Author: Rochelle Minagawa • Date: August 16, 2016 • Appears in:
Tastes better and are better for you too!
It’s that time of year when the farmers' markets are packed full of fresh local produce. There are more greens than you know what to do with and the fruit is ripe and juicy. Fast-forward a few months to the end of fall when you’ll see a sea of pumpkins, gourds and squash - but that’s about it. No more fresh leafy spinach or plump, vine-ripened tomatoes. Just produce from another country, miles away. Do we really have to resort to food picked, packed, frozen and flown? Not if we take advantage of the age-old wisdom of fermentation!
Fermentation for taste, health and livelihood
Not only does fermenting allow us to preserve in-season food, but long ago it served as a vital role in survival. Before refrigeration and transportation, it was the safest, most nutrient rich way to gain access to certain foods that were out of season. Along with keeping foods fresher, longer, fermentation unlocks a number of health benefits. For example, vegetables that are high in insoluble fibre (cauliflower, green beans and onions for example) can be difficult to digest. Fermenting pre-digests the food so your body can get to the good stuff quicker. Bonus: Many foods are actually tastier after being fermented.
Sure you can buy picked produce in the grocery store, but there’s a good chance it didn’t actually go through the fermentation process. By doing it yourself you’ll know where the food started, ended up and it’ll save you money too.
When you ferment vegetables you need three things. Water, salt and veggies. That’s it. Follows these simple steps to master your own fermented, in-season veggies at home.
Step 1: Buy local, organic produce
Step 2: Wash and cut veggies. Keep like veggies together. Similar density and textures ferment at approximately the same time.
Step 3: Make brine. This could be a basic salt brine (1 gallon water to ½ cup salt) or some people juice celery to us as the brine as it contains natural sodium. Some recipes call for a starter culture such as whey or commercial starter powder.
Step 4: Pack the veggies in a jar. Wide mouth mason jars work well. Make sure your veggies are packed in really tightly. A kraut pounder or tamper can be a useful tool for eliminating any air pockets.
Step 5: Top with a grape leaf, cabbage leaf or some other thin covering to keep the veggies under the brine. Place a weight on top to secure.
Let your jars sit on the counter for the time required for your specific veggie. Some can ferment in as little as a day and other veggies take a couple of months or more. The vegetables should be slightly sour and still have some crunch to them and the brine will often look cloudy when your ferment is ready. After they’re ready, move your ferments to the fridge. Most veggies are good for a year in the fridge. That’s right, in-season product year round. Just long enough to make it to the next farming season where you can get more fresh, delicious produce.Below are a few recipes I fermented after a trip to my local farmer’s market. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can make relishes, salsas and whole-leaf herbs are an excellent alternative to drying. Get some of your favourite veggies and give fermenting a try!
Green Dilly Beans
These little green machines are probably my favourite ferment. Crunchy, dilly and they make a mean addition to a Caesar.
- 3 lbs green beans,
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp pickling salt
- Basic brine
- Ferment Time: 6-10 days
This mix includes cauliflower and carrots, onions and garlic to make a veggie side dish that’s full of flavour. You can add jalapenos and herbs to intensify the taste.
- 2 lbs carrots
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 head garlic
- 1 onion
- Basic brine
- Ferment time: 7-20 days