Posted 1/16/2015 7:46 PM (GMT -7)
No you do not need any special equipment.
People have been fermenting for centuries. The basic rule is, if it doesn't smell good, don't eat it.
A lot of recipes call for whey or starters. They are not necessary. With good hygiene to start and an understanding that you need more salt for warmer weather, and less for cooler weather, you will quickly learn to find a balance that grows the beneficial organisms. And your vegetables need to be in good shape -- absolutely no rotten bits.
teragram, I am sorry you got ill from your kombucha, but generations of people have been fermenting around the world and reaped its benefits. I would be far more suspicious of commercial products, frankly.
I started with cabbage sauerkraut and found it very easy to do. I had to throw out one batch because the weather got too warm and I didn't check it soon enough. Another time I lost a batch because the cabbage didn't have enough internal water to produce a brine, if I had added some salt water to top it off, it would have been fine. I did just that with the next batch of late season cabbage.
I've had some great success with kimchee, okra, mixed veggies, ginger carrots, and beets. I haven't done well with the cucumbers but I'll work on that next year.
Again, if it doesn't smell good, don't eat it!