it to a 1/2 gal ball jar so I can begin fermenting sauerkraut in the Pickl-It.
    Doing the best with what we have and can afford is a running theme through what you have written and if folks can’t see that, then well, they are blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other!

    Keep up the good work, KerryAnn!

    In Christ alone,
    Cindy (FarmgirlCyn) recently posted..French Citron pressé (lemonade!)

  3. Sheila says:

    Well said. Thanks for sharing your investigation into this issue with everyone. It’s good to be armed with information, whether we choose to incorporate it in our lives or not. This isn’t a battle; it’s a journey of learning, sharing, and support. Hope you’re able to let all the negativity “roll”. Thanks again!

  4. I admit I don’t know that much about fermentation but I enjoy eating it. I just wanted to say that I think it is sad that people have to attack others with a different opinion. I’ve seen more of this kind of behavior lately and it bothers me that people feel like they need treat others they way they do as soon as someone has a different opinion or way of doing things..
    Jo @ Jo’s Health Corner recently posted..Summer Preparedness Tips

  5. ~Aunt Mae says:

    Any time a “controversial” topic is addressed will be guaranteed to bring out “some” who can not tolerate any position that does not back up what they are doing.

    It is a sad commentary that goes along with out society today. A complete lack of being able to read something, take what you want out of it and leave the rest.

    I for one am VERY GLAD you wrote your article. I didn’t know your background then, but knowing that now makes it even more believable! I had tried the ball jar fermentation and hated having to throw out jars full of moldy stuff. I suspect that some of the ‘slight off’ tastes might also have been due to the unintended air introduced to the fermenting produce.

    I adore my lacto fermented sauerkraut and beets! I am saving my money to get the Pickl-It jars for the ensured safety AND I really did want to heal the family guts.

    Do not be weary in well doing!
    Blessings, ~Aunt Mae
    ~Aunt Mae recently posted..Aunt Mae’s Wild Kingdom!

  6. jan posch says:

    Hi KerryAnn,

    The discussions were interesting to me. Also, I learned more about you. :o) I wish I could afford a Harsh crock to ferment my kefir as I have ulcerative colitis from my Lyme disease. I have a Pickl-it jar (forgive me if I got the name wrong), but it is too big since I am the only one drinking the kefir, so I use a mason jar. I think if our financial situation ever improves I will look into getting a Harsh crock (if I remember haha , dumb ole Lyme brain).

    Thanks for the info.


    • Jan, which size jar did you get? Did you order from here? If you contact Pickl-It, I’m sure they’ll be glad to help you out. They’ve got great customer service and they want their customers to be happy so I’m sure they would make it right.

      You don’t want to get a Harsch for your kefir, they’re really big. You would want to get a 1 or 1.5 Liter Pickl-It for kefirs, depending on how much you make at one time.

  7. Soli says:

    KerryAnn, first, cheers to you for speaking up and out about your experiences. I find it weird that some people were taking it as an attack rather than talking to you directly. Also, I was unaware of your previous science background. I am still something of a science geek and a once wannabe scientist. (Started college as a biochem major but didn’t do well grade-wise.)
    Soli recently posted..Today I will love my body

  8. Angela says:

    Hi KerryAnn,
    Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks again for this series. It’s been really great. It’s good to shake things up and challenge assumptions. I look forward to you printing the whole series up as one PDF. I am still trying to understand all the science that you covered in your series. The one thing I was really confused about is the issue of diffusion. I am still trying to wrap my head around how that is problematic for ferments.

    Looking forward to hearing more and appreciate all your efforts.


    • Angela, we cover diffusion in this post- Basically, as long as there is an air source and air can get in, oxygen continues to get pushed into the brine. It can be enough to encourage the aerobic bacteria responsible for bad outcomes (slime, oxidation, color loss and much more) and to allow mold to grow. There is evidence that the aerobic bacteria can also cause health issues. I’ll be going over the health issues as soon as I’m done pulling that post together, I’m still researching it.

      • Angela says:

        Hi KerryAnn, thanks! I will re-read that post again. I have another question that I have been wondering about. If the ideal temp for fermentation is 68-72 then why do you recommend only fermenting at that those temps for 8-10 days and then moving to the fridge (for 10-12 weeks) which is well below that (at 38 degrees) and therefore the fermentation is moving at very slow pace. I thought you were supposed to ferment on the counter for the whole time until you were ready to eat it.

