• How to Ferment Vegetables at Home

    February 7, 2017 • EAT, LIFE

    How to ferment vegetables

    Fermenting vegetables at home is a great way to reduce your food waste, improve gut health and save money. It is incredibly easy too!

    The process of fermenting vegetables begins with lacto-fermentation, which is essentially a method of food preservation that also enhances the nutrient content of the food. The process inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, and increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme level and digestability. Research also indicates that lacto-fermentation is beneficial to our digestive and immune system too.

    Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions:

    “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances.  Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

    Essentially lacto-fermented vegetables are no more than grated, sliced, chopped or whole vegetables placed in a brine of salt and water for a period of time a room temperature to let the beneficial bacteria develop.

    Almost any vegetable can be fermented – cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, chilli, beetroot, celery, cucumber, watermelon rind, baby eggplant, capsicum, green tomatoes – the list goes on. Ferment one vegetable alone, or create a mix vegetables, along with complimenting herbs and spices (peppercorns, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves). The only types of vegetable that fermentation is not recommended for are those with lots of chlorophyll, like kale or spinach.

    How to ferment vegetables

    Choose your fermentation equipment

    Fermenting vegetables does not require a lot of specialised equipment. Vegetables can be fermented in a dedicated fermenting crock, or in a clean glass bowl or glass mason jar.

    Prepare your vegetables for fermenting

    Grate: This works well for hard or crunchy vegetables, such as zucchini. Grated fermented vegetables often have the texture of a relish once finished.

    Slice: Slice firm vegetables thinly and soft vegetables thickly to preserve their shape during fermentation.  Sliced jalapeños are a great addition to any burger!

    Chop: What size you chop the vegetables is up to you, but bite-sized pieces work well. Chopped fermented cauliflower and carrot pieces make an easy and healthy snack.

    Whole: Small vegetables, such as radishes, brussel sprouts and green beans work best if left whole. Pickling cucumbers are also fantastic.

    Use salt, whey or a starter culture

    Salt and water are or you need for lacto-fermentation, with sea salt being the best option. Many recipes call for fresh whey as a ferment starter, but it isn’t necessary. Using salt will give the same result. You can also use a vegetable starter culture for a faster fermentation, but it isn’t essential.

    Use water to prepare the brine

    You will need enough brine to be able to submerge the vegetables completely. The best fermentation results are achieved with a 2% brine. The easiest way to think about this is in grams. For every 100 grams of vegetables, you need 2 grams of salt.

    Filtered water is essential, in particular, water that is free of chlorine, chloramines and fluoride. Chlorine and fluoride will not support a healthy ferment as they kill the microbes. You could purchase bottled filtered water, but a ceramic water purifier with fluoride filter is a fantastic waste-free option. It will also give you beautiful filtered drinking water year round.

    Weigh the vegetables down under the brine

    Once the vegetables have been prepared, place them into the chosen fermentation vessel and weigh them down under the brine. Keeping them in an anaerobic environment during the fermentation period is important. Our fermenting crocks come with a weight, however if you are using a bowl or mason jar, you can keep the vegetables submerged using a small glass or ceramic cup or plate.

    Leave the vegetables to ferment at room temperature before moving them to the fridge 

    The fermentation time will depend on numerous factors, including temperature, the quantity of salt and the nature of the vegetable.  After leaving the vegetables to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, taste it. If they are not as acidic as you would like, leave them and taste after another 3 days, and so on. Once you are happy with the taste, move them to the fridge. The finished product will keep for months in the fridge.

    Make your own fermented vegetables and more >

    3 Responses to How to Ferment Vegetables at Home
    1. Christine
      March 2, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      I live in the tropics. Wont they go off in three days?

      • Biome team
        March 6, 2017 at 2:54 pm

        Hi Christine,

        Living in the tropics does present some challenges, particularly with regards to temperature. If your home above 24°C, try one or more of the following tips:

        – As it is a lot warmer in the tropics, your fermentation time may be a lot quicker. Try it after 1 day, if you are happy with the acidity, place it in the fridge. Please bear in mind that it should never smell or taste ‘off’.

        – You can slightly increase the amount of salt used to slow down the fermentation a bit. Be aware, however, that too much salt will inhibit good bacteria. Try a brine of 2.5% salt instead of 2%.

        – Ideally, you want to find a nice cool location of around 18-22 C. Stay away from appliances, such as the stove, fridge, microwave, and keep it out of direct sunlight or sunny rooms. Perhaps the bottom of a cupboard, in the garage, or an unused bedroom.

        – Use an air-conditioner or fan. Moving air through the room will lower the temperature.

        – Evaporative cooling: wrap a wet tea towel around the jar. As water evaporates from the tea towel, heat goes with it.

        – Insulate your ferment with an old sock or sleeve from an old jumper.

        – Place the ferment in an esky with a couple of ice blocks (don’t let the ferment touch the ice block though), and monitor the temperature. You want the temperature to stay between 18-22 C.

        – Ferment seasonally, or the coolest period during winter.

    2. Christine
      March 3, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      Is anyone going to reply?

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