Ferment. What’s the first thing you think about when you hear that word? Some might picture rotting stinky milk hiding in the fridge from their bachelor days. When I first think of fermentation I think of beer, er, rather, alcohol in general. That may be the bartender in me or my recreational social side speaking but let’s just say I’m a ‘the glass is half full’ kind of guy, and if it is then order me another! That aside, I think of the healthy aspects of fermentation. Side note: before I tarnish alcohol, alcohol has proven to be healthy in small doses.
What are some of my favorite fermented foods? Yoghurt, cheese, and sour cream to name a few but these are all dairy. How about bread or miso or sauerkraut. Okay even I had a hard time with sauerkraut until I tried different recipes and when I finally discovered a few different varieties my view drastically changed. Opening our horizons on possibilities we would have never considered could end up being a surprising delicacy. You can actually ferment any vegetable and you would be surprised what you’d end up liking.
First off there are major health benefits from eating fermented foods. For some it will change their lives as its concentration is on the intestinal track eating fermented foods can actually be the answer to many who suffer in this area. Through replenishing and diversifying the bacteria in our intestines we promote a healthier body and a more productive system.
The problem with many living in regions like British Columbia is they are limited to what they can grow year round. By planning ahead we can have an extremely diversified pantry of delicious vegetables throughout the fall and winter by fermenting them. Since you can ferment vegetables as long as you’d like you can experiment to find out what you like best. How do you do it? The basics are you take your favorite veggies, chop them up, salt them to taste, squeeze or pound them, then stuff them into jars or a crock submerging them under liquid. You can let them sit for as short as a couple of weeks up to years! Here’s some tips from a fermentation fanatic, Sandor Ellix Katz:
- Make sure your vegetables are submerged in liquid. This prevents mold growth and separates rotten vegetables from fermented ones. Usually the liquid is salty water (brine), but you can use plain water, wine or whey too.
- Play with chopping your vegetables or leaving them whole. If shredded, simply salting the vegetables will typically pull enough juice out via osmosis, so adding water isn’t necessary. Whole vegetables require brine.
- Traditionally, vegetables were fermented with lots of salt to preserve them for longer periods of time. However, less salt can be better for flavor and nutrition. Salt lightly to taste—there’s no magic proportion. As a starting point, try 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of vegetables.
- Use a heavy cylindrical ceramic crock if you can. Glass containers also work well, but avoid plastic and metal, as they can leach chemicals or be corroded by the fermentation. Pack your vegetables at the bottom and submerge them with a weighted plate or jug.
- If mold develops on the surface of the liquid, scrape it off as best you can; it will not hurt the vegetables underneath.
- Taste your ferments early and often to find out what you prefer. Longer fermentation and warm temperatures mean a more tangy flavor.
- Nearly any vegetable can be fermented—be bold! Seaweeds and fruits can be fantastic, and spices play a big role in giving kimchi and sauerkraut their distinctive flavors.
If you’d like to find some more information check out his website called Wild Fermentation. You can also get his book Wild Fermentation at his website as well.