The benefits of consuming traditionally fermented foods are well documented. However, as they are not mass-produced, or available in mainstream stores, they can be hard to come by. Also the cost of buying a lovingly crafted, artisan product can be prohibitive if you are on a limited budget.
Fermentation is a very forgiving process so, provided you follow a few basic guidelines, you can make your own supply of deliciously nutritional fermented fruits & vegetables. The only equipment required are glass jars, a mixing bowl & a couple of plastic bags. Pretty much any fruits & vegetables will ferment, so choose flavours you enjoy & be prepared to experiment.
Make sure your utensils are clean.
Chop or grate your fruit & vegetables into a mixing bowl. The smaller you chop them, the greater the surface area & the quicker they ferment.
Add sea salt. This isn’t strictly necessary as fermentation will occur with or without salt, but I find it enhances the flavour. Usually a teaspoon per jar about right, but I increase this to anything up to a tablespoon if I want to neutralise highly acidic fruits like lemons.
Now for the fun part. Pound your mixture with a jar, the end of a rolling pin, or squish it with clean hands. The aim is to get the juices really flowing.
Once thoroughly pounded add spices & a bit of starter. Adding a starter can be omitted as there will be sufficient yeasts & bacteria to turn your mixture into a bubbly ferment, but I prefer to give them a bit of a head start. Kombucha, water kefir, whey & the contents of probiotic capsules all work well, & adding a starter also discourages any rogue bacteria that could taint your ferment.
Pack into clean jars, pressing the mix down firmly to eliminate air pockets, & wipe any excess from the jar mouth.
Seal the top to prevent air coming into contact with the mixture, but in a way that permits fermentation gases to escape. The lovely beneficial bacteria will do their work in the absence of oxygen, but if exposed to air then surface moulds can grow & cause contamination. My favourite ‘stopper’ is a small plastic bag part filled with water. It’s easy to poke into crevices so creates a perfect seal, whilst letting gas bubbles escape up the sides.
Filled jars can be left to ferment at room temperature. Mine sit on the kitchen work surface & are checked, & tasted, every few days. There is no definitive length of time for fermentation, so the key to determining readiness is your taste buds. If it tastes good, transfer it to the fridge & enjoy.
Home fermentation……….the healthier way to get pickled!