Fermented veggies are one of the easiest things to make. All you need is a jar with a lid, salt, water, a vegetable, a little flavoring spice, a few days to let the magic work; and you get a probiotic powerhouse of tangy vegetable goodness.

 So, why make your own fermented vegetables?

  • Fermented vegetables are a great way to get a daily dose of probiotics to maintain gut health.
  • Easy to digest and your body is able to absorb more nutrients from fermented veggies than raw.
  • Strengthen your immune system.
  • Shield against pathogens like salmonella and E.coli.
  • Help regulate your appetite and reduce sugar cravings.

What is fermentation?

It’s actually called Lacto-fermentation, it’s a form of food preservation that has been used for thousands of years and it’s what happens when you place fruits and vegetables in an oxygen-free environment. It starts with lactobacillus which is a good bacteria that is naturally found on the surface of fruits and veggies. Lactobacillus turns sugars into lactic acid which prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, acting as a preservative for the produce, and giving fermented foods their tangy flavor.

Wild fermentation starts with a brine of salt and water, using the naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria found on the vegetable to ferment the food. Many people like to use a culture to start the fermentation process. You can purchase powdered starter cultures at your health food store or online at bodyecology.com or caldwellbiofermentation.com. Cultures are specific strains of bacteria in a packet that you use to make the brine. They say the benefits of adding cultures speed up the fermentation process, they can be used to target specific health concerns because you control which strains of beneficial bacteria grow in your ferment. I have great results using both wild fermentation and cultured starters.

Airlocks and specialty equipment:

Specialty lids and containers can be easily purchased to ferment with. In the picture above, on the left is an airlock which allows gases created during fermentation to escape while preventing oxygen, bacteria, mold spores or wild yeasts from the atmosphere from entering your jar and causing your ferment to mold or spoil. I bought this as a kit when I first started fermenting foods and I love it, never had a ferment get moldy using it. Although you don’t need to go to the extra expense, a quart jar with any lid works great.

Here is a blog about a variety of fermentation lids.

Let’s get started!

This is really one of the simplest foods to create and the combinations are endless.
First choose your veggie; anything works because all veggies are fermentable.
Next, add the flavor items; garlic, ginger, dried spices, fresh herbs, peppercorns, etc. or make it spicy by adding jalapenos, cayenne or peppercorns. The method is the same you just change the basic ingredients to create new ferments. Have fun, be creative.

Wild Fermented Carrots Recipe
1-quart canning jar
3 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound carrots, cut into sticks
2 cloves garlic, peel and smash
2 fresh dill sprigs
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Directions:
Stir 3 teaspoons of sea salt into 1 cup warm water in a small bowl, stir and let sit while you prepare the carrots.
Place the garlic, dill, peppercorns and salt in the jar. Add the carrots, packing tightly.
Add the salt water mixture to the jar, then fill with filtered water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top to let the carrots bubble as they ferment.
Seal the jar and let sit on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight for 3 days.
Check everyday to make sure they are fully submerged in the water. If they have risen above the water, simply push them down so they are fully covered. If any mold formed because the veggies rose above the water, do not worry, this isn’t harmful. Just scoop out the moldy vegetables and push the rest back under the water.

Cultured Carrots Recipe
1-quart canning jar
¼ packet Starter Culture
½ teaspoon sugar
1 pound carrots, cut into sticks
2 cloves garlic
2 fresh dill sprigs
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:
Place ¼ packet Starter Culture, ½ teaspoon sugar and ¼ cup water in a small bowl, stir and let sit while you prepare the carrots.
Place the garlic, dill, peppercorns and salt in the jar. Add the carrots, packing tightly.
Add the culture mixture to the jar, then fill with filtered water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top to let the carrots bubble as they ferment.
Seal the jar and let sit on your kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight for 3 days.
Check everyday to make sure they are fully submerged in the water. If they have risen above the water, simply push them down so they are fully covered. If any mold formed because the veggies rose above the water, do not worry, this isn’t harmful. Just scoop out the moldy vegetables and push the rest back under the water.

 

References: Cultured Food for Life by Donna Schwenk, Culturedfoodlife.com, Culturesforhealth.com, Bodyecology.com