If you’re nervous about the whole fermentation thing, the good news is apparently no one has ever died from eating fermented veg. So it’s safe!
This method is a great place to start because it’s suitable for pretty much all vegetables. My favourites so far are carrots, zucchini (which turn out like pickles), red chillies and celery. I’m also keen to try onions.
Will keep in the fridge for months.
1 clean glass jar
enough vegetables to fill jar
50g (1 3/4 oz) salt
1L (4 cups) water
1. Scrub veg. Trim or chop into bite sized pieces. Or leave whole. Peel if you prefer (I don’t bother).
2. Pack the veg into your jar.
3. Combine salt and water and stir until dissolved. Shouldn’t take too long.
4. Pour salted water over the veg to cover them. You probably won’t need all the liquid. If the veg aren’t covered, make up more brine so they are covered.
5. Close jar and leave somewhere you will see it but not in direct sunlight.
6. Every day open jar to release any built up gas (CO2) and use a clean spoon to push down the vegetables so the surface is covered in the brine. This helps prevent mold growth. They’ll float again after you push them down, but the salty brine inhibits mold growth.
7. Start tasting after about 3 days or when you see lots of bubbles of gas being produced. When you’re happy with the flavour (ie it tastes acidic or tangy enough for you) pop the jar in the fridge and start eating. Or if the veg start to soften, it’s time to refrigerate. Generally 4-5 days is a good amount of time for fermentation but if you’re living somewhere really warm it may not take that long. And really cold climates may take longer.
short on time – use some whey to ‘kick start’ your ferment. So either some brine from a previous batch of fermented veg or the liquid whey from a tub of yoghurt. Check your ferment after 1-2 days.
veg – use your imagination. Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, chillies, beets, celery, cucumber, watermelon rind, baby eggplant, capsicum (bell peppers), green tomatoes, chard stems. Sandor Katz did say that the only thing he doesn’t like to ferment are veg with lots of chlorophyll. So anything too green like kale isn’t great. And from my notes watermelon rind tastes like cucumber pickles.
flavourings – feel free to add in other flavourings such as cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, carraway seeds, preserved lemon, lemon zest, thyme, rosemary, sage, dried chilli flakes, whole dried chilli peppers, sliced or grated ginger, whole cloves of garlic (the acid form the fermentation removes any risk of botilism).
fruit – I’ve also used this method to ferment cumquats, rhubarb and cherries. The only thing to be aware of with fruit is you can get some alhocol produced from the extra sugar so be careful.
more specific ideas – carrot & harissa, turmeric cauliflower, fermented whole chilli peppers (any kind), cucumber, mustard seeds, dill & onion, rhubarb & ginger, turnip, beetroot & cloves, green tomatoes & carraway, celery with lemon & pepper, zucchini & chilli & mint, fennel & peppercorns.
salt – I use a finely ground sea salt or Himalayan salt but any salt will be fine.
lower salt – it is possible to ferment without the salt or use lower quantities, the problem is that salt helps to keep the veg texture nice and crisp so unsalted or low salt veg can end up mushy. Which might be OK for you. Salt also helps flavour.
water – use filtered water if you can. But if using tap water, boil it and allow it to cool to get rid of any chlorine which may hinder the fermentation.
brine – after you’ve eaten the veg the brine can be discarded or used to season soups and stews. Or you can drink it but it’s pretty salty. Or save it for your next fermentation project – will keep in the fridge for months.
as a snack – my favourite way to eat them is to pick them out of the jar and snack. Fergal and I often chomp on fermented carrots while I’m getting his dinner ready.
in salads – add a little crunch and zing. I wouldn’t make a whole salad from them though as it might be too much of a good thing.
with rich / hearty meals – serve a little bowl of fermented veg with your next pork belly or lamb shank extravaganza. I love them with mashed potato too.
with burgers – it’s a classic combo for a reason!
Problem Solving Guide
surface mould growth – If you get a white mould growing, just scrape it off. If it’s a black or other non white colour best to discard. To avoid this in the future, make sure you re-submerg the veggies on the surface by pushing them down with a spoon on your daily checkin.
liquid spilling everywhere – next time leave some space when filling the jars to allow room for expansion during fermentation. I always leave my ferments on a plate so I don’t make a mess if I overfill.
no bubbles / gas being produced – a sign your fermentation hasn’t started. Either keep waiting and checking every day. Or add some whey to add some bacteria and speed things up. Whey can either be brine from a previous batch of ferment or the watery liquid that separates out from a pot of yoghurt. Different vegetables have different amounts of Lactic Acid Bacteria present to you’ll notice it takes longer or not as long for different veg. And temperature makes a huge difference as well so consider moving to a warmer spot.
not sure if they’re ready – Taste! If they taste tangy / acidic and you’re happy they’re done. If in doubt, pop them in the fridge to slow the fermentation right down. If you decide later they’re not ready you can always bring them back to room temp to ferment further. But once they get too pongy for you, you can’t go backwards.
too salty – you can always dilute the brine with extra filtered water either during or after fermentation.
Absolutely. Takes 30 minutes + fermenting time.
Storage Best Practices
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Will keep in the fridge for 3 months or so. Can be frozen but will change the texture.