Ferment Vegetables : Using Lactobacillus Fermentation Methods to augment your Diet; can be part of Paleo diets
Late summer and autumn are food preservation times. In traditional farm kitchens (and other locations) families would be busy slicing, dicing, pickling and – yes – fermenting. Back in the early 1960’s those families would not refer to lactobacillus fermentation of their vegetables, instead they would talk about “putting it down in brine” or “making pickles.” Sauerkraut was a big favorite of families that had immigrated from Germany. Making kraut is a fermentation process, as are other ethnically traditional recipes such as kimchi, borsht, miso, natta and tempeh. Refrigerator pickles can also be a fermentation process. The term “lacto” in this instance has nothing to do with milk, and everything to do with the type of bacteria that makes safe fermentation possible.
Nor would those families have labeled their foodstuffs as “paleo” although farm families who consumed foods grown on their own acres and preserved in their own kitchens probably came close to a paleo diet – which is to say one that is primarily based on meats and vegetables with only modest amounts of starch. Flour and pasta was “store-bought” food and used sparingly by the budget conscious farm cook.
Fermenting and pickling vegetables in a salt water or vinegar bath is a time-tested method of preserving food. It meets the Paleo diet restrictions, and can taste great. More than that, it is an easy way to preserve your end-of-garden foods or even take advantage of harvest time store sales. If that were not enough reasons to ferment your vegetables, probiotic foods that are made using this fermentation process are great for delicate digestions, and they taste great!
What you will need to ferment vegetables
- Clean stoneware crocks (with a food safe finish) or glass jars
- Linen or cloth caps for the containers
- Jar lids and rings (only if using glass canning jars)
- Non-chlorinated water
- Vegetables for specific recipes
- A dimly lit area with a stable temperature – to place containers during fermentation
- Weights for the top of the lid (to add pressure)
- Spices (for some recipes)
- Various vegetable ingredients
- Pressure canner (optional)
Recipes for Traditional Fermented Vegetables:
- 1 or more large heads of cabbage
- 1 tablespoon salt (not iodized) per head of cabbage
- Non-chlorinated water
- A foodsafe earthenware crock with straight sides or wide-mouthed quart canning jars.
- A food grater
This is a traditional recipe used by a farm woman from central Missouri. Using a sharp knife, slice the cabbage head into quarters, using the stem as your slicing axis. Grate the cabbage on a metal food grater, using the stem part to hold the cabbage. Pack the grated cabbage into glass jars or into a crock. Be sure to pack it tightly. Meanwhile, put the kettle on and boil water. Sprinkle one tablespoon of salt on the top of each quart of cabbage. If using a crock, layer cabbage and salt.
Leave some room at the top of the crock. Pour hot water over the cabbage, making sure that all parts of the cabbage are covered. Slide a flexible table knife down the sides of the jar to help the water get all the way to the bottom. Place a small plate or similar item over the jar to act as a weight – you can skip this part if using jars. Cover the container with a cloth cover so that air can get in, but insects must say out. Allow the cabbage to sit for about four weeks, checking often.
The cabbage will bubble, and the top might turn brown. When it is finished it will have that tangy, sauerkraut taste. Store the finish product in the refrigerator or place canning lids on the jars, and pressure cook them according to the pressure canner directions. It will keep about six months in the fridge, and almost indefinitely when pressure canned unless the seal on the lid fails.
- 1 head napa cabbage
- Non-iodized salt (sea salt is nice)
- Vegan fish sauce (see separate recipe)
- 3 tbsps fresh ginger
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 1 small onion or ½ large onion
- Red Flake Pepper to taste
Vegan Fish Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup pineapple juice (canned is fine)
Cut the napa cabbage in quarters, and cut out the hearts. This will leave large, loose leaves. Place the leaves in a bowl, layering salt between them. Let them rest for two hours, tossing them lightly occasionally. Prepare the fish sauce by combining the ingredients, and set aside. Next, prepare the Pepper sauce by putting all of those ingredients in a blender and using it to combine them. When the pepper sauce has the amount of heat you desire, add the fish sauce. At the end of two hours, remve the cabbage from the salt, rinse it, and pat it dry with a paper towel or clean dish towel. Coat each leaf with the sauce mix, and pack it into an earthen ware or glass container. Make sure each leaf is liberally coated, and pack the leaves in tight. Cover, and allow to ferment. Check the mixture each day, pressing with a spoon or clean fingers to force out air bubbles.
- 1 ½ cups vinegar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons pickling salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 head garlic
- Cucumbers, or other vegetables
Combine the vinegar, water, salt and spices in a pot on the stove, and bring them to a boil. Turn off and let it set. Pack the vegetables to be pickled into glass canning jars, and pour the hot water over them. Loosely cap each jar with a canning lid and screw band. When the jars are completely cool, gently tighten the lids, and place the pickles in the refrigerator.
These are only three of the many recipes for fermented vegetables. Fermenting vegetables in your own kitchen gives you the opportunity to control the ingredients, to balance the spices to your taste, and allows you to have foods that are not laced with preservatives. I hope you have enjoyed reading about fermenting vegetables, and that you will try one or more of these easy recipes. Please leave comments – I would love to hear from you.