        • Angela, those recommendations are specific to kraut. It has to do with the stages of fermentation- kraut takes longer than other ferments to go through all four stages. In the first stage, it is done best at 2% salinity and 68-72 degrees. This sets up the long-term stability of the ferment because it sets the stage to kill off the dangerous bacteria such as botulism. It also sets the stage by dropping the pH and using up the oxygen in order to allow the LABs to outcompete the oxygen-loving bacteria.

          Next, lower temps (50 or below) are better for the LABs to have time to neutralize antihistamines and other anti-nutrients while setting the stage for a certain flavor profile. The LABs also use up the available Vitamin C in this stage.

          Finally, around the seven week mark you see the bacteria begin to re-infuse the brine with Vitamin C and other nutrients.

          If it tastes anything like cabbage and not completely kraut, it isn’t done yet. Put it back in the fridge and wait.
          KerryAnn Foster recently posted..Pickl-It: Invest a Little, Save a Lot

          • Angela says:

            Okay, thanks. Very helpful. And does the kraut still need to be under the brine? If so, is it okay to open it to push it down?

          • Yes, keep it under the brine because even though you don’t have the mold issue, the good bacteria can’t get to it to eat the sugars and starches out of the veggies if they aren’t under the brine. Do open it to repack if needed, but the glass disc along with criss-crossing carrots goes a long way towards it not being a problem. You’ll see that in Friday’s video.
            KerryAnn Foster recently posted..Pickl-It: Invest a Little, Save a Lot

  9. lydia says:

    Thanks for this post! I had no idea you had a science background – very good to know! I’ll admit when your first posts came out I struggled because I felt like mason jar ferments had no value. I almost wanted to stop. BUT, what your post did do was cause me to start to investigate more. I am still looking into it all, and have not bailed on my mason jar ferments as of now, but I definitely want to know more. If I am teaching others how to do, it would be best if I know more definitively about the subject. I think it’s overwhelming to hear at first for most people that have been doing it in mason jars – it’s a frustrating road trying to transform your whole food paradigm into real traditional foods for many and I think finding out that your ferments are not really doing their job hits people hard. I know it did for me – but knowledge is power. So I say all that to say, I get the frustrations people must feel in learning this information that you have been sharing. That said, I am sorry it has turned into a backlash on you. You have been very informative and taken great amounts of time to share what you have learned. So thank you for bringing this to all of our attention – I hope more of us will take the time to do more thorough research on these matters. Have you linked that awesome expensive book on fermentation at all on here or any of your other posts? That could be a helpful resource for people.

    Would you consider doing a post on how to begin with the Pickl-it – for example since they are so expensive, which should people start with for what ferments and how to rotate their use so you can do more than one item. I know the mason jar allows far more varieties going at one time because they are so affordable.

    I for one have wanted a picklit just for my beet kvass!
    lydia recently posted..Probiotic Smoothie

    • Lydia, I have sounds several books online for free or portions of them for free and I’ll be linking to them in an upcoming post. I’m having people complain in both directions- some say it’s not enough science, others say it’s too much. So I’m trying to find a way to make the majority of my readers happy.

      I’ve got some more videos coming on the topic. I hope to have the next one out end of this week. That will demonstrate the details of how to use it and how to handle the rotation and storage.
      KerryAnn Foster recently posted..On Mothers, Generations and Loss

  10. gloria says:

    Kerry I appreciate you sharing the above information, it give and individual more options if like you, they feel that they are not getting much benefit the foods they are fermenting. You would think that people would be receptive to this type of information but they are not “why?” because it isn’t what they want to hear after they bought 3 dozen mason jars and they don’t like to think that the fermenting they have been doing for the past whatever months might not be all that beneficial. Because they don’t want to give what you have shared any type of thought the next thing is to bully you and ask about your qualification. I have had this experience on more than one occasion. I earned 3 degrees and trust me it is never enough if the individual doesn’t want to hear what your are sharing and if they are someone who has been to more than a dozen doctors, they figure if I can’t trust my doctor then why would I listen to this women if she does have a degree. This is the world we live in today as you know, so I just don’t bother responding to negative or accusatory comments. I will site reference for those who kindly ask questions. I appreciate your article and all the time you put into your work, educating and giving to others. Thank you

  11. Leola says:

    I understood immediately that you were writing to people who needed more healing, KerryAnn, and were not telling people that the way they were fermenting was necessarily wrong. I thoroughly appreciate your contribution and knowledge to helping others heal and feel better.

