I use the starter cultures (powder in packets) I ordered from Body Ecology just to ensure a good batch, but I've heard you can use whey (probably from fresh kefir if you're making it), or nothing at all, but I think in that case you definitely need salt and relatively sterile conditions. I've been doing it maybe 6 or 8 months and so far they've turned out fabulous. FYI -if you use their starters - I think you can cut down on how much you put in - I use 2 packs for about 7 quarts of veggies, and I could probably get away with less. I use a large German crock I got special for that purpose that has weighting stones inside and a "vent" system that lets gasses out but no 02 in. A lot of people use quart mason jars. I think the trick is just to make sure the vegetables stay under a layer of liquid as they're fermenting, and keep the lid on, but in that case you would have to vent it yourself occasionally. Make sure you puree enough of the veggies with purified water so that you get some smushy stuff to mix it all up with and there's an inch or so of liquid at the top. If you use mason jars with no weighting stones inside, I think you need to use a large cabbage leaf or something to keep the veggies shoved down as they ferment. My favorite combination so far: Lotsa beets, cabbage, carrot, good size hunk of fresh grated ginger, granny smith apple, red bell pepper, no salt. I let it go for about a week. good luck!