Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: Fermented vegetables
My favorite magazine, Northern Gardener, had an article this month on fermenting. My first thought was of wine then yogurt. Veggies really didn’t pop into my head. But they did in Eric Johnson’s. He’s the author of the article on Fermented vegetables which are, apparently, trending! An overused word for me, but true, nonetheless. Turns out the process is ancient. When freezing and canning techniques took over, fermenting fell by the wayside. But with the probiotic rage going on, fermenting is back.
All you need is salt, your chosen vegetables, a jar or crock and, perhaps a bit of water. He chose cabbage and cucumbers for fermenting. While you don’t need sterile equipment you do need to wash your produce well. The acidity level created by fermentation prevents botulism bacteria from forming. Saurerkraut is the easiest to start with. With a medium head of cabbage and a tablespoon of salt, you can make one quart of kraut.
From Eric Johnson’s article:
- Remove the outer few leaves of the cabbage, reserve one for later and discard the rest.
- Halve, quarter, then core the head. Thinly slice the leaves until very fine.
- Toss the cabbage with a tablespoon of salt and massage the mixture until it gets moist and reduces by about one-third. Cover with a dishtowel and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the brine to form. Massage for one more minute.
- Spoon cabbage into a quart jar, tamping it down with a utensil or the bottom of a drinking glass. Fill to the shoulder point, where the jar begins to slope to the opening.
- Pour the collected brine into the jar. It should cover the cabbage. If it doesn’t, make additional brine (dissolve 1.5 Tbsp of salt in 1 cup water). Fill to just below the rim of the jar.
- Fold the reserved leaf into a square and place on top of the abbae, pressing it down to keep the cabbage below the brine. Rule of thumb with fermenting: “Below the brine, you’re fine”.
- Fill a small juice glass, or any container that will fit in the opening, with water and set on the cabbage leaf, and press down. This will aid in keeping the cabbage below the brine.
- Cover the top with a small towel or napkin. Set the jar in a small pan or pie tin (in case it bubbles over) and out of direct or bright light. Keep the jar where the temperature will remain as constant as possible somewhere between 55 and 75 degrees.
- Allow the cabbage to ferment for 10 days. If scum or slime form, simply scoop it off with a spoon – it’s harmless.
- When you’re sauerkraut is done, it will taste tart and sour, and will be slightly crunchy. Cover and place in the fridge for up to a year.
- Now for brats and ruebens!
More information and recipes below:
Fermenting Vegetables [Food Safety News]
One of the top reasons for fermenting is what is does for your gut, aiding in digestion and intestinal wellness. Another reason is that many say the flavors in fermented vegetables are livelier and more complex. Food scientists know that nutrients not only stay more intact with fermenting than with canning and freezing, they actually increase and are made more accessible for the body to absorb.