Fermented foods like pickled vegetables, sourdough bread, kombucha tea, kefir and yogurt, to name a few, are all great ways to eat healthy pro-biotic foods in order to colonize your gut with good things. One of the interesting and really important things that I learned towards the end of 2016 is what a major role intestinal health plays in our overall health, and how oblivious traditional medicine is to this idea. If you or your loved ones are unfortunately dealing with health issues I highly highly recommend looking into the field of Functional Medicine that addresses the role that food plays regarding illness.
That said, it turns out that my family really has not been eating enough pro-biotic foods, as we are not big yogurt eaters, so I have decides to change this by providing an ongoing source of good bacteria via lacto fermented vegetables. And I have to say, everyone is really happy about this, well except for my husband who for some reason doesn't love the taste of my recent experiments, but I'm going to work on that one!
Pickling vegetables via lacto-fermentation is simple and really so much fun, keep reading for all you need to know, and pat yourself on the back for all those jars filled with lovely pickling veggies!
First of all, for just a little bit of information regarding lacto-fermentation. The lacto refers to lactic acid. All fruits and vegetables have beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus on the surface. In an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, these bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which inhibits harmful bacteria and acts as a preservative. It is this lactic acid that gives fermented foods their characteristic sour flavor.
One can pretty much lacto-ferment any vegetable, and here I use a colorful mix of carrots, fennel and kohlrabi. I also threw in a few spices, which you can adapt to your taste. To keep pickels crips one can use some grape leaves, though I have yet to try this myself. But surely will next spring where there is no shortage of fresh grape leaves around here! (If you don't have access to grape leaves, you can omit them or try using black tea, oak leaves, or other tannin-rich leaves.
A few notes on equipment: I would ideally like to weigh down the ingredients with a small bowl or jar that fits inside the larger jar. This is not necessary, but it helps keep the vegetables submerged under the brine and prevents mold growth. The idea is to use something "non-reactive" so while I did initally push everything down with some plastic bags, that may not be a good idea. I have also used a few small baby food jars, but would love some glass pebbles made especially for this purpose.
If you do encounter any mold or yeasty scum, don't panic, simply skim it off. One can purchase jars fitted with an airlock which blocks oxygen yet releases carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, but you don't need this equipment. Regular mason jars and large screw lid jars work fine, though one should "burp" the jars every day, or at least around day four when you'll see lots of gas bubbles forming when you tilt the jars.
- Cut, peeled, sliced veggies, or whole cucumbers for making pickles
- 3 tablespoons sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt per quart of water (I have found that for making pickled sliced cabbage, this is too much salt, try 2 tablespoons per quart)
- Per quart of water, use roughly this amount of spices:
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh dill (optional, I love it!)
Fill jar by layering spices and cut pieces of prefered vegetables, or whole small cucumbers. Pack down vegetables as much as possible.
Use a measuring cup to fill jar with water, leaving at least 1 inch of jar that is not filled. According to amount of water, add salt to jar as indicated above.
One can also pour out some of water and dissolve salt in that if preferred.
Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature. After about day two or three, about once a day, open the jar to release gases produced during fermentation. If any mold or scum has formed on the top, simply skim it off. (If using a jar fitted with an airlock, you don't need to "burp" it; just open occasionally to taste.) At this point the water will start to look slightly brown, that is normal.
When vegetables have a taste to your liking, which will likely be somewhere between 5 days and a week and a half, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. Or in my case, transfer veggies to something smaller that will fit in the fridge. They will continue to ferment very slowly, but cold storage will largely halts fermentation. As a fermented food, these pickles or vegetables will last for quite some time, at least a month or longer.
That is it, enjoy!