Fermenting Foods Part 1

05 Oct 2012

Posted by karen
karen's picture

Fermentation - Part 1 

This summer a few readers asked about fermented foods. My apologies for such a tardy response (you know who you are), and you have every right if you toast me forever as a reliable source for anything!
Now get to it.
The fermenting process is one I enjoy dabbling with: mostly yogurt and sauerkraut. This summer I tried a new experiment: lacto-fermenting veggies, using produce from my first-year fledging garden.
Credits for the instructions go to Whole Life Nutrition, a source I am grateful to for their inspiration to have fun "playing around" with different tastes, using what you have available.

What You Will Need:

- glass quart jar with a plastic lid
- salt brine - with a ratio of 1-1.5 Tbsp. sea salt to 2 cups water (filtered water is recommended - chlorine can inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria, not to mention it's not particularly healthy for us) 
- chopped raw organic vegetables: e.g. cauliflower, beets, bell peppers, turnips, broccoli, onions, green beans, garlic, etc. 
- cabbage leaves (for the top)
- combination of herbs and spices: e.g. dried chili peppers, black peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh dill or tarragon
- salt brine using this ratio: 1 - 1.5 Tbsp. sea salt dissolved in 2 cups water

What to Do: 

- put your combination of vegetables into a glass jar (or a ceramic crock if you're so lucky to have one) 
- add a few layers of herbs and spices. Tip: if using peppercorns put them at the bottom of the jar so they don't float to the top. 
- leave about an inch at the top of the jar
- cover with the salt brine, leaving about 1/2 inch where you place a folded cabbage leaf and press into the brine. This helps keep the vegetables fully submerged with the water floating on the top.
- cover with a plastic lid (metal ones can become corroded by the salt and acids)
- screw the lid on - not too tight, to leave space for gasses to release
- place jars in a rectangular container to catch any drips that might happen and set in an undisturbed spot on your kitchen counter - out of direct sunlight

Wait and taste:

- after 5 days, taste your veggies to see how soured they are - you'll probably want to leave them more like 7 or 8. Fermenting takes longer in the cooler months, less time in the summer.
- total sitting time is according to your taste - there's no set, scientific formula when working with fermented foods
- once the veggies are soured, remove the cabbage leaf and store jar(s) in the refrigerator - where your fermented veggies will keep for months.

My version:

I made the following two combinations: each one was a 2-litre jar.
1 Tbsp peppercorns
few garlic cloves
sprigs of fresh dill
green pepper
salt brine
1 Tbsp peppercorns
summer turnip
green beans
garlic cloves
tarragon leaves
salt brine
Each jar sat on the cupboard for 8 days. 
Initially I didn't care for the turnip combination: I think because the tarragon flavour over-powered the summer turnip, which has a milder flavour than the winter variety. However, after sitting in the fridge for a few weeks, I'm liking it more.
I still prefer the beets one the best, although I would add more garlic and some hot peppers next time.
Will I dabble around with this more? Definitely. I'll try different combinations, probably add more garlic, choose my herbs carefully and cut the veggies smaller - small-diced, not chunky like in the picture.
These lacto-fermented veggies are handy additions to a salad, or mixed with grains and greens, or whatever way suits your eating fancy.
And oh yes: fermented foods are healthy for your inner "ecosystem". Improve digestion, stimulate the liver, and help control sugar cravings.
My next fermenting schedule is making kimchi and a kraut using cabbage and other vegetables that are ground or finely sliced.
To be continued .... Fermentation Part 2 -  I promise.


Cindy's picture

I did make huge jar of kimchi and it was awesome! I can't wait to try the beets. We have huge beets in Costa Rica! Thanks, Karen!

karen's picture

Yahoo for your kimchi. You probably grow hot peppers too (besides enormous beets:) which could be good additions to both the kimchi and the fermented beets. 

Lori Chandler's picture

Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm quite excited to get a few new ferments working with the last of our summer harvest (I live in Oregon, so our growing season is quite a bit different than yours, and we are having an unusually warm and dry year this time around.) I have a ton of green tomatoes that I think would make a really interesting ferment.
I recently started fermenting my own ginger ale, for use as a carrier for bitter tinctures, and I am so pleased with the taste of the homemade stuff, I don't know if I could go back to store-bought. (Not to mention the control over ingredients, which I think is so important.)

karen's picture

I've been thinking about fermenting ginger ale. Did you use water kefir grains to start it? I have some of those in my fridge - I agree about the ingredients control part. Thanks to a kindred spirit giving me a SCOBY last spring, I've been able to make kombucha; a batch is ready for bottling this morning. So good... When it comes to the food and drink I consume, I'm pretty much a control freak too :)Thanks for stopping by - and thanks for your patience. 

Lori Chandler's picture

I use leftover whey from making paneer. (A treat we make about once every 60 days...) I just save the whey and freeze it in ice cube trays & take out as many cubes as I need. I've heard before that you can use water kefir grains to innoculate ginger ale, which sounds interesting. I've also read that you can make your own starter by culturing ginger and sugar in water in a warm dark location, almost like a sourdough culture, though I haven't tried it.

karen's picture

What kind of milk do you use to make your paneer? I've made soft cheese once - for my first time the texture was okay, but I'd like to try it again. It tasted delicious, though. I was able to use some milk from a farmer friend. I make my own yogurt so could probably use the whey from that for some ginger ale. Some day I'll have to experiment a bit with the ginger ale thing.

Lori Chandler's picture

I use 1 gallon of whole milk and a half gallon of buttermilk. (the whole milk is brought to a boil and then the buttermilk is added to curdle the whole milk.) I learned from my husband, he used to live in a Hare Krishna Temple and he worked in the kitchen.
I would like to try using raw milk, just to see if there is a difference in the finished product.
Now that I've made a few batches of the whey innoculated version, I plan to try using the actual ginger ale to innoculate the next batch, just to see how it compares.

karen's picture

Sounds fascinating - keep me posted!

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Nina's picture

I have beets and will start them fermenting this weekend. I'm looking forward to your kimchi recipe. I have tried to make it a few times and it came out extremely strong. My husband and sister in law gobbled it up, but it was a bit much for me. Thank you as always for the inspiration.

karen's picture

When you say your kimchi was strong - do you mean very sour or too spicy or.....? The recipe I make (from the link in the post)  is quite forgiving - especially when it comes to the hot stuff. Whatever ingredients you use in your next I hope it turns out to your liking so you can gobble it up like the others :)

Kika's picture

Interview between Dr.Mercola and Caroline Berringer about fermented foods. Long but interesting to me.

karen's picture

Thanks for sending me this link. Did it inspire you to try making some fermented foods? 

Kika's picture

It inspired me to EAT more fermented foods:) I do want to try my own fermenting too but since I also wanted to begin sprouting I decided to choose one thing at at time (sprouting won). The talk made me feel more confident about fermenting when the time comes and had a tip about covering the fermented foods with one big cabbage leaf in order to keep them submersed in the liquid.

karen's picture

The tip about the cabbage leaf on the top works so well. I have bought my cabbage and am ready to make sauerkraut this weekend. It won't have a really tangy flavour in time for Christmas but will be okay, nonetheless. How's the sprouting going?

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