I couldn’t wait for summer to use our new Harsch Gartopf Crock pot and naturally ferment something. So we turned to what we could get locally and ended up with a 6-pound bowl of carrots:
If you think they look a little suspect – I did cheat with the slicing blade of the food processor. Much like dehydrating, I generally use a slicer (generally a mandoline) so that my slices are the same thickness (you can also ferment the entire carrot). I prefer uniform slices – especially for test batches – because the taste is consistent through the entire batch. Different thicknesses lead to different curing and flavor change and, while interesting, are difficult to get uniform results.
Natural fermentation is the process of pickling in a salt brine. It is sometimes called wild fermentation, fermentation and lacto-fermentation. It takes 1-4 weeks to properly ferment most vegetables and the process is simple – veggies are covered in salt (which draws moisture out of your produce and helps preserve your ingredients) and a brine (if needed – often items like cabbage have enough moisture drawn out by the salt that none is needed).
Fermentation has some advantages over `quick`pickles (made with vinegar) – the obvious trade-off is the length of time it takes before they are ready to consume. Advantages include:
- You don`t need to seal if you have a cellar or keep it in the fridge where it will last a very long time. This also means the result can be different texture from sealed pickles (which require a water bath). You can also freeze or water bath these when complete.
- The process is less expensive (after buying equipment) – you don`t need vinegar.
- The natural enzymes of the pickle are arguable more healthy than vinegar (which is not to say vinegar is unhealthy as it`s not…)
- Many argue the flavor is better and the product is less consumed by the vinegar.
- You can actually eat most of these with wine – something vinegar makes very difficult.
- There`s just something magical about the slow and natural process (this one of the oldest preservation styles in the world) and it`s actually less work than a quick pickle (unless water bathing).
I don`t think they`re necesarilly better, just interesting and fun to make.
The process is fairly simple:
- Clean and cut veg
- Place in clean pot (generally a crock)
- Mix salt (which is measured by weight as a ratio to the amount of produce you add) layer by layer of produce.
- Weight down the vegetable. Press under weight (it is important that the product does not float and make contact with the air or it will create mould).
- If enough liquid is not created, add brine (it is generally salt and water, perhaps other flavor)
- If your final product is too salty, you can quickly rinse it before consuming.
- Store in the fridge when complete; the cold temperatures will slow fermentation (to the point that it almost stops) and keep your pickles fresh for months, if not longer.
I added a few hot peppers, celery seed and dried dill to the carrots this time. We`ll share exact recipes once we`ve done a few more batches and are really happy with the results (this one is a bit of an experiment – one I plan to share around with friends and family to get feedback from).
We have 3 crocks – only one is the `race car`of fermenting (more on the others soon). It`s major feature is this lip:
When fermenting you place the lid on top (it sits in the rim) and you place water in the rim. This allows gasses (and air with them) to escape without letting air in. This airlock will help with fermentation as long as the temperature of the pot stays under 70 degrees (we keep it by the window) in the winter). We won`t open the lid for the first two weeks – which I find incredibly tempting (I just want to see!)
What would you want to know – or pickle by fermentation?