When faced with a glorious heap of just-picked veggies, don’t lament, ferment! Lacto-fermentation is a simple, creative and healthful method of small batch preserving that yields crunchy pickles and extends the joy of harvest throughout winter months. This millennia-old process cleverly employs helpful bacteria to do most of the work.
By Erin Bend
You’ll need some well washed wide mouth lidded jars large enough to contain your chosen produce, salt (any non-iodized), filtered water (chlorine kills helpful bacteria), vegetables, fresh herbs and spices.
This is where the fun starts, there are no rules so get creative. Consider what may enhance the vegetable you are pickling and experiment. Whole spices, fresh herbs and hot peppers are good starting points.
Make a brine with a ratio of approx 3 Tbsp salt to 1 L filtered water. Stuff jar with chosen veg, herbs and spices leaving of 1″ empty space on top. The goal here is to encourage lactic acid bacteria while keeping veggies submerged and deprived of oxygen. To keep produce from floating up arrange a few sideways at top. Add brine to submerge veggie ferments.
The Waiting Game
Seal jar loosely to allow for pressure that accumulates from production of CO2 to escape. Keep pickles out of direct sunlight at warmish room temp. The process takes 3-5 days. Taste daily. Pickles can over ferment if left too long and become mushy. Cool temps deactivate the fermentation process. When the flavour and crunchy texture is to your liking, transfer to a cool place for storage (fridge or root cellar).
The liquid surface of your ferment is in contact with oxygen, surface mold is common and normal. Inspect daily. Use a spoon to skim off any white mold, it isn’t harmful to the vegetables beneath. Evaluate and discard any soggy vegetables.
In contrast with canning, lacto-fermenting is easier and maintains the nutrients and enzymes of raw foods. As an added bonus it achieves crunchy texture and great taste. Enjoy your ferments as phenomenal Bloody Mary garnishes, charcuterie accompaniments, salad additions or straight from the jar!
Just-picked beans, garlic and Hungarian peppers provided by Fresh Option Organic Delivery, 204-772-1479, freshoption.ca. For further fermentation education we recommend The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and local Traditional Wisdom Modern Kitchen workshops, visit nourishedroots.ca for more info.