Fermentation Experimentation

Last week there was an article in the Star Tribune Taste Section about fermentation called “Take your veggies to funkytown.” It includes a recipe for sauerkraut as well as one for pickled carrots. Why ferment?  Fermented foods are good for your gut, they are nutrient dense and those nutrients are more available to you after they’ve been fermented, and finally, they add flavor complexity and variety to your diet.  The brine from your veggies can even be added to soups and sauces!

FermentationI’ve recently begun experimenting with fermenting my own veggies.  So far I’ve pickled whole radishes, shredded beets and this morning I started a batch of shredded sweet potatoes. For those of you who might be intimidated by the process, let me assure you that it is incredibly easy, especially if you invest in a few time saving, specialized pieces of equipment. You can buy a starter kit for just over $21 that even includes the salt. You supply the veggies and the mason jar.

The process is simple with these kits:

  • Starting with any veggie or combo of veggies you like (with or without any additional flavorings like herbs) chop, dice, slice your veggies in whatever format you like and pack them into a mason jar so your veggies fill nearly to the top.
  • Mix up some salt water (this is the only tricky part especially if you don’t like salt). There are lots of recipes on-line you can follow for how much salt to use, but I just add some (1/2-1 tsp) salt to a couple cups of water and taste, adding more salt or water until it is as salty as I like and then pouring over the veggies. If you don’t get it salty enough, your veggies will not ferment.  If you get it too salty, you will have overly salty veggies. Don’t get too worried as there’s a pretty big margin for error here. If you didn’t buy a kit with the salt included, make sure you buy a high quality salt like a Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt.  Yes, this matters.  Don’t use Morton’s or any other iodized salt!
  • Once you have your veggies completely submerged in salt water, add your glass weight to make sure they stay under the brine and place the lid on your jar followed by the airlock filled partially with water.
  • Place your jar in a shallow dish in case it leaks (they tend to do this), then you can leave your jar on the counter or put it away in a cupboard and forget it for a week.  After a week, start tasting. When I fermented whole radishes, I left it for at least two weeks. When your veggies are cut into smaller pieces or are a softer veggies like green beens, they ferment faster. When they are fermented to your liking, place them in the refrigerator.  The cold will stop them from fermenting any further.
  • Then eat them right out of the jar or add them to salads, sandwiches, soups…!

Happy fermenting!