Easy, cheap and soooooooooo good for your gut!
I’ll write a separate post on the whys and hows of good gut bacteria, but for now, why not make a start on tidying up the results of a lifetime’s poor eating habits? Give your gut a chance.
A printable version of the recipe appears at the end of this article.
Fermenting your own vegetables with a culture is really easy, and the results are truly delicious. Not to say time-saving and maybe even life-saving.
There are lots of ways to make fermented foods, and using a culture is just one. But it is the easiest and most reliable, specially for beginners. When you buy your culture, check on the amount of vegetables it is good for, so you get the proper result.
How do I use Fermented Vegetables
Once you start to eat this fabulous food, you’ll wonder how you got on without it in the fridge, ready at a moment’s notice to add flavour and serious nutrition to any and everything.
- Add a spoonful or three to every salad. No-one else will even know it’s there if you mix it through
- Have a spoonful on the side with grilled meat – steak, chops or sausages
- Fill a half avocado with fermented veg for the quickest ever entree. Or have both halves for a quick lunch
- Looking for a snack? Grab a spoonful
- Feel a sore throat coming on? Start sipping on the juice
- Got belly ache? Get a spoonful of juice, quick
Fermented veggies are so good
Once you’ve made your own, you’ll be hard-pressed to go back to eating the commercial variety. You can so easily customize them and put your signature on them. I don’t have a definite recipe, except to use about 2 kg of vegetables, with 2/3 cabbage and 1/3 whatever takes my fancy.
I add grated lime if there are any on the tree, or maybe slices of lemon; I mince shallots if I remembered to buy them, or maybe just add a little garlic. Red capsicum sometimes, and a modest amount of red chilli.
How much to make, and how often?
I don’t make enormous quantities because I like to keep it in the fridge once it’s fermented, and there’s not a lot of space. So I hunted round till I found jars that are the perfect height for my fridge shelves, and fill about 4. Plus a smaller one with extra juice.
That’s about 3 months worth, but if it looks like running out, I just make the next batch. In less than a week, it’s ready to eat.
When preparing the vegetables, wash them all well, drain, and slice them to an even size, so they’ll ferment well. I grate carrot, shallot, ginger and lime rind, and slice the rest. I’ve tried using a mandolin but I think it’s easier with a sharp knife and cutting board.
You can, of course, use just one vegetable at a time – cabbage, or whatever you have a taste for. I recently did a couple of jars of cherry tomatoes, having read a rave report of how good they are.
I’m not so sure about that though; I suppose I’m not that passionate about tomatoes at any time. And, in the end, I tossed them (into the compost, of course)
Reasons to use a culture for fermented vegetables
- I don’t particularly like a lot of salt, and often recipes call for quite a bit when fermenting without a culture
- It only takes a few days – 3-5, so jars aren’t hanging around the kitchen a long time
- Results are reliable
A few notes on preparation for fermenting
You need a big container to mix all those sliced and chopped veggies, so get a plastic (or glass is better) tub and keep it JUST for food.
You don’t need to massage the cabbage till it gives up its juice when you use a culture, even though many recipes insist you do.
You don’t need to pack the vegetables tightly into jars – in fact, I have them in lots of liquid, so they easily stay submerged once fermented. Then, there’s lots of extra fermented juice to be sipped on when you need an extra boost, or feel a bit ‘off’ in any way.
You can however, choose to pack the veggies in tightly if you want. Fill the jar almost to the top, add liquid, then push a spare cabbage leaf down on top to submerge them. If the jar has a bit of a neck, the leaf will sit neatly under it.
Make an extra litre of brine – 1Tablespoon sea salt to 1 litre water – to top up jars if needed.
Wear gloves when preparing the chillies, and wash them (the gloves) as soon as you’ve finished…..chilli is very nasty when it contacts mouth or eyes.
Making your fermented vegetables
So, it’s time to have a go, and actually get out the veggies and chopping board. Line up everything you’re going to need, so you don’t get halfway through and realize there’s no culture anywhere. By the way, I buy mine at any health food shop, or they are online.
