I'm not going to get into why fermented foods are so good for you - if you want to dig into the nitty gritty of it all you can read about that here (1), here (2) and here (3). Oh and here's a bit of science goodness here(4).
But here is the rub. Buying commercially available fermented foods is expensive $$$ - It may not seem so much at the time, but if you add it up over time - you end up spending a lot more than you need to. You can spend upwards of $10 for a jar of sauerkraut! If you bought a full pound of cabbage, you'd only spend a few dollars. See what I'm getting at here?
Some folks are afraid to do their own ferments... afraid they might mess it up. Well, you might. I know I have messed up a bunch of batches, but its much less costly even if I mess it up a few times. Some folks think its too complicated. Well, it can be - I mean, you can get very very detailed about it. But it doesn't have to be.
Here are some simple tips to make your foray into fermentation (or further into it) easier.
- Start with clean equipment. It is possible to culture the microbes that are on our hands, counters, jars, utensils etc. We'd like to try to keep that to the microbes that are naturally present on the veg. So make sure to wash your utensils, counters, jars and hands before starting.
- It doesn't have to be fancy! Yes, you could spend a lot of $ on special fermentation vessels. You don't need to. Start with a mason jar and a airlock top, like this one or this one.
- Good results start with good ingredients. Try to obtain the freshest produce possible. Organic or biodynamic will always yield really tasty results.
- Try to maintain consistent temperature. The colder it is, the longer your ferments will take. And the warmer it is, the shorter. But keep an eye on it. You'd like to keep the cultures proliferating rather than cycling between overactive and hibernation. Best to keep them in a location that has consistent temperatures between 65°-72°F.
- Still stuck? Get a good guidebook or try taking a class. It helps to have a resource to go to for details. Books I personally like are Sandor Katz' Art of Fermentation, Jill Ciciarelli's Fermented or Lisa Herndon's Counter Culture: Pickles and Other Well-bred Foods. Some of these books are very very detailed, but again, its a reference. As for classes, you might be able to find local classes in fermenting. Or you can try an online course, like this one.
Pictured above are my two batches that I started this week. On the left is purple cabbage, fennel and apple sauerkraut. On the right is a batch of purple onions with some garlic and coriander seed. I guess I'm on a purple veg kick these days :). Oh and the tops of the jars, I use a fermentation system by the folks over at Kraut Source.
What do you like to ferment? Or what have you always wanted to try, but have been afraid to do? Leave a comment and let me know!