Why should we ferment?

Well, quite simply because it’s a great way to increase consumption of probiotic foods which helps to promote a healthy gut. Fruits and vegetables typically have the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus on their surface and even though probiotic supplements have their place – enhancing gut health through food and nutrition with a nutritionally dense and diverse diet should be priority.

Fermenting works because when Lactobacillus is placed in an oxygen-free environment it turns the sugars into lactic acid. This lactic acid prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, acting as a preservative giving fermented foods their tangy flavour.

You can pretty much ferment any vegetable but the best vegetables for fermenting include cabbage, broccoli, whole pickling cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, garlic, kohlrabi, peppers, radishes, beetroot and onions. Cabbage is quite a watery vegetable so you don’t need to add water whereas with the other veggies you do.

Depending on the vegetable, wash and peel as if you were going to eat them raw. The finer you chop or shred the vegetables, the more you can do and they will ferment faster.  Make sure you cut them the same size so they ferment in the same time.

You then add the brine (salty water). The salt prevents mould, while favouring beneficial bacteria, and results in a crisp-textured fermented product. Add the vegetables into a mason jar or fermentation crock and cover them with the brine made from 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water (use natural, non-iodized salt and, preferably, bottled spring water). You can also add other ingredients with the vegetables such as herbs and seasonings. Carrot and ginger is one of my favourite combinations.

To stop any rotting, the vegetables must remain completely covered in the brine. If you have vegetables that float then use fermentation weights. You could also cover with a cabbage leaf.

If using a mason jar, tighten the lid but stop just before it is ‘really tight’ as this prevents oxygen from entering, but let’s carbon dioxide escape. If you don’t allow this it may cause a bit of an explosion. Store in a cool, dark place at about 65-70°. Check them daily to be sure all the vegetables are staying below the brine. By 2-3 days, you should start to see some tiny bubbles forming at the top of the brine.

Fermentation times vary from days to months and this can dependent upon temperature, size of vegetable and what vegetable you use. A taste test is the best way to figure it out and you can start tasting after about 2-3 days. When you are happy with how they taste you can store in the fridge and dip in for snacks or as an accompaniment to your meals.

Some of my favourite combinations:

  • Carrots with red pepper flakes
  • Green beans with garlic
  • Carrots with ginger
  • Broccoli and cauliflower with garlic & basil
  • Cauliflower with curry powder