My friends give rave reviews and various accolades for my fermented food products. So far, my successful batches have been of fermented vegetables and once with a quince (fruit) mead. I also brew kombucha, but as of yet not as successfully. I keep my kombucha for myself.
The methodology for fermenting foods is lovingly simple: Put veggies under water.
The water can be from the veggies themselves. I call that veggie juice. It’s the savory equivalent of cider. Alternately, or in addition, one can salt the veggie juice, and one can add a salty brine to make sure the veggies are submerged. Any vegetables not submerged could grow mold.
So if you were counting, that’s three things other than the veggies themselves:
- Veggie juice and/or brine
For my sauerchis, I dice or mince or shred the vegetables. (“Sauerchi” is Sandor Katz‘s way of saying (paraphrase) “fermented vegetables using the method of sauerkraut or kimchi”.) Cabbage is the dominant ingredient by weight. From there, I add whatever might be delicious from the pantry: carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, and etc. I do not ferment leafy veggies, but maybe if I decide to do a green product.
I measure everything by weight. This allows me to precisely salt the product. Presently, I have an orange sauerchi—no oranges in it, but it’s the color between yellow and red—that has been fermented in its juices for 4 weeks with the addition of 15% (by weight) of a brine solution. The entire product has 1.5% salt by weight.
- Mince, dice, chop vegetables
- Weight the (now) processed vegetables
- Add a percentage of salt by weight (1 to 2.5%), or if you’re daring, do it by taste. I go by weight by the gram.
- In a bowl, mix in the salt with clean hands. I wash with dish soap and borax.
- Let the vegetables sit with the salt for as long as 12 hours. I usually leave them out for 8 hours under a cheesecloth (to keep out invaders—I only want ambient bacterias and yeasts).
- Equally scoop the product into fermentation jars. In my case, these are jars with fermentation lids. By “equally scoop”, I mean that I scoop the product into jars by weight, going a little at a time (maybe 200 g or 7 oz. at a time). I could stand to detail this part more, but I suspect that’s heavy for most readers.
- Wait at least 4 weeks, taste testing as desired, and mushing the veggies back down as desired. I usually mush the veggies back under their veggie juice at least once a week. A weight could help avoid this.
- After weeks of fermenting in their juice, I add a salt brine (currently 1.5% salt by weight of water) to submerge the veggies without the need to mush them down. I then wait a few days, as the organizms I’m cultivating in the H2O plus veggies propagate rather quickly into the new solution (evidenced by the flavor not changing significantly after a day or two). My hypothesis is that the added brine softens the vegetables a bit by offering more surface area for healthy probiotics to propagate.
- Once the ferment is where I want it, I refrigerate to more or less halt fermentation for months. The product keeps for an unknown period of time, but it’s at least months before I’ve eaten or re-processed my product into a new product (sauerchi juice—another post, another time 😁).
So far, I have made a leftovers in fridge sauerchi (mostly onions, very strong, do not recommend), a classic sauerkraut, a red sauerchi (red cabbage, lots of other things), and presently an orange sauerchi named for its color and not the fruit, but it does have pineapple.
Why I Preserve Fruits and Vegetables By Fermentation
The executive summary of this is that it helps my digestion.
Before fermentation, my indigestion and other gastronomic problems were awful. I would often have so much time spent away from work, and usually too distracted from work to be effective because of what I now consider to be a poor diet and poor habits. I’ll go into more detail without getting into unprofessional TMI. (Ask me anything in the comments.)
Fermented food wasn’t the end-all for resolving my problems, but in addition to changing my habits and making sure I balance fatty acids and dairy with “safe” foods and kombucha has changed my life. Also, I start my day with one of my fermented products—either kombucha and/or sauerchi.