The Newbies Guide to Fermenting

Lacto-fermented vegetables are cultured vegetables. You’ve probably heard of sauerkraut, kim chi, and sour dill pickles, right? These are all forms of lacto-fermentation. Many people use whey as a starter but it is not necessary given you use enough salt. You can also make salt-free cultured vegetables without whey as long as you use some sort of acid, such as lemon juice, to prevent spoilage before the lactobacilli take over. Making your own lacto-fermented veggies is so easy that once you start you’ll be hooked!

Traditionally lacto-fermentation was used to preserve the harvest and store vegetables for the winter. If you have a garden full of cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, and green beans and don’t know how to store them all, consider making a few batches of lacto-fermented vegetables. These veggies can be stored in your refrigerator for months….if they don’t get eaten first!

Lacto-fermented vegetables provide a viable source of probiotics (at a cost well below most supplements) to heal and maintain a healthy gut. These beneficial microorganisms attach to receptors in our guts that send a signal to the immune system that says everything is okay, no need to overreact to foods and other things entering the gut, let’s keep everything calm. If you are dealing with multiple allergies, chances are your gut is out of balance and is in need of a daily dose of beneficial microorganisms. These crispy, sour, salty vegetables are highly addicting and an easy, economical way to maintain a healthy gut. These vegetables are also important to include daily if you are following our Elimination Diet.

Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

We’ve tried fermenting all types of different vegetables. We have fun creating different flavors, some spicy and some not. Our current flavor addiction is beet-basil-dill-carrot-garlic. All of these vegetables combined in one jar is out of this world good….even if you thought you didn’t like beets! I have tried using a salt brine made up from anywhere between 1 to 2 tablespoons of sea salt per 2 cups of water. I find that 2 tablespoons is too salty and slows down fermentation, so use anywhere between 1 and 1 1/2 tablespoons. It is very important that you use filtered water for all fermentation. Chlorine in water is great for keeping our water supply clean but not so good for allowing beneficial bacteria to grow and not so good for our guts and overall health.

1 glass quart jar with a plastic lid 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt 2 cups filtered water

Any Combination of Raw Organic Vegetables chopped cauliflower chopped beets chopped carrots chopped green beans chopped bell peppers sliced radishes sliced daikon sliced cucumbers chopped turnips chopped broccoli chopped kale chopped onions chopped green onions chopped garlic cabbage leaves (for the top)

Any Combination of Herbs and Spices dried chili peppers black peppercorns bay leaf fresh dill fresh basil fresh tarragon fresh mint sea vegetables (arame or hijiki) – use less salt if using these

First dissolve your sea salt in water in a glass jar or 2-cup glass measure. Then place you favorite combination of vegetables into a quart jar (you can use a larger cylindrical jar or ceramic crock instead, just double or triple the salt brine keeping the same ratio of salt and water). Add a few layers of herbs and spices too. I prefer to keep the peppercorns in the first layer, on the bottom of the jar, so they don’t float to the top. Make sure you leave about an inch from the top of the jar.

Then cover with your salt brine, leaving about an inch to a half inch from the top. Fold a small cabbage leaf and press it into the brine so the water floats above it and the vegetables are completely submerged. Cover with a plastic lid (it is best not to use metal as the salt and acids can corrode it, though I have used them occasionally if that is all I have). Screw the lids on tightly. After day 2 or 3 begin to “burp” your jars once or twice daily to let excess gasses escape. You can do this by unscrewing the lid just enough to hear the gasses release and then quickly tightening it back up. You should see a bit of bubbling and some liquid possibly dripping out after about day three, depending on the heat level in your home. I like to place my jars into some sort of container, like a rectangular Pyrex dish, to catch any drips. Set your jars in an undisturbed place in your kitchen out of direct sunlight. I like to store mine on top of my refrigerator.

You can taste the veggies after about five days to see how soured they are. I prefer to let mine ferment for about 7 to 8 days in the winter and 5 to 6 days in late summer. I have also let them ferment for 10 or more days. Just experiment, there is no exact science with fermentation. After your veggies are soured to your liking place the jar (or jars) into your refrigerator where they will store for months.

Use your vegetables to top cooked quinoa, beans, and chopped leafy greens. Serve them atop grilled fish or chicken. Serve them with scrambled eggs for breakfast. I like to add them to salmon or chicken salads made with mayonnaise. And try to restrain yourself from eating the whole jar in one sitting….it may be a little too much salt all at once! You can also whisk some of the leftover brine with olive oil, a squirt of dijon mustard, and a dash of honey for a probiotic salad dressing!