Those who know me can trust that I always have some sort of bubbling food experiment brewing in the kitchen. My biologist roots make it impossible for me not to be curious about the natural reactions that cooking and food can produce. So as a result, we make our own kombucha, preserved lemons, jam, pickles, dried food, jerky, juice, cheese, butter, coconut milk, yogurt, beer, bread… A couple years ago I took a class on fermented foods with the intention of learning all about making our own kombucha, but I also learned a bonus skill of fermenting my own kraut, kimchi and pickles. This opened up a whole new world to me and the more I learned about the power of these foods, the more I knew my family needed this in our diet.
Why fermented vegetables? As the natural sugars in the veggies ferment the end result is high in probiotics, which we all know promotes a healthy immune system and better digestion for overall good health. The fermentation process breaks down the veggies, making them easier to digest and works it’s magic to change the flavor and add nutrients.
I’m always looking for ways to help my kids heal their guts, hopefully grow out of their food allergies and combat their exposure to constant school sicknesses – fermented foods have become just one weapon in my bag of healthy tricks. The flavor takes a little getting used to, but it’s worth finding ways to work these foods into your entire family’s meals. Not only will you be expanding their taste palette, but also starting them on the path to a healthier belly for life. The easiest way to get them excited about these foods is to have them help prepare them. My kids think the whole process is magic –so do I actually.
By starting as children, you are creating a great tradition for them that could last their whole lives. I try to include something fermented in every meal. Whether sitting on the side or incorporated into a dish, it’s just something my family is learning to expect. Below is a typical breakfast: protein (homemade breakfast sausage), fruit, veggies (roasted cabbage), homemade kraut, and a small glass of kombucha.
Sandor Katz, also known as Sandor-kraut, is the master of fermentation. He wrote Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation that will expand your thinking about fermented foods. Check out his website http://www.wildfermentation.com. You can also find videos of him on YouTube making kraut. Beyond his relaxed demeanor and charming facial hair, he really does know a lot about fermentation. I could not recommend his books more.
This last Christmas I scored a very cool fermenting crock (very similar to this one) that I am now loving. For my first batch in the crock, I decided to put in my favorite combination: carrots (lots of carrots), garlic, beets, cabbage and a little horseradish. After a month in the crock bubbling away, I’m happy to report it is the best I’ve ever made. It came out perfectly pickled and really flavorful and it was super easy!
Below is a very easy recipe if you are interested in making your own fermented veggies. It’s surprisingly simple to do. If you’re feeling more adventurous, just add more vegetables and spices.
Keep in mind that sometimes the ferment gets contaminated and doesn’t work out for one reason or another. When in doubt, throw it out. Anything other than bright, crisp, pickled veggies is compost in my book. You can increase your rate of success by using clean jars, keeping your ferments out of sunlight, keeping them at room temperature, keeping the veggies submerged in the brine and keeping hands clean when sneaking a taste from the jars.
The second jar I have bubbling away currently is fermented garlic. What?!! I usually add garlic to my ferments but just a straight jar of this goodness on it’s own to add to dishes I imagine to be amazing. I picked up a couple Pickl-It jars and decided to follow their recommendations and use a 3.5% brine. I’ll let you know how they turn out. I have very high hopes for these. If they turn out, I have a couple people on my Christmas list who would love to receive a jar of these babies.
Here are some other fermented vegetable recipes for you to check out from the interweb:
Until next time, Lisa