I’d like to share how simple and fun lacto-fermentation of vegetables can be. I’ve only done a bit of it, but enough to see that lacto-fermented vegetables taste fabulous and are very easy to make. What I love the most about it is that I don’t have to heat anything (though some recipes call for a bit of cooking) and that measuring is not that precise. This is the kind of anti-cooking I like!
First, though, let me tell you why lacto-fermentation is so cool. Forgive me if you already know this. Just skip ahead to the recipe. If you already know this recipe, just skip right on out of the room…
Traditional preservation of food was done without freezers or canning machines, through the process of lacto-fermentation. In this process, the sea salt and/or whey inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the vegetables for many months. But, the lactobaccili which produce the lactic acid to preserve the vegetables do much more! They enhance the digestibility of the vegetables, increase vitamin levels, produce enzymes, offer antibiotic and anticarcionogenic substances, and support the growth of healthy flora in our intestines. My goodness, all of this from pickling! Compare that with today’s pickles, which offer nothing but pasteurized vegetables floating in an acidic brine of white vinegar.
All of this information is paraphrased from Nourishing Traditions on page 89. This book contains so much more information that I encourage you to read it for yourself for a better understanding!
To make these lacto-fermented foods properly, you must start with the highest quality vegetables, sea salt, and homemade whey (optional in purely vegetable recipes). You also need quart-size canning jars with metal bands and lids, preferably wide mouth. (Even so, I have been having good success with regular-mouth jars.)
This particular recipe is a modification of the Pickled Turnips in Nourishing Traditions on page 99. I don’t follow the quantities listed, but rather, use what quantities of vegetables I have. Also, I have omitted the onions. I love the flexibility!
Lacto-Fermented Turnips and Beets
You will need:
- naturally-grown turnips – peeled, quartered and sliced
- naturally-grown beets – peeled, quartered and sliced
For each jar full of peeled, quartered and sliced turnips and beets (fill the jar up to within 1-inch of the top), you will need:
- 1 cup of pure water with 1 tablespoon of sea salt –OR– 1 cup of pure water with 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and 4 tablespoons of homemade whey (dripped out of kefir or yogurt, or from raw cheese-making)
- additional pure water
Note: If this ends up too salty, soaking the veggies in water for a time draws off the salt, making them tasty. One could also use less salt, but experimentation would be necessary — you need enough salt to suppress the putrefying bacteria.
Start by peeling, quartering and slicing the turnips and beets.
Mix them up to incorporate. Then fill as many quart jars as required to use up all the prepared vegetables. Press down on the veggies to make sure they’re packed in well and don’t fill up higher than within 1-inch of the top.
How many jars did you fill? Use that information to determine how many cups of water with sea salt — OR water with sea salt and whey — you need.
Mix the sea salt and water (and/or whey) together so the salt is mostly dissolved. If using water and sea salt, add 1 cup to each jar. If using water and sea salt with whey, add 1-1/4 cups to each jar. Then top off each jar with more pure water to cover the vegetables.
Put the lids and bands on the jars and tighten securely. Leave on the counter in a warm room (usually the kitchen) for about three days. The process of the lactobacilli‘s proliferation should take about three days when the room temperature is 72 degrees. You will know the process is working because the mixture in the jar will be very bubbly. Then transfer the jars to cold storage until you are ready to eat them.
I usually serve our pickled vegetables topped on a green salad, or as a side with a cold cut type of meal (meat salad, bread, and cheese). These veggies taste bubbly, spicy, and fresh, while offering a great crisp and crunch. I love them! I should admit that not all my family loved them right off the bat (some are still getting used to them). For the kids, I have been putting just a few slices on their salad each day, increasing the amount slowly as they adjust. The other day, B. admitted to me that she doesn’t think they’re so bad anymore. Truly, I am baffled how they could not like them right away. I think they’re fabulous. But to each, his own. I am the one who adores the kefir and plain yogurt, and not surprisingly, lacto-fermented vegetables! Try them and let me know what you think.
Now what I need to know is… what do I do with the liquid leftover from this natural pickling? I hate to throw it away because I’m certain it is filled with tons of good bacteria. I think it could be used in salad dressings and dips. Anyone have tips for me?
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