After our last post on the health benefits of eating lacto-fermented foods, you’re probably thinking, “Ok, that sounds great, but how to do I get more of these foods into my diet?” Wonder no more, because in this post, we are going to show you how simple it is to make your own fermented food at home. It’s easier than you think!
Why fermented food?
Good health begins in the gut. As we previously discussed, lacto-fermented foods become more vitamin and mineral rich, are easily digestible and also help combat a number of health issues, like inflammation, heart disease, anxiety and depression. And since you’re getting a healthy dose of good bacteria for your gut with every bite, you can save money by skipping over-the-counter probiotics.
What food can you ferment?
You can ferment almost anything! Vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, legumes, tofu, and dairy products are all fermentable. (And, did you know our cream cheese-style cashew dips are also fermented?) In this post, we’ll keep it simple and give you some advice on how to easily ferment vegetables at home. You can do one type of vegetable or a combination of vegetables. You can also add your favourite herbs or spices. If you can, choose farm fresh produce because you want all that good bacteria that’s on the outside of those fruits or veggies, without adding any of the harmful pesticides that are present on much of the store bought produce available. If you’re looking for ideas, Fermented Vegetables is a great book with more than 120 recipes to pick from.
Get your tools ready.
In preparation, you’ll need:
- A 1 quart wide-mouth mason jar with a tight fitting lid (other sizes will do)
- Coarse pickling salt
- Vegetables of your choosing
- Your favourite herbs and spices and maybe a little garlic depending on your taste
- That’s it!
Prepare the brine.
Here, we are going to explain how to prepare a simple salt brine: add 2 tablespoons of coarse pickling salt to 2 cups of water. Done!
Why salt? What you want in the fermentation process is for the good bacteria to thrive and the bad bacteria to perish. Salt does just that: it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
If you don’t have pickling salt, will other salts work? They can. However, swapping out one salt for another can be tricky because the grain size is different, so you’ll need to figure out the appropriate amount to use by weight and not volume. Not having enough salt in your brine may result in some of those bad bacteria sticking around, and you don’t want that. Too much salt, and it’ll taste bad. We’ve given you the measurements for coarse pickling salt, which we find works best. Celtic salt, Himalayan pink salt, sea salt and kosher salt are all alternative options, provided they are pure and without any additives or anti-caking agents (which will turn your brine cloudy).
Avoid table salt or iodized salt. Not only will table salt not lead to fermentation, it is a manufactured form of sodium with the nutritional properties stripped out and synthetic chemicals added. (Naturally occuring salt is an important mineral for our bodies and we’ll share more on that in an upcoming post!)
Prepare the vegetables.
Whether you slice, dice, shed, chop or leave whole, make sure that you do your whole batch of vegetables the same way so that they all ferment evenly. Wash thoroughly. Consider how you want to eat them, and prepare them that way so that they’re ready to go. For smaller veggies, like radishes or brussels, leaving them whole works great, for larger veggies like carrots, cut into even lengthwise pieces, and for cabbage and onions, shredding into a slaw-like topping works well.
Put your veggies, herbs and spices in the jar, leaving about an inch at the top for expansion. Next, add the brine, leaving about a half inch of space between the brine and the lid. Make sure the contents of the jar are submerged. If you’re short on brine, add a little water. Some people like to use weights to keep their veggies submerged, others use a cabbage leaf, but as long as the veggies remain under the brine, the process should work just fine. Screw the lid on tight and place out of direct sunlight at room temperature.
In 2-3 days you should start to see some bubbling. After that, open the jar over the sink, once a day, to release some of the built up carbon dioxide out. There may be some spillover from the bubbling. If you want to get really fancy, these extractor lids fit any wide-mouth mason jar and have a handy pump that makes releasing the excess gas easy and mess free. When your veggies have reached the desired tanginess (usually around a week), place them in the fridge and they’re good for about two months.
We recommend experimenting. Try different veggie combos, fruit combos, veggie and fruit combos, herbs and spices, or fermenting times. If you’ve only got one kind of salt (provided it’s not table salt), use it! If you want to put a fruit and a veggie together, do it! Let us know how your creations turned out (even if they didn’t) by commenting below the post!
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