Simple Steps to Fermenting Vegetables
I honestly have no idea what I did before I discovered fermented foods. They are such a staple in my diet, I cannot imagine excluding them!
Fermented vegetables are the product of lacto-fermentation which is simply a method of food preservation that actually increases the nutrients within that food. Cool huh?
The creation of the bacteria results in the minerals inside fermented foods becoming more bio-available to the human body, and on top of that the bacteria produces enzymes that aid digestion.
Told you it's cool.
And the best part? You can ferment almost any vegetable you like - you are not limited to cabbage Kraut! (although I do love a good simple kraut!).
There are of course some important things to remember when fermenting (we are growing bacteria after all), so here are my how to steps to fermentation…
HOW TO GET FERMENTING
Many people have told me they can’t make their own ferments because they don’t have all the equipment. It’s just not true.
You actually don’t really need any SPECIAL equipment, you can ferment with just a large glass jar and something to place inside to act as a weight.
That being said, switching from using jars to using a specialised fermentation crock has been the best investment. After weighing the options up for a while I choose this gorgeous Sandstone Ceramic crock from Kinfolk & Co. and it is worth every penny. Other good options I know people use are Mad Millie and the Durand crocks from Green Living Au.
Whatever you use, it is super important to make sure ALL equipment is sterilised completely. We are essentially growing bacteria, so need to start from a clean sterile environment. Hot hot water, or a super hot rinse in the dishwasher usually works well.
You can grate, shred, chop, slice and even leave whole - how you prepare is your choice in the end. Remember that the more water in a vegetable the more it will shrink in size as you ferment. I cut my cabbage thicker initially so it reaches a nice size post ferment, especially for wombok in Kimchi recipes.
You do not have to use salt - you can use a starter culture or even whey. I prefer salt personally, and find it the easiest as I always have it on hand.
Make sure you are using a quality salt here. Sea salt works well for almost all recipes and is generally my go to. I often make a mixture of celtic sea salt and another profile of sea salt to further enhance the mineral profiles of my salt.
Himalayan salt, and kosher salt can both also work well. Do not use iodized table salt, the iodine inhibits the bacterial growth.
Weigh & Walk Away
As important as starting with sterilised equipment, is ensuring you leave your ferment to do its thang in an anaerobic environment. (That means without AIR).
This is why we pack the ferment tightly into the container ensuring the brine (liquid) covers all the vegetables and there are no air pockets. Most recipes call for a spare outer cabbage leaf to use to seal over the top of the vegetables and then a weight to be placed on top to keep the pressure down, before sealing the container. This is where crocks are so great, as they all generally come with the perfect sized weights.
Once packed with out air, weighed down, and sealed - you just put away and LEAVE. Your ferment needs TIME to do its thing, most need a week or more.
Ready to eat
Once your ferment is ready to eat, remove the weights and extra cabbage leaves and place in the fridge to cool before eating.
So, when is it ready?
The longer you leave the bacteria to do it job, the more the flavour profile will change. Temperature in your house will have an impact, so depending on your climate and the season you are in the length of your ferments may change. In my sub tropical climate, I ferment about 30% of the time less in Winter than I would in Summer.
My best guide to when it is ready can be opening the jar and smelling! It should release a strong aroma but one that it pleasant - I believe the body knows. If for any reason it smells rotten, or like off food then something has likely gone wrong - I would throw it away.
I share more about ferments and the flavours I am creating over on Instagram, if you haven’t joined me there come on over...and please tag me if you start fermenting I would love to see your creations