    Leola recently posted..Planting My Stack and Grow

  12. Lisa says:

    I, also, am extremely grateful for all of the hard work you put into the posts on Pickl-It vs mason jar ferments. We are on the GAPS Diet to help my husband and son heal. It is EXPENSIVE to eat this way and a lot of work! But, of course it is worth it for their health. I am already spending a lot of time and money on our food so if I can maximize the health benefits of our ferments, you bet I’m going to spend a few extra dollars on Pickl-It jars! I already had 3 of them and hope to get a few more now that I know what a difference they make in the amount of LAB. And compared to other, high quality jars of this type (without the air lock) the price is reasonable.

    By the way, I’ve been wanting to ask if you’ve ever considered writing menu plans for the GAPS Diet. I used your menu mailer before we started GAPS and I loved the layout and that your weekly menu fit within our grocery budget. There are other GAPS menu planners out there but their layout isn’t as nice as yours and they tend to use a lot of expensive ingredients on a regular basis.

  13. Lisa says:

    Almost forgot– did you ever write a post on the pros and cons of adding whey to ferments? I’m not sure how to make fermented mayo, ketchup, and mustard without it.

  14. lydia says:

    Okay – so get this, my brother works in a lab that tests restaurants and food based operations equipment for bacteria, mold, yeast etc.. (anything with a food type machine like a soda machine, etc…) and he is gonna test my mason jar ferments for the presence of Yeast, Mold, and just a standard check of how much bacteria is in the sample, a few varieties of strains that they commonly test for and any ecoli etc…. How cool is that?!! I’ll be doing a post on the results as soon as I get it done!

    I’m excited and slightly nervous as well to see the results, but this could be very telling……….
    lydia recently posted..How To Ditch Processed Foods: Choosing Healthy Meat, Dairy & Seafood

    • Cool. You’ll be interested to know that the Pickl-It meets food safety criteria for use in restaurants and other applications where test results and food safety inspections are required from pH, bacteria counts, no yeast or mold and the like. They have many clients in the restaurant business, among other areas.
      KerryAnn Foster recently posted..Pickl-It: Invest a Little, Save a Lot

  15. cj says:

    I truly appreciate the work you have put into this topic. And perfect timing for me! I was about to order a different pickler because I didn’t want another huge Harsch. I have ordered my new Pickl-its. I don’t need numbers. Any mold of any percent is more than what I want in my body. And I don’t want just a ferment with perhaps a few LABS….I want a powerhouse jar full of LABS and an empty space on the supplement shelf. It costs to get the most nutritional food to put in the jars…I don’t want to lessen the quality by not getting the most from the ferment or far worse…by introducing mold of ANY percent. That would be a waste of money and time for me.

  16. Joyce says:

    Kerry Ann,

    I was so glad to be led to your post through a link in the GAPS Yahoo Group. I have a severe mold allergy; so bad it causes neurological symptoms (and this is from inhaled mold, not even ingested mold.) Last summer I made some Beet Kvass (warm, humid VA) and I saw mold growing on top, so I emailed a Weston A Price award winning blogger to ask her if it was OK to remove the mold and drink the Kvass. She said that she thought that that would be fine–that’s what most people would do. So, I removed the mold and drank the Kvass that summer.

    In retrospect, I am horrified to think about all the mold I must have ingested, because I did not realize that it has invisible tentacles that grow all through out the food. Your blog verbalized really important information for people like me who are ill and have a known severe mold allergy. I called Kathleen the next day and ordered 6 Pickl-It Jars.

    Information is power. I have been trying for so long to heal myself after many years of chronic steroid & antibiotic use (due to asthma & bronchitis) which eventually led to severe adrenal fatigue. I saw no improvement in health whatsoever with the lactoferments that I made and probably made my health even worse.

    Keep up all your good work and know that your are helping people who are truly ill.


  17. Naomi says:

    I went out on bought Pikl-it jars based on your recommendation from an earlier post. I have been very pleased to see the quality of my ferments increase which makes fermentation more fun. I was a lot more happier after switching. I don’t think the cost is worth mentioning. Buy one at a time…for me, it was worth it.


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