Getting all the health benefits of fermented or cultured vegetables doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune at the delicatessen. Try fermenting your own vegetables at home. Here are some of the basics:
You need the right equipment
There’s not much to it, but the equipment you use will make a difference to the end result. First and foremost, you need a good, sharp knife for chopping your ingredients. It’s always nice to have a really good knife in the kitchen, so spoil yourself.
Now for the most important part: you need a proper fermentation vessel. This would usually be a stoneware crock or a special fermentation jar, and there are some beautiful ones available. There are also several, more modern versions of the traditional pickling crock.
You need to weigh the veggies down so that they don’t float to the surface. Consider getting a crock with a customized pickling weight to make the job easy.
Choose and prepare your veggies
Choose organic vegetables to ensure that your ferment will be healthy and residue-free. You want to get your vegetables as clean as possible before pickling. How you chop them up depends on the type of pickle you are making. For example, carrots can be pickled whole, chopped or grated.
Prepare your brine
Obviously, you need the cleanest water you can get and salt. Depending on the recipe you’re following, you will use salt only or a starter culture or whey.
The salt that you choose for your culture is very important. The less processed it is, the better, and if you use mineral-rich salts like Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt, you add extra minerals to the nutritional value of your pickle. Your bacteria don’t like iodine, so avoid iodized salt and also check the label to ensure that there are no anti-caking agents.
Your water must be free from bacteria and added chemicals. Distilled water is best. If you choose bottled water, check the source.
Salt only fermentation works, but if you use a starter, you will get much faster results. You can use strained, fresh whey or you can use some brine from a previous batch to get things going. Adding some kefir or kombucha to the mixture is another easy option. You can buy freeze dried starter cultures too.
Weigh it all down
You don’t want to encourage the development of aerobic bacteria (bacteria that use oxygen), so all your vegetables have to remain beneath the surface of the brine during fermentation. This is where your pickling weight comes in handy.
Check to see when the ferment is ready
When your brew begins to form bubbles, you know that the bacteria are hard at work. Check the smell of your culture. It should begin to smell sour, yet pleasant. If it’s stinky, you have contamination with bad bacteria and need to throw everything out and start again from scratch. Big pieces of vegetable will take longer to get the deliciously tangy flavor that tells you they’re ready for storage while more finely cut combinations are ready sooner. Taste your veggies daily to determine when they’re ready for storage.
Store it away
Now all you need to do is bottle your produce and store it in the fridge. Enjoy!
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