First the Vegetables
The most tedious part is finely slicing the cabbage, but if you’re systematic, it’s not that hard.
Then process whatever other veg you’ll be using, keeping the onion family till last – to save the tears. Mix all the veg really well in your big tub, especially if you’re adding grated carrot and ginger, both of which tends to clump.
The most efficient mixer is to use a clean hand – it’s easier to get everything nicely integrated that way.
Next the liquid
Make the liquid. Use a good quality salt – don’t bother with cheap iodised salt, but rather get a good sea salt. Make sure to dissolve it completely in the litre of water. You can play with the amount of salt next time, but using some helps to keep the vegetables crisp.
Mix the honey into the 1/2 cup of luke-warm water, then add the culture. Because it’s only a tiny amount, I add a little water to the packet to wash every last speck out into the mix. Let this mix sit for 10 minutes so the culture starts to activate in the honey water.
Stir the culture liquid into the salt liquid, then add all the liquid to the tub of vegetables, and mix thoroughly. Freshly washed clean hands make the ideal mixing tool for this job.
Then all that remains is to pack it all into your jars. Evenly distribute the veg between the jars, and a slotted spoon makes that easy. Only fill about 3/4 full. Then evenly distribute the liquid between them. You can tip the liquid into a jug to make that quick.
When you’ve used it all, if they still need topping up to cover the vegetables, you can make another litre of brine with 1 Tablespoon salt and 1 litre of water. Keep any that’s left over in the fridge until the fermentation process is finished, just in case you need another top up.
I weigh the vegetables down while they are doing their 3 day ferment on the kitchen bench. I use a small empty jar with the lid on – inside a plastic ziploc bag, if you like. For a heavier weight, add water to the jar.
Put the jars onto a tray, in case there’s any expansion and mess) and leave on a bench, out of the sun. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or tea-towel. Check that the vegetables stay submerged.
After 2-3 days, you may see a few small bubbles appear on top of the liquid.
By 5 days,the vegetables can be lidded and put into the fridge. Be sure to date the jars. They’ll last for as long as you don’t eat them, and stay fresh and crisp for months.
- 1100g firm cabbage
- 300g carrot grated
- 2 limes grated rind
- 2 red chillies (more or less) seeded and finely chopped
- 90g shallot (proper shallot, not spring onion) finely chopped or grated
- 1 head garlic (more or less) chopped or grated
- ½ red capsicum finely sliced
- 100 ginger peeled and grated (more or less)
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt dissolved in 1 litre water
- Vegetable culture 1 pkt (Mad Millie)
- ½ cup water
- 1 teas honey
- This amount will fill about 3 1.5 litre jars
- Wash and sterilize jars. The easiest way to do that is to put the jars in the oven at 100c for 15 or more minutes, then allow them to cool there. Put the lids (which are often plastic lined) into a saucepan with a lid, bring to the boil, then allow them to cool until ready to use.
- Prepare all the vegetables, slicing, chopping and grating them as you like.I slice the cabbage, grate carrot, finely dice chilli and red pepper, and process ginger, lime and garlic in the food processor.
- Mix them all together in a large container used just for food.
- In a jug, dissolve the honey in the ½ cup water. Carefully add the culture...it is only a tiny amount of powder, so make sure to get it all. I add a bit of the liquid back into the packet to dissolve any left behind. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so, then add it to the litre of salted water.
- Add culture liquid to salted water and mix well. Add all liquid into the vegetables, and mix through.
- With a slotted spoon, fill jars about ⅔ full of vegetables. Tip remaining liquid into a jug and evenly distribute between the jars. If the vegetables are not yet completely covered, make some extra brine, using 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1 litre of water. Use this to top up jars. Save any left over in case you need to do any more topping up.
- If vegetables need to be weighed down, use a freshly washed and dried small jar with the lid firmly screwed on.
- Place jars on a tray, out of the sun, cover with a clean towel, and leave for 3-5 days, until there are some tiny bubbles visible on the surface. Screw lids on, and move to the fridge.
- Will keep in the fridge for months.