You might not believe it, but years ago, my parents used to ferment like crazy. The pantry was filled with jars of various vegetables and fruit and they even made their own sourdough bread. But wait, what is fermented food?
Fermentation is a natural process in which microorganisms (like fungi, yeasts and bacteria) are used to make food. These microorganisms proliferate in damp, warm environments and cause the food to mould or ferment. These fungi, yeasts and/or bacteria alter certain substances in the food, which completely changes the flavor, scent and structure of the end product.
A couple of years ago I made kombucha (fermented tea) for the first time. I became pretty good at making it and was so enthusiastic about it that I sold it in my friend’s restaurant. And even though I was confident making kombucha and in spite of the example my parents set with their fermenting, I was still a bit hesitant to take on the challenge of fermenting vegetables. Maybe it was because I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. But my trip to Japan changed all that. I ate a lot of kimchi and tempeh there and got totally into fermented vegetables… Which made me think, why don’t I just give it a try myself?
So one Sunday, I took the time to experiment with cabbage, beets and carrots. And, just like that, three days later the vegetables were transformed into healthy, probiotic goodness. It might not sound all that tasty, especially since mould is something we usually avoid when it comes to food. But I’m telling you, once you find out how healthy it is, you’ll be running to the nearest store to get your hands on anything and everything fermented. Better yet, you might even be motivated to make it yourself! And just to give you an idea of the health benefits of eating fermented food, it helps keep your gut flora in balance, which is something everyone can benefit from.
Note: Fermented products (products in which bacteria, fungi and yeasts contribute to the production of the food) are safe to eat. But as is the case with everything: don’t go overboard. Eat fermented products like you would anything else, as a part of a healthy, balanced and varied diet. Fermented foods are less suitable for people that suffer from certain ailments.
That being said, I hope I’ve inspired you to try fermenting on your own! So much fun!
Supplies (makes 1 jar, 500 ml or larger)
– 500 ml Mason jar (or something similar)
– Mandolin slicer
– 1 tbsp Celtic sea salt
– Your favorite fermentable vegetables.
My favorites: beets, carrots, peppers and red and white cabbage. I used about 500 grams of veg per jar.
Method (per pot – I usually make three pots at a time)
1. Slice the vegetables using the mandolin.
2. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Sprinkle the vegetables with the Celtic sea salt. Taste to make sure the mixture doesn’t become too salty and adjust to taste. The salt causes the vegetables to release their moisture.
4. Let stand for 30 minutes.
5. After 30 minutes, using your hands, squeeze the vegetables so that more moisture is released.
6. Transfer the vegetables to the jar and use a pestle to press the mixture as far into the jar as possible so that the mixture is submerged under its own liquid. The mixture will expand as fermentation takes place, so be sure not to fill the jar too full. Put the lid on the jar and let stand for at least three days at room temperature.
7. Release the gasses from the jar every morning by opening the lid just a bit.
8. After three days, fermentation has taken place (at which point you don’t need to release the gasses anymore) and you can store the jar in the fridge. You can also let the jar stand and allow the fermentation process to continue and the flavor of the vegetables will be stronger.
9. After opening, the jar can be kept for a maximum of six days in the fridge.
I’m planning to try fermenting beans, peppers and grains soon… You really can experiment with whatever foods you’d like to. It’s so exciting and fun!