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Fermented Veggies

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here are some other fermented vegetable recipes for you to check out from the interweb:

Sandor Katz: Vegetable Fermentation Further Simplified

Nourished Kitchen: Hot, Salty & Sour: My Kimchi Recipe

Balanced Bites: Raw Sauerkraut

Paleo Lifestyle: Apple and Juniper Berry Sauerkraut

 

Until next time,  Lisa

Fermented Veggies
Yum
Print Recipe
You will need some sterilized jars with lids
Fermented Veggies
Yum
Print Recipe
You will need some sterilized jars with lids
Ingredients
  • 1 head of Cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • salt
Instructions
  1. Chop your cabbage into small shreds. As you will see from my images, I like carrots a lot and I like them kinda big so it took about a month in the crock to get these soft, but it was worth it. Set aside a few of the outer cabbage leaves.
  2. Grate or chop your carrots or other veggies small. Put everything into a big bowl and sprinkle with salt. How much salt? It depends on your taste but Mr. Katz suggests 3 tablespoons for 5 pounds of vegetables – that’s a good base. More salt will slow fermentation, less salt will speed it up, but you do need salt.
  3. Use your hands to squeeze the veggies until they get juicy and soft. The kids can help here – with a potato masher or the blunt end of a kitchen tool until the veggies get soft and release their juices. This takes a little while.
  4. Stuff the veggies with their brine into clean jars and press down hard to submerge the veggies in the brine.
  5. If you don’t have enough brine, you can make some of your own by dissolving salt into hot water. For 2% brine, you would use 5 grams of salt for every cup of water. Let the brine cool to room temperature first.
  6. Fold up the remaining cabbage leaves and place on top of the pressed down veggies. This will act as a cap and will help keep your veggies submerged. The trick is keeping the veggies under the brine. Put a lid on the jars, but you will have to burp them periodically as they ferment.
  7. When they reach your desired sourness, put them in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process, and eat them up, yum.
There is no Nutrition Label for this recipe yet.

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