Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Lacto Fermented Vegetables

Okay, so what are lacto fermented vegetables when they are at home ?  In short (well, as short as I am capable of - you know me !), it's a way of preserving vegetables for long periods without the benefits of technology - in particular, freezers and pressure canners.   This is the way it used to be done - and if we take to hear the idea that we should be eating what our ancestors ate, because that is what we are designed to get maximum nutrition from - then we should start lacto fermenting our vegetables, even if we do have the option of freezing or home canning them instead.

The reason it works is because lactic acid is a natural preservative, and the bacteria that produce lactic acids can be found everywhere - especially on the leaves and roots of plants.  All they need is the starches and sugars from vegetables, and away they go, converting it into lactic acid.

So, it makes your veggies keep longer. Pretty cool.  But is that all there is to it ?  Hardly worth the bother if that's all it is, right ?

Well, no, that's not all.  This conversion of sugars and starches into lactic acid is not where it stops.  Lacto-fermentation makes your food more easily digestible; creates numerous helpful enzymes; and there are claims that it also produces anticarcinogenic  substances.  I don't know about that, but what I do know is that they really taste rather nice - and that alone is a good reason to give it a go.

Okay, so where do you start ?  Well, I started with sauerkraut.  It's something I grew up eating, and it's dead easy to make, requiring as it does just two simple ingredients - cabbage and sea salt.  Of course, if you were a good girl or a boy and made whey as I suggested you do yesterday, you will add whey as your third, and if you find, as some people do, that cabbage can make you a bit, well, windy, then a tablespoon of caraway seeds will take care of that.  Plus it does add to the flavour.

In summary, then -


1 medium cabbage, core removed, shredded thinly
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. caraway seeds (optional)
4 tbsp. whey

In a bowl, mix cabbage, sea salt, whey, and caraway seeds, if using.  Squeeze and knead (or pound with something like a meat hammer) for ten minutes or so, until the juices start running out. Pack into a jar, juices and all, then press the cabbage down until the juices completely cover it. Cover your jar tightly and keep at room temperature for at least 3 days, longer in cold weather.  Take a shred of cabbage and taste it from time to time - when you are happy that your kraut is sour enough, move to a colder place, or your fridge.  It will keep for darn nearly ever - but I dare you to make it last that long !

Next one that I think is definitely worth making comes from Korea, and I heard - on QI, so it must be true -  that in Korea this is considered pretty much a national dish, with people having special fridges in their house just for it, and Korean astronauts taking specially fermented ones, with a particular balance of bacteria, into space.


1 medium cabbage, core removed, shredded thinly
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/2 mooli radish, grated (optional)
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, or 1-2 fresh chillies, chopped
1 tbsp. sea salt
4 tbsp. whey

Mix everything and then proceed as for sauerkraut.

As the only place I can get mooli around here is an ethnic supermarket that's a bit of a nuisance to get to, and as my own attempts at growing them were unsuccessful, I normally make it without the mooli.  Oh, and once you make it, you will realise why people might like to keep a separate fridge just for their kimchi - it does have rather a strong aroma.  For that reason, people like me, who have family members with sensitive noses, will probably do best to make this in colder months only, and store it in an outbuilding instead of the fridge or a cool kitchen cupboard. 

Pickled cucumbers

4-5 cucumbers, sliced or 15-20 gherkins
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp. sea salt
4 tbsp. whey
1 cup water

Wash cucumbers well and pack into a large jar.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the cucumbers, adding more water if the cukes  are not fully covered. Cover tightly and keep at a room temperature for about 3 days before moving to a colder place.

I have to say, though, this is one I did not like - I guess my taste buds are just too used to vinegary gherkin or bread and butter pickles.  Give it a go though and see what you think !

And one final one -

Pickled Vine Leaves

24 vine leaves
1 tbsp. sea salt
4 tbsp. whey
2 cups water

Wash leaves well, place water, salt and whey in a large bowl, and allow to soak for about an hour.  Then roll up all the leaves together, stuff into a jar, and pour the liquid over them. 3 days at room temperature, then move into a colder place or the fridge.

Those are all the ones that I tried so far, but I intend to experiment further in the future - the basic method is pretty much the same regardless of what you are trying to ferment.  You need your veg, your sea salt, preferably your whey, possibly some whole spices, and for some veg, a bit of water - and that's that.  Make sure your veggies are well covered, keep at room temperature for at least 3 days, then store somewhere a bit colder.   Search the web for more recipes, or allow your creativity to take over - and if you come across something that works particularly well, do come back and share :o)


1 comment:

  1. I'm going to give the sauerkraut a go once I've got my hands on some cultured buttermilk. I do make my own butter if I happen across some reduced-to-pennies double cream but I think that the resulting buttermilk is a different beast to the cultured buttermilk that you buy. We also have a vine in the garden which produces about 3 grapes a year but loads of leaves which the rabbits and hens love. Maybe I could try fermenting some of them. I can't see my husband being brave enough to try any of these but I would.