I am an avid gardener and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed when large amounts of vegetables come in all at once. Although there are a variety of ways this produce can be preserved, I have found that fermentation is the best one for me. Using this method preserves the vibrant colors, flavors, vitamins, minerals, and food enzymes since fermentation does not involve heat like with conventional canning methods.
In my explorations with food, I have found that sauerkraut, kimchi, a variety of salsas, cucumbers, chopped garlic, and jalapeno peppers all work well for fermenting.
The Art of Fermenting Vegetables
Fermentation, drying, freezing, smoking, salting and sugaring foods were the preferred methods used by our ancestors to keep food through seasonal shortages. Fermentation has been in practice for thousands of years and is still commonly used throughout the world. Fermenting vegetables is also becoming more common in the U.S. as more people are realizing the many health benefits that can be obtained by including fermented foods in the diet.
When you improve digestion, you improve nutrient absorption too
Do you suffer from food intolerance, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies or asthma? All of these conditions have been linked to gut health. Fermented foods will help to restore the proper balance of gut flora, and since 80 percent of your immune system is located in your intestines, making gut health a priority can be a proactive defense against disease. Furthermore, since fermented foods retain natural enzymes, your body will utilize them in the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
By fermenting in-season vegetables you can save money.
I’m sure we have all experienced produce spoiling before it was eaten. By preserving your surplus produce you can avoid this common problem. As an added bonus, you can save money by purchasing and preserving your produce while in-season, thus ensuring that you are getting the highest quality at the lowest price.
Aside from the initial cost of your fermentation vessels, there are minimal expenses to this process. I use a crock to make sauerkraut, and I use quart and pint size canning jars for fermenting and storing. I have also found some additional tools that can help to make fermenting vegetables much easier that are mentioned in the next section.
The Basics – How to Ferment Vegetables
Typically, coarse sea salt and/or whey are used for the fermenting process. If you use whey, it can be obtained by draining plain cultured yogurt over cheesecloth or by pouring the accumulated liquid from the top of the yogurt container.
After deciding what to ferment, the typical process is to chop or finely grate the vegetables to increase the surface area which will be exposed to the brine.
Place the grated/chopped vegetables into a bowl and sprinkle with a coarse sea salt. The ratio is 2 T per 1 qt mason jar of vegetables, or 1- 1 ½ tsp of salt per 2 lbs of vegetables. Use clean hands or a utensil to work the salt in. It may take a few minutes to pull the liquid from the vegetables, but soon you will have enough to cover the vegetables thoroughly when placed into your mason jars.
Fill the jar with the vegetables and juice and continue to press firmly to release more liquid and to remove any air pockets.
Usually no additional water is needed; however you can add non-chlorinated water in order completely submerge the vegetables. If at any point in the fermentation process you notice that the vegetables have lost moisture, you can always add more and incorporate it in.
Insert a Glass Weight to keep the food below the brine level which prevents the development of mold and then cover with a Airlock Fermentation Lid which will release any gases that accumulate during the fermentation process. Sealing your jars tightly during the fermentation process can cause pressure to build up which could cause breakage.
Leave the jar at room temperature for 4 to 7 days. The warmer the area the faster the fermentation will occur. When you are satisfied with the taste, you can secure a lid and store in a refrigerator or a cool basement.
Use non-metal utensils when mixing or when removing vegetables from the container.
Fermented Vegetable Recipes
(recipe will fill 2 qt size jars)
- 1 head Napa cabbage that has been cored and shredded
- 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 1/2 cup grated daikon radish
- 1 T fresh grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
- 2 T sea salt
Place vegetables, ginger, red chili flakes, and salt into a bowl and incorporate until you have released the juices. Fill 2 quart size glass jars with the mixture, while pressing down firmly until all the juices have risen to the top and cover the vegetables leaving 1 inch of space at the top of the jar. You can use a cabbage leaf over the top of the mixture to keep the vegetables submerged below the brine. Lightly cover the jar and keep at room temperature for about 4-7 days, then transfer to the refrigerator.
- 1 lb tomatillos that have been lightly blanched and husked
- 4 jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 T unrefined pink sea salt
- 3T chopped cilantro
Toss tomatillos, peppers, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and salt in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adjusting seasoning to taste. Transfer to a mason jar leaving 1 inch at the top of the jar, lightly cover and ferment at room temperature for three to five days, then transfer to the refrigerator.
- 2 large onions
- 6 large tomatoes
- 2 green peppers
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 6 jalapenos or to taste (seeded)
- ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- juice of three lemons or limes
- 2 Tablespoons of pink sea salt
- non-chlorinated water, if necessary
Run individual veggies through a food processor or chop by hand and combine in a large bowl. Add the salt and stir well. Let sit for a few minutes and then put into jars leaving an inch at the top. Lightly cover and let sit at room temperature for 4-7 days, then cover and store in the refrigerator.
- 7 garlic bulbs
- 2 T sea salt
- water (non-chlorinated)
Separate the heads of garlic into individual cloves and peel the skin off of each clove. Fill a pt size mason jar about ½ full of chopped cloves. Combine 1 T sea salt with 1 cup of water and pour into mason jar, stirring well to dissolve. Lightly chop the garlic in a food processor and add to the salted water, add additional water if needed and stir. Cover lightly and set it aside at room temperature for up to one week or until the garlic achieves the desired flavor, then cover and store in the refrigerator.