How to ferment vegetables

So, I ferment my roots. And I activate my nuts.And my guts love me for it. If there is one kooky, “witchy” thing you should try right now, it’s fermenting, or pickling. I’ve been playing around for a few months, making sauerkraut, pickled daikon, and the most lush beetroot relish. I eat a tablespoon or two with as many meals as I can…see some of my suggestions below…and I’ve noticed a tangible benefit with my digestion. Which, for those of you who are interested to know, is crap.

Homemade sauerkraut

  • 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 tbls caraway seeds
  • 1 tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if you don’t have whey, use an extra tbls of salt instead)

Mix all ingredients in a sturdy bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer or just squeeze with your hands (this is actually very soothing and meditative) for about 10 minutes to release juices. This takes a little work and some patience. Spoon into a mason jar and using the pounder or meat hammer press down until juices come to the top of the cabbage and cover it. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

What I learned the hard way:

I had a few dire experiments with the process. Learn from me and stick to these tips:

* using whey will result in consistently successful results, although you can do it with just salt.

* use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and water. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients and if you use old, dodgy, chemical-laden stuff, it just won’t do it’s thing.

* make sure you get a good centimetre of juices sitting above the veggies…otherwise mould grows, ruining the whole lot. Tho’, says Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions: “Some lacto-fermented products may get bubbly, particularly the chutneys. This is natural and no cause for concern. And do not be dismayed if little spots of white foam appear at the top of the pickling liquid. They are completely harmless and can be lifted off with a spoon. The occasional batch that goes bad presents no danger–the smell will be so awful that nothing could persuade you to eat it.”

If I don’t extract enough liquid I add a small amount of water with a pinch of salt dissolved in it.

Note: for some veggies, you don’t actually pound the mixture and instead a brine is added (salt and water). Check out the links below for these recipes.

* close the jars very tightly. Says Sally: “Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process and the presence of oxygen, once fermentation has begun, will ruin the final product.” That is, don’t open it while it’s sitting for it’s three days.

* scald all equipment you will use with boiling water to sterilize it before you begin.

Extra stuff:

* Yeah you can buy sauerkraut and kimchi in the shops…but look at the ingredients first. They often contain sugar and vinegar which produce a product that is more acidic, and some are often pasteurized, which kills the lactic-acid-producing bacteria, which defeats the whole damn purpose.

* Most recipes ask for the final product to be stored in a cool cellar. Don’t have one, or live in a hot climate? The top shelf of the fridge is fine.

* Fermented veggies improve with age…I have several jars in the fridge and as one runs out, make another couple of batches.

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