Extra thoughts on veg ferments

WHY BOTHER ?

1) For starters, you can actually INCREASE the nutrient value of a food by fermenting it. Saves your money that you would have spent on vitamins.

2) You can also preserve the food. This indeed was the main purpose for our ancestors. And it seems remarkably shelf-stable if done correctly. No third party preservatives necessary. Great way to use up extra veg that may be destined for the bin!

3) It’s a delicious way to get in your veg.

4) It makes your weekly food prep easier. You keep a stash of veg in the fridge that doesn’t really have an end-date (again, as long as it is done correctly). And you add it like a condiment to go with anything you like. Great in salads. Or alongside some saucisson and a piece of cheese (good cheese is also a fermented food, by the way!).

BASIC RECIPE

Based on the dry-salt method from Mr Katz, this is how I’ve been doing it.

Step 1 - Chop or grate your veg

Step 2 - Sprinkle over some quality sea salt

Step 3 - Scrunch up the veg + salt mix with your hands. Really try to bruise it - we’re breaking the plant cell walls.

Step 4 - Leave at room temp for at least an hour to let the juices release.

Step 5 - Pack into jars. Squish veg down until submerged by liquid. If it seems too dry, add some FILTERED, not tap water.

Step 6 - Label and place in a safe place to ferment. How long? Depends on the ambient room temp. Just taste it and you’ll soon figure out what you like. For me, at a temp of 15-20ºC, it takes around 2 weeks to develop any noticeable fermented flavour, which I find only improves after you place in the fridge.

Step 7 - Place the ferments in the fridge. In the fridge, or the fermentation dramatically slows, allowing you to keep it for weeks, even months (mine haven’t survived our appetites that long) without worrying that they will spoil.

Add to meals as condiments.

It’s like a little hit of fibrous, probiotic goodness.

EXTRA TIPS

WATER

Don’t bother using freshly-poured municipal tap water. Try to get filtered water, or filter it at home with charcoal sticks. Chlorine content of regular tap water is so high that it will likely kill off native bacteria that inhabit the veg and render the ferment inert.

SALT

The more salt you add, the more you slow down the fermentation process.

TEMP

The hotter the temperature, the shorter the ferment time needed. They do say that a longer, slower ferment develops better flavour, so see if that’s possible for you - i.e., if you live in a hot climate, find the coolest place in your home that isn’t called a fridge.

JARS

Listen close. 

Here’s a shortcut if I’ve ever seen one.

Whilst you can ferment in almost anything, I this is an easy way to get started. It requires the least effort and fuss imaginable.

See, a few barriers to entry I encountered entering into the fermentation world were 1) the idea of dealing with mold and unwanted bacteria, 2) daily maintenance and effort, and 3) potential for exploding jars.

Mould can develop if oxygen is present. It really puts you off the whole idea. I once threw away an entire jar of delicious-smelling kimchi because I came back from holidays to discover a thick layer of mould on the surface of my exposed-to-air ferment. I didn’t know that you could just scrape it off and that the veg underneath would have been fine, but I would still have been weird about that, especially being the first time trying to ferment my own food. I didn’t want to die of some unknown pathogen in my cabbage.

And you can’t just use any method of blocking off air supply. I found out that fermentation gases build up, so you need to burp the jars to avoid THAT THEY EXPLODE.

SHORTCUT

So here’s the shortcut to remove all three of these barriers.

Buy yourself some Kilner or Le Parfait jars. These jars have a clever design which allows the build up of gases to escape on their own. A one-way valve so to speak. So once you pack the veg mix into the jars, that’s the last time you need to open that sucker until a week or two later when you want to taste the product. The jars also are the perfect thing in which to keep the ferments in the fridge.