Friday, 1 June 2012

Making Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

I've been a bit obsessed with lacto-fermentation and preserving food recently. I've been making my own sauerkraut and other pickled vegetable harnessing the lactobacillus bacteria to ferment foods into long storing pro-biotic food. It's really neat how you can use bacteria that are present everywhere to converted your vegetables to an even more nutritious state while also enhancing flavour and digestibility. I've got a lot to learn, but am really excited about going beyond sauerkraut and yogurt, and into the bold world of pickling. If you're interested in this sort of thing, I'd have a look on youtube for Sandor Katz who is a pro pickler and has some great videos to get you excited about all the possibilities. He's got some books as well that I plan to get, such as The Art of Fermentation which is loaded with cool stuff.

First Batch
As is often the case, I got excited about lacto-fermentation after making a batch of sauerkraut. It's really easy to make a batch, just keep in mind a few simple rules, and build your skills from there.

The veggies need to be submersed in a sea salt brine using filtered water, or other non-chlorinated waters. I like it a bit salty, so there's some leeway with the salt levels depending on the vegetable, but I've been using 1 tablespoon to each cup of water. This creates an environment for your preferred bacteria to grow and keeps molds off the food. Try to pack your desired vegetable into the jar and get the bubbles out.

Carrots, Ginger and Scapes
Use an old fashioned crock if you can find one. I've yet to get one, but there are some really nice new ones on the market, and plenty of antique ceramic crocks which would be great to make big batches of tasty recipes. I have been using 1 litre glass jars with the lids on, allowing them to off gas once every few days, and topping up the brine when some bubbles out upon off gassing.

Beets, quartered and sliced

These projects can be fun to watch bubble and change over time. You're welcome to taste test throughout the process to get familiar with how the bacteria are working, and to get the food to where you like the taste. I like to let them get nice and acidic tasting. The first batch of sauerkraut, and some carrot/sauerkraut mix jars were aged up to 6 weeks before going into the fridge to slow them down. The carrots had the crunch and taste of fresh cut carrots, with a delicious sour exterior and the cabbage also kept it's crunch for the most part.

At almost 6 days
My current batch is ginger carrots with onion scapes, beets, carrots and beets, beets in sauerkraut, and sauerkraut with apples. These I plan to age for a week at room temperature, then into the fridge they go. The process is still active in the fridge, but much slower.

How does fermenting food fit into a farm blog? Besides preserving the harvest (for quite a while, might I add), bacteria and fungi are important to the soil. I've been building on the knowledge that went into my Worm Poo Tea blog post and experimenting with feeding the leftover lactic acid liquid from my ferments into the "tea", bringing more life to it and so far it seems to be working quite well for my balcony plants. This brew can be diluted way down (100:1, 500:1, 1000:1, etc.) and sprayed on to the soil to work it's magic.

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