Learn How to Ferment Vegetables
One way to make vegetables last longer is to ferment them. This happens when starches and sugars within the vegetables are converted to lactic acid by the friendly bacteria lactobacilli.The action of the bacteria makes the minerals in the cultured food more readily available in the body and produces vitamins and enzymes that are beneficial for digestion.
Fermenting is a great way to store fresh produce and provide good nutrition all year. Most vegetables can be fermented. This can be done with one type of vegetable or you can add varity by including different vegetables or by mixing them with herbs and spices.It's also a great way to use up all those unused vegetables.
This is fun to do even if you don't have your own vegie patch. If you have children it's also a great project to get them involved with. It teaches everyone news skills and there is always a tasty reward at the end.
Let's get started
1. Grab the right equipment
There is not a lot of specialized equipment required for fermenting vegetables but the correct tools can make all the difference when getting started. The things you may need will vary from receipe to receipe but the basics are
2. Prep the Veg
Grating, shredding, chopping, slicing, or leaving whole are all perfectly acceptable ways to prepare the vegetable for fermentation. It is a personal choice, although some vegetables are better suited for leaving whole, while others ferment better when shredded or grated.
As general rules
Grate vegies with a crunch. Grating creates the largest surface area for penetration and therefore allows the quickest culturing time.
Sliced vegetables are usually right in the middle in terms of a culturing time. Softer vegetables should be sliced into thicker pieces to help preserve their shape whilst firm vegetables can get away with being sliced thinly.
Chopped vegetables normally take longer to culture than grated or thinly sliced vegetables.
Most small vegetables, such as beans or raddishes, work best if left whole.
3. Decide if you will use salt or whey to start the fermentation process.
The method chossen can vary depending on the vegetables used, special dietry requirements, personal taste or a recipe prerequisite.
To obtain whey, you can strain yogurt, kefir,or even some types of cheeses.
Choose a sea salt that is is mineral rich rather than a table salt that may contain caking agents and iodine.
Always use water free from chlorine and fluoride for your brine. The basic ratio of salt to water for a brine is 1 tablespoon of salt per 1 cup of water.
4. Submerge over time
Once the vegies have been prepared placed them in a sterilized vessel that is suitable for fermentation. Ensure they are weighed down under the solution then leave them at room temperature in a dry cool place for the duration of the receipe. Fermentation is a continual process and flavors will change over time so it's difficult to know when fermenting has finished when you are first getting started.There are three obvious signs that the fermentation process has at least commenced enough that fermenting vegetables can be moved to cold storage.
The fermentation process creates gases. These gases are often visible as bubbles throughout the jar after a few days at room temperature and are a good sign.
Opening the fermentation vessel after a few days may release a sour, vinegary aroma. The aroma may be smell strong at first but it should still be pleasant.
If it smells spoiled or rotten, discard it. Clean and sterilize the container and try again another day.
Once the vegetable ferment appears bubbly and smells zingy, it's taste time.
Taste vegetables daily until they reach the flavor and texture that you prefer.
Temperature will play a role in how quickly these signs appear, so results may vary from season to season and batch to batch.
Once the the vegetables have finished culturing move them to a fridge for cold storage until devoured.
Exposure to oxygen can encourage and allow mold or yeast growth. If you notice a white layer forming on top of the liquid after a few days this is most likely yeast and is not harmful. If you found a different substance on top of the vegetables—green, black, red, or pink, in raised fuzzy spots this is mold and will become harmful if not removed. If either of these issues develop in your ferment, simply skim it off the surface of the liquid and discard any solid matter that has it attached. If you are uncertain, it is safest to discard everything and start again.
Give the container a moment to air out, then test aroma and flavor on the remaining produce. If it smells ok, taste a little bit. If it tastes ok, it should be fine to consume. A sour aroma is normal, but an unpleasant, spoiled or rotten-food aroma is not. If the vegetables smells or tastes unpleasant to you, discard everything, clean and sterilize the container thoroughly, and try again with a new batch.
To reduce the risk of mold on the next batch, use only fresh produce, practice good hygiene and sterize equipemnt before you use them, use the right amount of salt and try to ferment within a temperature range of 18 - 24 degrees celcius.
Shorten fermetation times in the summer and always keep the produce out of direct sunlight. To reduce the temperature in the summer months you can place your jars in an esky with an ice pack next to but not touching it or sit the jars in a large bowl of water to keep it cooler in the same way. In winter you can warm your produce by placing the jars on top of a running fridge. Expect each batch of fermented vegetables to turn out differently as the above factors will always vary.
Traditional Sauerkraut Receipe
1 Medium Head of Cabbage
1-3 Tbsp. sea salt
Clean. Use warm soapy water to clean your hands and utensils, then rinse of any residue. Sterilize your fermentaion jars hot water and allow them to cool to room temperature. Remove outer layer of cabbage and wash under cold running water.
Cut the cabbage into quaters and trim out the core. Slice each quarter down it's length to makes 8 wedges. Make ribbons by slicing the wedges crosswise as thinly as you can.
Transfer the cabbage to a large mixxing bowl and sprinkle the salt on top.
Pound both ingredients using the muddler for about 10 minutes.
Add the optional Carraway seeds for additional flavour if required. The cabbage should be limp and watery at this stage.
Pack the cabbage into the Fermention jars. Pour any liquid released by the cabbage whisting pounding it, into the jar.
If necessary dissolve 1 teasoon of salt into a cup of water and add the solution to the cabbage to ensure that is submerged by at least 1cm of the salt brine. When filling the jar leave 6.5cm head space to allow for any expansion during the fermentation process.
Weigh the cabbage down with the glass pebbles included Fermenation Jar Set.
Seal the jar with the stainless steel lids and silicone air lock valve. These lids allow carbon dioxide to escape your jar whilst stopping oxygen from contaminating your ferment.
Culture at room temperature and away from direct sunlight for about 2 weeks whilst checking it regularing for any contamination and that the cabbage remains fully submerged.
Once ready move to cold storage.It will keep for at least 2 months and often longer.