Thus far our film journey has led us to many different food movements. One of these is the bubbling interest in lacto-fermentation (pun intended). We have some experience as we are both avid home yogurters, but we thought it would be fun to try fermenting in one of its other forms. While fermenting beer would be fun, we decided fermented vegetables were probably a little more appropriate to our mission. When I saw all of our mason jars laid out and ready for the veggies I was a little intimidated with thoughts of the thorough sanitizing and precision required in canning. But, this was so easy! The whole point of fermentation is allowing the bacteria to grow so being ultra sanitary is not required. We scoured blogs for the best recipe and ended up taking advice from several. Some of those that we consulted were Daily Bites and Economies of Kale.
The basic process entails choosing some fresh organic vegetables, cleaning some mason jars and lids and getting a hold of some sea salt. After rinsing and chopping the vegetables we then scooped 1 tablespoon of sea salt into each jar and mixed it with ½ cup of filtered water. Next, we loaded up the jars with the vegetables and then filled them with more water to completely cover the vegetables. You can also at this point add other flavorings such as fresh herbs and garlic. Finally we took a cabbage leaf and completely tucked it around the top of the vegetables as a type of lid. This cabbage topper should also be submerged by water. Some of the blogs we found talked about using a weight to keep the vegetables submerged, but using a cabbage leaf seemed the most simple to us. The jars will now sit for 5-7 days with both their cabbage and tin lids screwed on tightly in a dark and dry place.
The idea behind fermentation is that there are bacteria that occur naturally on the surface of the vegetables. By letting them sit in this salty brine for several days we allow the “good” bacteria to proliferate and also limit the growth of the organisms that would be less desirable to eat. This is also why it is vital that all vegetable matter is fully submersed in the brine. As the bacteria proliferate and digest some of the vegetable matter they produce gases. Thus, we hope to see some bubbling in our jars and will need to “burp” the jars once daily by briefly opening the lid to let the gas out. Some recipes we found suggest supplementing the naturally occurring bacteria by adding yogurt whey or kefir grains to the brine but we decided to keep it as simple as possible for our maiden voyage into the world of vegetable fermentation. If all goes well it will be fun to experiment with different cultures and flavor additions in the future.
So why ferment your foods? Lacto-fermentation, while newly reinvigorated, is something that has taken place in many cultures for a long time, for example in the form of kombucha, kimchi or sauerkraut. There are many benefits to eating fermented foods and they are something that we don’t eat much of in our modern, germaphobic culture. Not only do fermented foods provide lots of probiotics to keep our microbiome healthy (see my previous post for more on the importance of this) but they also help to break down and make the foods we are eating more easily digestible and the nutrients more readily available.
Stay tuned for how our experiment turns out!