Welcome today’s guest blogger, Carrie! She is coming to us today all the way from Pennsylvania. We initially set up this opportunity for her to guest post about lacto-fermentation all from a comment about preserving here on the Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm blog! It just goes to show you what a great little community of like-minded folks comes from a silly little California blog. Well, welcome Carrie and I can’t wait to see what you can teach us today!
Here in central Pennsylvania, Autumn is spectacular! As I bustle about my garden harvesting the last of summer and the beginnings of the the fall crops, scattered about my counter are a variety of glass jars filled with vegetables undergoing the magical metamorphosis of fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique that utilizes salt and bacteria (primarily lactobacillus) to pickle fruits and vegetables changing them into easy to digest probiotic raw foods with maximized vitamin content. Unlike vinegar pickling, lacto-fermentation requires no heat, tastes much better, and is open to experimentation in ways that water bath and pressure canning methods are not. Unfortunately, fermented foods do not keep at room temperature indefinitely. They require refrigeration, or a nice root cellar, to slow down the action of the microbes and to preserve the product. Remarkably, I have had fermented vegetables keep for six months or more in my refrigerator.
Lacto-fermentation is easy but it can be a bit scary at first. I was very nervous before I tried my first ferments: fear of spoilage, not knowing if food was bad, trusting in bacteria of all things! Even after I successfully made my first batch of sauerkraut I was afraid to taste it! Once I did however, I never looked back and a whole world of fermentation was opened to me. Now I ferment all sorts of things. Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation and a fermentation guru, says that just about anything can be fermented. I now ferment vegetables (beets, cucumbers, jalapenos, radishes, tomatoes, carrots, kimchi, sauerkraut, garlic), dairy (kefir, cheese, yogurt, sour cream), grains (porridge, sour dough bread), condiments (ketchup, salsa, cranberry sauce, mayonnaise) and beverages (kombucha).
When I teach my class on lacto-fermentation I always like to start with an easy vegetable ferment that requires no special equipment and takes a whole 15-minutes to put together: Carrot Pickles. These are also one of my four-year old daughter’s favorite ferments.
Some people have very strong opinions about the best ways to ferment vegetables including the necessity of whey, airlocks, and other such minutiae. This ferment is such a fast one that problems that may arise in longer ferments do not apply.
Lacto-Fermented Carrot Pickles
You will need:
* A clean 1-quart Mason jar
* Lid and band or airlock
* About 1-pound of carrots, preferably organic
* 1 1/2 Tbsp. of sea salt, not iodized
* 1/2 tsp. of dried dill
* 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
* Filtered water to cover
The first step is to fill the jar with cut carrot sticks. Fill it up however you like, you can also add in the garlic as you go.
Once you have filled your jar with carrots and garlic, add the sea salt and dill. Some people prefer to create a brine with the salt and filtered water and then pour it on top of the carrots. You can do this or you can shake the jar after adding the filtered water. Just make sure to shake the jar to dissolve the salt and leave one inch head space at top of jar. I saw a neat trick recently on a blog where the blogger wedged flat carrot sticks horizontally on top of the other carrot sticks to keep them under the brine.
At this point you can either cap the jar tightly with a clean canning lid or you can top it with an airlock. The airlock is helpful if you have a longer ferment because it will help the lactobacillus, which thrives in an oxygen free environment, to proliferate keeping any spoiling organisms at bay and releasing carbon dioxide gas. But since this is such a short ferment just keeping the vegetables submerged under the brine should be sufficient.
Leave the jar at room temperature for two days. The length of time taken to complete the fermentation depends on many factors, notably heat as well as personal taste preference. Look at the jar and give it a little shake; do you see bubbles? The bubbles are carbon dioxide produced by the bacteria and many ferments can get quite fizzy and need to be burped if you are using a canning lid. Smell the brine; is it sour and garlicky? Now taste the brine; is it salty or sour?
What you want is a nice fizzy ferment, that smells and tastes pleasantly sour. It might also look a bit cloudy. If it meets all these criteria it is ready to go in the fridge and just give it a few days to mellow. If not, cap it and give it two more days and try again. It may take as long as a week if your kitchen is cold or as short as two days if it is hot.
This batch of carrot pickles took almost a week to get to my preference level. Notice the cloudiness. When they are ready they should still be crunchy and may be a bit slippery due to the starch content of the carrots.
If you enjoyed this recipe and are ready to move on to new and more exciting ferments here are some great resources:
* Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. This is my favorite book as I find the information most valuable and relaxing to read. His website it also great for trouble shooting.
* Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. I would not recommend this first as Fallon is big on using whey which I have found lends less than consistent (and sometimes pretty icky) results. Her recipes are a good stepping stone to give you ideas later on. I use this cookbook mainly as a reference, rarely following recipes exactly.
* The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz and Michael Pollan. The most recent book by Katz, I haven’t read this one yet but I am eager to!
* The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods, by Wardeh Harmon. I also haven’t read this one but I have used many recipes from her blog and have enjoyed them.
* Cultures for Health, a great website where you can buy fermentation equipment and cultures as well as find lots of useful recipes, tips and information.
About Carrie: Carrie is subversive townhouse dweller fighting to bring down her Homeowner’s Association one vegetable at a time. She blogs about her experiments with urban homesteading, miscarriage/infertility, traditionally prepared food, healing diets, foster parenting, suburban sustainability, and more. You can find her at: www.carrieiscrunchy.blogspot.com