Easy fermenting at home or… how to conserve veggies the old traditional way before there was refrigeration

I live about 40 km outside of the city of Barcelona just next to the national park of Garraf. It is an urbanised area, but there is no town here, and it is quite hilly so I really do need to take the car every time I want to go into town to buy something. And cycling is impossible unless you are a mountain bike Olympic champ, trust me.

We do want to be more efficient nowadays, and even more so as I am writing now in the middle of the pandemic crisis. So going out to buy vegetables every other day is not an option at the moment, the queues are infinite at the shops, the small farmers can’t get up to this area to deliver their produce so often, that’s why we need to optimise. When you get your 15 kg of veggies for one person (!), refrigeration is an option for conserving them, but there might be not enough space or some veggies last less than others anyhow.

I don’t like to freeze vegetables, just because I don’t like the taste of them, so I have to look for an alternative way to conserve them. And what better way than FERMENTING!

Remember that fermentation has been with us since the beginning of human existence, but modern times have made us use this method less since pasteurisation and refrigeration was invented. But fermented products are one of the best ways to improve our intestinal health, to help maintain a good balance of the good microorganisms that improve our immune system. And what is more important today more that ever? Good health and good immune system.

The products that improve and maintain us in good health can be any kind of fermented food stuff – yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir – every culture and every cuisine in the world has its own fermented foods.

Cheeses are an excellent example of fermented foods.

HOW TO START FERMENTING EASY THINGS AT HOME

If you have ever read The Art of Fermentation, or studied a bit of microbiology, you will know that as long as the food ferments and comes to a lower pH (more acidic), pathogens (microorganisms that might be bad for you or produce toxic substances dangerous for your health) won’t grow there. So don’t be scared to do home yogurt, kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut. It’s difficult to go wrong with this, just make sure to be clean in everything you do, clean kitchen, utensils etc.

I’ll just share a recipe with you that I did two weeks ago, and it’s fermenting now. I have been tasting it in its various stages and it is absolutely fabulous.

You don’t need any pre-ferments, the air around us and the vegetables are filled with various microorganisms, so if we create the necessary ambient, lactic acid bacteria will grow and make delicious things for us.

The type of jar with a rubber band you see in the picture is best, as when the CO2 forms during the fermentation, it can easily “escape” from the jar through the rubber. If you have regular jars with a screw-tap, no problem, just remember not to screw it on too much, leave it loose, so the gas can get out and you won’t have to be worried that the jar might explode.

THE VEGETABLES YOU CAN USE

  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Bellpepper
  • Daikon
  • etc…

You can really use vegetables you like, I used the ones mentioned above and I am more than happy with the result.

HOW TO PREPARE

You will be surprised how easy it is.

Chop up your veggies, I didn’t bother to chop them too thin, but I think this is really each person’s preference.

KEY INGREDIENT – SALT – the less processed the salt is, the better the fermentation will start and go. Fermentation and microorganisms apparently also make the micro-elements, minerals, more bioavailable for us to absorb, so if it’s a salt rich in minerals, even better!

Weigh your vegetables (you need a kitchen scale, it is always useful!) and from that weight, 2% will be the necessary amount for salt. For example, if you have 200g veggies, you will use 4g of salt (2% of 200g).

Once you have weighed your chopped veggies and salt, mix it all together in a big bowl, and with the help of your hands massage and break the vegetables until a bit of juice squeezes out of them, salt will help with the process as well.

When the mix starts to seem more moist, you can put it all in the clean jars you have prepared. I advise squeezing in as much vegetables as you can in one container to have less air in the jar, this will help the lactic acid bacteria to grow and it will be less likely that moulds form.

And voilá! You are basically done. You can leave your beautiful jars out of the fridge for the next days, I would start tasting them after the third day. See if you like it! If the acidity is at a palatable level for you, you can put the containers in the fridge to slow any further fermentation. That way the veggies will also keep some of their crunchiness!

About

Graduate in Gastronomic Sciences, Q Arabica Grader, WSET L2 in wine. Obsessed with cooking new recipes, I love visiting producers and travel for food!

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