EASY LACTO-FERMENTED VEGGIES
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi have been eaten around the world for thousands of years. Fermentation is far from a new discovery but has grown more popular recently as probiotics and gut health have stepped into the spotlight. The process of lacto-fermentation relies on a simple brine of salt water to first kill the harmful bacteria, then the surviving lactobacillus (good bacteria) converts lactose and sugars into lactic acid. (1) The resulting acidic environment preserves the food and gives it a delicious, tangy taste.
In this simple recipe, fresh vegetables are fermented in a salt water brine for a great snack or side dish full of naturally occurring probiotics (2). Lacto-fermentation may sound complicated but there is no special equipment or ingredients required! All you need are some veggies, salt water, a jar and a few days.
Ingredients and equipment:
- Raw vegetables – any assortment:
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- Filtered water
- Glass jar with lid
- Herbs and spices: fresh dill, bay leaf, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes
- The amounts needed for this recipe will depend on the size of the container you are using. Using whatever size jar you have, fill with water then pour into a measuring cup to measure. Scrub and cut enough raw veggies to fill your jar with one inch of space at the top. For a 34 oz jar I used about 4 cups of cut veggies and 3 cups of water.
- Place cut veggies in the jar with any herbs or spices you like. Make sure everything is tightly packed and leave 1 inch of space at the top.
- Using the amount of water measured in step 1, add 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1 cup of water and stir well to dissolve. For a small jar you might use only 1 cup of water / 1 tablespoon of salt. For a large jar you might use 4 cups of water / ¼ cup of salt.
- Pour the salt water brine over your vegetables so they are completely covered. To keep the veggies submerged during the fermentation process use a smaller cup or bowl that fits inside the container as a weight. If your lid will not close just cover the top of the jar with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Place on a small plate in case water bubbles over from the top of the jar.
- Allow your vegetables to sit at room temperature (around 70 degrees is ideal) out of direct sunlight for about one week or even as long as a few weeks. If your jar is sealed, open the lid to release the gasses once a day. You may start to notice some color changes depending on the vegetables used (my cucumbers darkened a bit and the brine absorbed some color). After a few days start doing taste tests every day or so until your vegetables reach the desired tanginess. The longer they sit out the more sour they will get – it’s really up to your personal preference. During a warm summer week, my veggies took 5 days to develop a nice taste, and were still crunchy.
- Once you are pleased with the taste of your fermented veggies, secure the lid and transfer to the refrigerator. These should last for a month or more, just make sure to use a clean utensil every time you grab from the jar (sorry, no eating straight from the jar). Enjoy with sandwiches, on top of salads or rice, or as a snack on their own!
- “The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly.” Todar’s Online Textbook of Bacteriology. Web. http://textbookofbacteriology.net/lactics.html
- “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fermented Foods.” Science-Based Medicine. Web. 13 Oct. 2015. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-fermented-foods/