We closed up the garden a couple of weeks ago and did a final harvest. Now the decision is what to do with end of the season vegetables. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the probiotic nutrition in fermented vegetables and thought this would be a great opportunity to try my hand at a new way of preserving foods as well as saving money. (Have you seen the price for probiotic supplements?) Fortunately this isn’t a complicated process.
To this base I added an assortment of vegetables that were languishing in the refrigerator and pantry: cucumbers, carrots, tiny squash, red bell pepper, some garlic and a few slices of pickled ginger. There’s no real rule here, just use what you like and what you have. It all goes into the food processor for a medium fine chop.
Sprinkle with some kosher or canning salt (any kind without iodine) and let the chopped vegetables drain. I didn’t really measure this, but one source said that 3 tablespoons salt to 5 lbs of vegetables should be about right. After about half an hour, squeeze out as much water as possible and pack tightly into a glass or ceramic container with a tight fitting lid.
Pack the vegetables down tightly (I use a big wooden spoon) a little at a time.
In a 2 cup measure, add 1 3/4 cup filtered or distilled water. I add whey to speed up the fermentation process (I use the whey drained off the plain Greek yogurt which seems to work well, but you could use a probiotic starter that you can purchase.) You don’t have to use the whey, some people just use the salt and the natural bacteria from the vegetables for the fermentation process but I like the added tang that the whey adds.
Pour the mixture over the tightly packed vegetables making sure the liquid completely covers the vegetables. Fold the cabbage leaves you set aside earlier and place on top of the vegetable mixture. Place a heavy weight (I used a ceramic cereal bowl) on top of the cabbage leaves and place the lid tightly on the jar. And that’s it. Set it on the counter inside another dish or pan to catch any residue from the fermentation. Once a day, lift the lid and replace it. I like to let my veggies ferment for at least 7 days, but it depends greatly on your personal taste. When you think they’re ready to eat, spoon the fermented yummies into clean (sanitized in dishwasher) glass jars and put in the refrigerator. The vegetables will continue to ferment (slowly) in the refrigerator. In addition to being delicious, fermented foods are a great way to keep your digestive system and your entire body healthier. Enjoy! Ε