I’ve adopted many ‘foodie habits’ since embarking on this health caper. I regularly make bone broth. I know where my animal protein comes from. And what it was fed. My vegetable consumption has tripled. At least. I now eat virtually nothing from packets.
My most favourite ‘foodie habit’ of them all is fermenting my own vegetables
Fermenting your own vegetables is easy, economical, tastes seriously great and feeds your body loads of probiotic gut-healing goodness.
- easy: all it takes is your fresh, seasonal, organic vegetables and a little salt. That’s it.
- economical: here in Australia, I priced 680g of unpasteurised kraut at $19. I can make more than 4 x that amount for less than $10 at home.
- tastes great: not to mention, it reduces sugar cravings and is a great way to get more veggies into your day.
- probiotic goodness: fermented foods not only give you a wide variety of beneficial bacteria, they also give you LOTS of them. Naturally fermenting foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form.
I only have one caveat to my ‘Eat your fermented veggies’ catch-cry. And that is, for those new to the magic of fermented foods, there is the potential for a healing crisis when you first start regularly eating fermented foods. This is a reaction caused by the massive die-off of pathogenic bacteria and the like by the reintroduction of high quantities of probiotics.
The answer is this:
Start slow. One teaspoon at a time.
We eat 1-2 tablespoons of homemade ferment with every savoury meal. And, whenever I get to my second-to-last jar, its my signal to whip up another batch. It takes less time than you think. Nature does most of the work for you.
And, you’re giving yourself (and your gut) a present each time!
So, without further ado, here’s how I make my fermented veggies…
Step 1: Select your vegetables
My favourite ferment is affectionately known around these parts as my ‘Haus Kraut’. It was born out of my desire to eat a rainbow of colours. It also happens to be 100% Autoimmune Protocol-friendly.
Green Cabbage + Red Cabbage + Carrot + Apple
I’m pretty fast and loose with quantities. Fermentation is more ‘science project’ than actual science.
In the early days, I’d make a batch with half a green cabbage, half a red cabbage, two carrots and two granny smiths. It worked. We liked it. It was AIP-compliant. So, I stuck with it.
Only now, I double the portions.
You can come up with your own formula. If you love ginger or turmeric, throw some of that in. If herbs are more your thing, have at it! All I would say is keep your cabbage quantities on the generous side. Especially when you’re starting out. Cabbage is the fermenter’s friend.
Step 2: Shred your vegetables
When I first started out, I cut or grated all my vegetables by hand. I somehow convinced myself that it was a meditative process to chop all those vegetables.
My Mum thought I was mad!
And, she was right. Don’t you hate that? Now I use my food processor to grate and chop all my veggies. It saves me SO much time!
Step 3: Add salt and massage
A word on salt
Salt is important so use the best quality you can afford. That means NO TABLE SALT! A good quality sea salt full of trace minerals is great.
Salt helps to pull the liquid from your vegetables and hardens their pectins, which makes them crunchier. Salt also discourages competing bacteria from emerging which enables the vegetables to ferment and to be stored for longer periods of time.
The more salt you use, the slower the fermentation.
There is no magic amount of salt to add to your ferment. My fermentation guru, Sandor Katz suggests you “try 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pound of vegetables” That’s about 45g of salt for each 2.3 (ish) kilos of veggies.
And that’s much too exact for this fermenter!
I prefer to ease into my salting. And, I taste as I go. I begin with a dessert spoon or two, sprinkling as I add my shredded veggies to a large bowl. Remember, it is much easier to add salt than it is to take it away!
Once all the veggies are shredded and I’ve added my first hit of salt, I roll up my sleeves and start massaging. For 10 minutes. I set a timer. And believe me when I say, your hands will get a work out! I rotate the bowl as I go and make sure I get right to the bottom, firmly massaging the veggies and mixing them all up. The best way to tell you have massaged enough is when you can squeeze a handful and its like wringing out the kitchen sponge.
This massage process is designed to continue the job started by the salt. It breaks down the cell walls of the vegetables and releases all that great veggie juice in readiness for fermentation.
Step 4: Pack tightly into fermenting vessel
Because I ferment my veggies so regularly, I’ve invested in some anaerobic Pickl-It jars. That funny contraption at the top allows the vegetable gases to be released as they ferment without allowing any air back into the jar.
It is not necessary for you to have anaerobic jars to start your fermentation adventure
All you need are some well cleaned large glass jars with lids. What it does mean, is that you will need to keep a (daily) weather eye on your ferment and – in case of spillage – pop your filled jars onto a plate to catch any overflow.
Fill your jars, leaving an inch below the lip to allow for expansion. Take some time here – tightly pack your vegetable mixture, pushing down with the back of a spoon as you go. The most important thing to remember is that the vegetables must be submerged in the liquid. Vegetables above the liquid may develop mold.
I use a couple of my outer cabbage leaves to push my vegetables under the water line.
Once filled, lightly attach on the lid and pop into a cool part of your kitchen away from direct sunlight. Now, allow nature to work its fermentation magic. This will take anywhere from 7 days to three weeks, depending on many factors – the season, the air temperature, the humidity levels, how much salt you have used, and personal preference…
Taste it after a week and see what you think. Use your judgment about whether it should continue to ferment for longer.
Here at JFC, we like a lot of crunch (and summer’s on its way down here), so this baby was only fermented for 9 1/2 days…
Harvest your ferment!
Carefully remove and discard the outer cabbage leaves. Decant your ferment into more well cleaned jars of your choice. Just as before, be sure the vegetables are submerged in the liquid.
Pop your jars into the fridge (or give them away as presents to deserving friends and family). These babies will keep an awfully long time in the fridge.
Are you a home fermenter?
This recipe features in the Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable