Vegetable Fermentation 101
Have you heard all the fuss lately about probiotics? Have you heard about how they can help repopulate good bacteria in your gut strengthening your immune system? Have you ever wondered about making your own healthy dishes that contain natural probiotics? If you have ever wondered about the above, then you have stumbled across the right place to start learning the basics of fermenting vegetables!
First lets start with a brief overview of what lacto-fermentation is. Lacto-fermentation is a process of fermentation that utilizes the beneficial bacteria present on the surface of cabbage and all other fruits and vegtables. When produce such as cabbage are submerged into a brine solution, the bacteria will begin to convert the sugar molecules into lactic acid. This is a form of natural preservative that will inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Lacto-fermentation has been used for centuries to preserve seasonal vegetables beyond their standard shelf-life. The fermentation process itself is very safe, and the fermented vegtables can be kept at cellar temperature (around 55°F) for months, and in your refrigerator for even longer! Once the process is complete, you will be left with something incredibly tasty and nutritious.
Now to get started you will need the following items:
Vegetables of choice (4lbs approximately)
Sea salt (1-2 tablespoons)
2-quart wide mouth mason jar
Large mixing bowl
Canning funnel (optional)
My traditional recipe when fermenting vegetables tends to have the majority of its contents coming from purple cabbage alongside accents of a few shredded beets, carrots and finely chopped garlic for extra flavour. The exact vegetables you choose are completely up to your liking, however It is crucial that you only use raw fresh produce as using already cooked or pickled items can cause harmful bacteria to flourish.
Now lets get started on making your very own homemade kimchi!
Clean everything!! When fermenting you want to make sure that you are only growing to good bacteria from the byproducts of the vegetables and not from contamination. So wash all jars, bowls, cutting boards, funnels, knives and your hands.
Remove outer first leaf from cabbage and set aside.
Chop and shred all produce and add to your large mixing bowl.
Add desired salt amount of 1-2 tablespoons. I personally prefer 4 teaspoons for every 2-quart jar which is equivalent to 1.33 tablespoons. I would suggest starting there for your first batch and change it according to your taste preference.
Start to mix, squeeze, and massage the salt into your vegetable blend with your hands. Continue this manual hand mixing for 5-10 minutes until they become watery and limp.
Add the mixture of vegetables to the mason jar by grabbing handfuls and dropping them into the container. If you have a canning funnel this will make the process easier and less messy. Remember to pack down the mixture as you go so that the juices cover the entirety of its contents.
Once you have packed all the contents into the jar tightly and it is fully submerged in its own liquid. Grab the cabbage leaf you set aside and use it as a final packing piece to hold everything down.
Make sure there is a little bit of room between the cap and the contents for expansion durring the fermentation process. Secure the lid tightly and place in a cupboard under your counter to let the process begin.
Release the mason jar daily as the fermentation process goes underway! There will be gas products released during this process and if left unattended for too long can explode due to the high pressure. Releasing the jar once per day is sufficient as having some pressure in the jar helps the process along.
Enjoy your new delicious and nutritions lacto-fermented vegetable dish after 3-10 days! The amount of days you leave the mixture to ferment is upon your personal taste preference and you can experiment with how the taste and texture changes over time. I personally prefer to leave mine for 7 days.
I hope you all enjoy your wonderful journey into the art of fermenting vegetables with this absolutely tasty and easy to use method :)