My husband and I have long been non-resolution-makers. There’s some scientific data somewhere that proves that if you proclaim you’re doing this or that for a New Year’s Resolution, and everyone around you tells you what a great idea it is, your brain gives you a mental pat on the back and assumes you’ve already completed the task because everyone told you it was great. Then, you don’t even think about carrying on with your resolution. Something scientific and totally sensible.
We decided many years ago that our non-resolutions would include giving up alcoholic beverages for at least the first quarter of the year. We’ve managed to succeed every time.
I feel safe sharing ours here because we’ve succeeded so many times, and it’s no longer a resolution for us but a January 1 Way of Life. I also feel safe sharing my other non-resolution because I’m pretty excited about it and it’s almost too time consuming for my brain to say, “Great job already, you did it!” when I’m still waiting on the supplies to arrive in the mail.
2019 is going to be the year we add a whole bunch of fermented foods to our diet. Having gotten pretty good at canning and owning a nice collection of glass mason jars, I recently ordered a dozen lids and glass weights that are specially made for fermenting with any wide-mouth jars, to ferment veggies with minimal effort, maximum variety, and hopefully minimized smell factor.
What’s the deal with fermented vegetables? Fermented vegetables are beneficial for your gut health. They add good bacteria to your gut, and good bacteria helps to strengthen your immune system and regulate your appetite. That’s the short story.
The last time I made sauerkraut at home in a big crock, the house smelled so foul that I almost didn’t want to eat the gallon of fermented cabbage. But, it was delicious and healthy and I ate it and loved it. I might’ve been the only one in the house that enjoyed it, but I did. I also fermented okra and green beans that I picked from a friend’s garden, and made spicy kimchi.
You can ferment pretty much any vegetable, some just need a little more care than others. Cabbages have enough moisture in them that you don’t need a brine recipe to get the process going – they make their own brine with some salt. I also plan to ferment carrots, peppers, radishes, beets, broccoli and cauliflower. I’m excited to make spicy kimchi again.
Other vegetables with a higher water content, like squash and sliced cucumbers, get mushy during the ferment and need an ingredient high in tannins, like grape leaves or black tea leaves, added to their jars.
While it seems daunting to ferment vegetables, it really isn’t. Be sure you cut your ingredients roughly the same size and shape so they ferment at the same rate in their jar.
Use a salt brine to cover the veggies completely and keep it submerged. The magic can only happen in an oxygen-free environment. Mold will grow if any veggies are exposed to air. You can keep the ingredients submerged by nesting a smaller jar in a larger jar, placing a glass weight in the jar, or covering the ingredients with a cabbage leaf. I’m anxiously awaiting my glass weights that are made for wide-mouth mason jars.
The fermentation is complete when the veggies taste good to you… and tangy is good. Depending on the veggies and the temperature they’re kept, fermentation will be quick or take a little longer. Taste it every few days, and be sure to keep it submerged!
Store your fermented vegetables in a cool place once they have reached a flavor you like, usually in a few days. They’ll stay good for months in the refrigerator since cool will slow the fermentation process.
This is my goal… a pantry filled with canned foods of all colors and varieties. I took this picture 10 years ago at a working farm museum near Fredericksburg, TX.
4 cups vegetables of your choice, washed and peeled (if desired), and cut into roughly evenly-sized pieces
seasonings of your choice
4 cups chlorine-free water
2 tablespoons sea salt
Fill a clean, wide-mouth jar with the chopped vegetables, leaving at least 1½ inches at the top. Add your seasonings of choice.
In a one-quart liquid measuring cup, mix 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of sea salt until the salt has dissolved. This is your brine.
Pour the salt water brine over the vegetables in your jar, leaving one inch of space at the top.
Place a smaller clean jar (or other weight) inside the first jar to keep the vegetables submerged below the brine.
Cover the jars with something breathable (coffee filter, paper towel or breathable cloth held in place with a rubber band) in place. If you choose to use a tight-fitting lid, you will need to open the jar every day to let some of the gasses escape. You can use a lid with an air-lock, too.
Leave them to ferment on the counter for 2-3 days. The ideal fermenting temperature is 70-75°F. Check every day that all the vegetables are staying below the brine. By 2-3 days, tiny bubbles should appear.
Taste the veggies at 2-3 days. Once the taste good to you, remove any weights, cover them tightly and stick them in the fridge. Enjoy!