In this article, I want to tell you how beneficial fermented or cultured vegetables are for you and also give you a step by step guide to making them.
Then I will give you some troubleshooting tips and a few concerns on the subject.
When we talk about fermenting vegetables, kimchi and sauerkraut come to mind but actually, any vegetable can be fermented.
The answer to fermenting vegetables is to keep them in an anaerobic environment which in this case simply means that they must be kept under liquid during the entire fermentation process.
The vessels that can be used to create such an environment can range anywhere from the expensive Harsch Crock down to the simple mason jar or any jar for that matter.
I don’t use any special vessels in any of my ferments and also don’t think that they are necessary in order to achieve the desired outcome.
So if you have a knife, chopping board, mixing bowl and a jar at home there is no reason why you can’t start making these beneficial ferments.
Cultured Vegetable Benefits
Act as a Preservatives
If we keep our vegetables in the fridge they will only last for a couple of weeks at the most, but if you ferment them they will keep for months or maybe years and still maintain their crunchiness.
Vegetable fermentation has been practiced for thousands of years by submerging the vegetables in liquids which were the only method available for preserving food in those times.
By keeping the vegetables under brine so as to maintain this anaerobic state while the fermentation process takes place, they create an acidic environment in which toxins and pathogens cannot survive.
Therefore, in my opinion, this makes Lacto-fermentation one of the safest methods of preserving vegetables.
Source of probiotics
Because of the Lactic acid that is produced during the fermentation process, this makes cultured vegetables a great source of good bacteria.
These beneficial bacteria thrive in this anaerobic environment and give you a far greater variety and quantity of probiotics than many of the supplement forms found in our shops today.
The good probiotics found in fermented vegetables help in the way of optimizing the gut flora and because of their diversity greatly boost our immune systems.
The phytic acid in the vegetables is substantially broken down by the fermentation process resulting in the release of bonded minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium and copper.
These minerals then become readily available for absorption along with the enhancement of the vitamin content within the vegetables.
In addition to their enhanced vitamin content of mainly A, B, C and K they are also high in antioxidants which help protect against free radicals and reduce inflammation within the body.
It is said that fermented vegetables may actually be safer for you than raw or cooked vegetables.
Toxins like E. coli and other bad bacteria need to be aerobic (exposed to oxygen) in order to survive and therefore could be present in both raw or cooked vegetables.
But these toxins cannot survive in the lactic acid environment that fermented vegetables produce and therefore pose very little risk to you.
So if your ferment is under brine you can be fairly confident that there aren’t any unwanted “bad guys” in the final outcome and can look forward to a tasty and nutritious food.
Easier to Digest
The lactic acid that is produced in fermented vegetables helps by increasing the acidity of our gastric juices which is necessary for proper digestion.
So the hydrochloric acid secreted by our stomachs combined with this extra acidity from fermented vegetables help in breaking down the nutrients that we ingest.
This is still further complemented by the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are produced which colonize the gut and help in nutrient absorption.
Overall, this improves digestion and is an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues.
How I make my Cultured Veggies
There are many ways to make fermented vegetables with fancy crocks or jars and using different cultures. Also, adding weights to keep the vegetables under the brine and so forth.
But I am going to show you a quick and easy method that I use and although admittedly I have had some spoilt ferments most of them have been very successful.
So the only utensils that I use or are needed is a sharp knife and grater (food processor is a bonus), a chopping board, a large mixing bowl, a measuring jug and a jar to ferment the veggies in.
I am not going to give you a specific recipe here, but am going to give you the process that I use for all my vegetable ferments.
- Choose what vegetables you would like to ferment be it sauerkraut or any other vegetable. It could just be carrots, sweet potato, baby marrows or any mixture, it all depends on you and what you feel like.
- I then get my knife, chopping board, food processor, large bowl, jug and jar ready. (in my last ferment I used a sterilized peanut butter jar)
- Use the chopping board to chop the veggies just enough to put them through the food processor or you could just chop or grate them up. The object here is to create a bigger surface area so that they ferment a bit quicker.
- Then add your sliced or shredded vegetables to the mixing bowl and try to break them up even further by hand to get as much juice out of them as possible.
- Transfer the vegetables from the bowl to a fermenting jar compressing them as you go. Fill it about 3 quarters of the way with veggies and pour in the excess juice from the bowl.
- When you have done this you want to get the brine ready which is just a mixture of salt and water. I add 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt to a 500ml measuring jug and mix it up to make the brine.
- Then pour some of the brine solution into the jar until it is about a centimeter from the top. I also like to put a whole cabbage leaf on top of this tucking it down the insides of the jar and pushing the veggies under the brine.
- Lastly, fasten the lid tightly and leave at room temperature for 3 to 4 days before removing the cabbage leaf and refrigerating.
In case I haven’t explained myself properly I am going to share a link with you of how my online mentor the great Sandor Katz makes sauerkraut.
Troubleshooting Tips & Concerns
It is quite common to have a few issues during your ferments so unfortunately you can’t just cap the jar and forget about them. They have to be nurtured and looked after.
- Don’t forget to release the pressure every day by unscrewing the lid of the jar, but then reseal immediately afterward so as not to let in too much oxygen.
- The carbon dioxide buildup may force the brine to seep out the sides of the lid in which case you can always put your jars in a pan to catch the excess liquid.
- You may notice that the cabbage leaf has risen above the brine and is discolored. Simply remove it and replace it with a new leaf, there is not need for alarm here.
- It may be that there is a white film on top of your ferment. This is known as kalm yeast which is not harmful and very common so if you want you can scrape this off and it will look as good as new again.
- If there is colorful mold growing on top of your veggies due to oxygen exposure then that is a sign your ferment has been spoilt and you should throw the batch away and begin again.
I hope you have found this article informative and I want to thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments on the subject please feel free to leave them below.