I have been experimenting with making my own fermented foods and beverages for a few years now. Fermented foods have become increasingly popular during this time, and now it’s quite easy to buy kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other products in local stores – though usually with a hefty price tag. So, here is my attempt to encourage you to try making your own fermented vegetables at home – complete with a video to show you how easy it really is.
STEP ONE – CHOOSE AND PREPARE YOUR VEGGIES!
You can ferment most veggies, and add them together to make somewhat of a fermented veggie medley as I’ve done here, or just use one vegetable on it’s own. My go-to is usually carrots – thinly sliced and then served on top of avocado toast or on top of curries and stews. But, you could easily add to it as I’ve done here with broccoli and cauliflower. I would suggest starting with one or two vegetables, and then going from here.
To prepare your veggies, first wash them. If they are organic or spray-free, you could leave the peel on if you wish, however if they’re commercially bought or if you’re unsure if any chemicals have been used, I’d suggest to peel them.
You then need to chop or grate them. If you choose to grate them, I’d suggest using a food processor if you have one to speed up the process. If you choose to slice them, you can slice hard vegetables such as carrots quite thinly, however softer vegetables such as zucchini should be sliced a little thicker if you want to ensure that it keeps it’s shape.
Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can be roughly chopped, but other vegetables such as button mushrooms, garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes can be left whole.
STEP TWO – CHOOSE YOUR FLAVOURINGS
I like to add minced garlic to my ferments. Other flavourings could be ginger, chilli, peppercorns, mustard seeds or herbs. Feel free to get creative here, but again, if you’re uncertain start simple with some minced garlic and/or a dried herb such as caraway seeds. Sea vegetables also work well to flavour fermented vegetables, and are commonly used in making kimchi.
If you want your ferment to be a little on the sweeter , you can try adding dried currants or berries, or add in freshly grated fruit such as apple. Note that the sugar in the fruit may help the vegetables to ferment a little more quickly so make sure to check for readiness a little earlier than what you would a straight vegetable ferment.
STEP THREE – MAKE YOUR SALT BRINE
The brine is the liquid which your vegetables ferment in, and is made of salt dissolved in water. The brine helps to keep unwanted bacteria away and therefore you need to ensure you have enough salt for this to happen. This will also help to prevent mould. To much salt however can actually stop the vegetables from fermenting, and make them taste awful!
So – what is the perfect amount? This actually depends on what vegetables you are fermenting, but I usually use 2 Tbsp sea salt to one litre (4 cups) of lukewarm water. Add the salt and water together in a jug and stir until the salt is combined.
STEP FOUR – CHOOSE YOUR STARTER (OPTIONAL)
A starter is a fermented product that will help kick-start your fermentation process – this can be a fermented drink like kombucha or kefir, the whey from the top of your yoghurt or some of the liquid from a previous batch of fermented veggies. You can also use a good quality commercial probiotic capsule – simply break it in half and dissolve the powder inside in with your salt brine.
Note however that you do not have to use a starter – the vegetables will ferment on their own, the started just helps to get the process on it’s way.
STEP FIVE – PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
You’ll often read that you need to sterilise your jar – note that I don’t do this personally, I use a clean jar that has been washed in the dishwasher or in hot water by hand. If you’re unsure about this, then by all means you can go ahead and steralise your jars.
You’ll need a jar that is about half to one litre (2-4 cups) in capacity, depending on how many vegetables you are planning on fermenting.
Add you vegetables and flavourings, then pour over your salt brine and starter culture if using. Make sure to cover the vegetables completely – if needed, you can use some thing to weight them down, or use the outer leaf of a cabbage to hold the vegetables submerged. Add a lid and tighten, and then leave to ferment out of direct light (I usually put mine in the pantry or in a darker corner of the kitchen). Make sure to open the lid to allow the jar to “burp” (release built-up gases) every day or so while fermenting.
The amount of time your vegetables will take to ferment will depend on many things; the type of vegetables you use, the temperature inside your house, the quantity you’ve made, whether or not you’ve used a starter culture etc… I would start checking after about 2 – 3 days. Your vegetables will be ready when you open the jar and there is a sour (think vinegar-y) flavour, and bubbles start to travel up the inside of the glass when tapped or moved. At this point, transfer to the fridge, where they will continue fermenting, but at a much slower pace.
Want to see this all in action? Watch the video below to see the end-to-end process (and my clumsy pouring habits which resulted in brine all over the bench!)
But, but, but!
The process of fermenting vegetables can be a little confusing and daunting – I totally get that. But, I suggest you put your worries to the side, start out simple by following the instructions below. and see how you go. Start out simple, and if in doubt, you can always through the vegetables out and start over (though trust me, you will know if they are off or turning bad – they have a very funky smell!)
How to serve
We add our fermented veggies to nearly everything, but as a bit of a guide, try adding a spoonful to the following. Note that to retain the health benefits, it’s important that the fermented veggies aren’t heated, so I usually add them to the dish after I’ve served it up (as somewhat of a garnish).
- Soups and stews (with a dollop of yoghurt or coconut cream, and some fresh herbs as well)
- On top of your avocado toast
- On scrambled eggs
- In sandwiches and rolls – especially great in Vietnamese style rolls (bahn mi)
- On a cheese board with crackers, cheeses, olives, sourdough etc
- As an accompaniment to a curry (add rice to a bowl, top with curry, fermented veggies, yoghurt, fresh coriander/cilantro and diced avocado)
- In burgers – fermented, sliced zucchini taste similar to pickles, or try fermenting jalapenos
- 2 -3 cups of chopped vegetables
- Salt brine to cover
- 1 Tbsp starter culture (eg whey, kombucha, kefir), optional
- Flavourings (eg caraway seeds, peppercorns, garlic), optional
- 1 litre/quart filtered water
- 2 Tbsp sea salt
- First, make the salt brine by adding the salt to the water and stirring until dissolved. Set aside.
- Add the vegetables to a clean (preferably sterilised) jar. Add any flavourings and stir through the vegetables.
- Pour over the brine and started culture if using to cover the vegetable. Gentle press down with a spoon to release any air pockets.
- Cover, and leave to ferment a few days at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Find other fermented recipes here