This post is for anyone that wants to get started with making sauerkraut, kimchi, fermenting vegetables etc. It’s basically an email I sent to a friend about how to get started making ferments. I’m writing this now because I’m visiting Amade Billesberger at Billesberger Hof and about to share with him the basics of fermenting vegetables. We’ve been making fermented vegetables at the Hill House since last year’s Slow Food Youth Nova Scotia “Canning Jam” at Moon Tide Farm. It’s changed how we eat and my partner Anne now longer has migraines. It’s not well understand how fermented foods affect our health in western medicine, but they do immensely and fermented foods provide the most interesting of flavours. Almost all the worlds favorite foods are fermented (for example, chocolate, coffee, all sourdough bread, traditional meats etc.
This video is a little 90s and not the recipe I would use, but the process is good, basically the same as I was taught. The fermentation wizard in the video is Sandor Katz, he’s basically the North American wild fermentation guru.
I suggest doing the same thing as he does in the video with some cabbage (80%), carrots grated or chopped (I like chopped better) and lots of grated or finely chopped ginger in every layer.
Put enough salt so that if you taste the vegetables before they ferment, they will taste a little saltier than you would like to eat (taste it! :-)) To be sure it will work use sea salt or another natural, unprocessed salt. Table salt with iodine (iodized) or kosher salt will very likely not work.
Other combos that I like and are easy:
- Cabbage, fennel, a couple dried cranberries, salt
- Simple cabbage (80%) and carrots (20%), salt
- Onions, cabbage, carrots, and a couple juniper berries is yummy
Fermentation Vegetable Tips:
- Ferment in a warm and well ventilated space(warmer areas makes the fermentation process speed up). Most counter tops are fine. It will mold easily in a shelf with two walls and shelve close above because of lack of airflow. Even if there no cabinet door in shelves, we’ve had the jars mold in shelves.
- When you start to play with ratios of other vegetables, remember that too many sweet vegetables or fruit can make your ferments foam (this can be scooped off and is just yeast, but it’s not very pleasant) This is why I mention the cabbage to carrot ratio above, we go as high as 70% cabbage to 30% carrots, but never more carrots than 30%.
- The scooping the mold off (in video) is debatable, we usually chuck ours if it gets moldy.
To lower chances of mold, which happens when veggies are exposed to air, take a cabbage leaf and use it to cover the top of the submerged vegetables to prevent small pieces of vegetables from floating to the surface of the brine (the water and salt mixture)
- We use a wide-mouth mason jar (500ml or 1L) for the ferment, and use a 250ml smaller jar filled with water to keep the vegetables submerged like this (as you can see any glass jars will work)
If you add water at any point during the fermentation process and your tap water has chlorine in it or it’s treated (most town and city water is in Canada) leave water out on the counter in the sun for a couple hours before adding it to your fermenting vegetables.. The chlorinated water can kill the fermentation or reduce the beneficial bacteria
- If vegetables or part of the cabbage leaf sticks out of the brine, push it down with your finger or a jar
If you do stuff with acidic foods like tomatoes (fermented salsa!- delicious!) or a ton of sweet foods, us a recipe to get the PH right and have success
- Taste every day then re-submerge so that no vegetables are above the water. I find it tends to be acidic after 5 days, but depends on how warm it is. In warmer conditions, we’ve had ferments ready to put in the fridge after 3 days.
- It will continue to change flavour and acidity, getting stronger in flavour and more acidic over time out of the fridge. If you leave it for a while and it doesn’t taste good, leave it longer and taste every day, it should taste better unless it goes moldy (you’ll know if white stuff starts growing on top.
- We eat with bowls, eggs, on rice, with meat, and with tofu…basically anything. I love fermented vegetables with mustard, toast, and something fatty (cheese, cheese-like stuff, avocado etc.). I also love them with hummus or a seed paté