Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fermented Roots and Veggies

This is a wonderful time of year in the garden.  If you got a winter garden in (which I did not) you probably have access to all kind of dark, leafy vegetables like kale, swiss chard, beet greens, turnip greens, cabbage, bok choy, mustard greens and dandelion greens.  You probably also have root vegetables growing beautifully.  Chives should be popping up from your onions and garlic (snip and use, they are wonderful) and the natural, local greens (some people call them weeds) should just be starting to look really good.

Note:  These beautiful greens came from a friend's garden.  I plan to use them all today in a batch of fermented veggies I have going.

Even if you do not have your own garden, this is a great time of year to purchase or trade for these nutritional powerhouses.  The next questions is how to either use or preserve this goodness in the best way.

There are so many recipes to try and ways to incorporate all of this.  Right at this moment, I am deep into fermenting in a sauerkraut kind of way.  The possibilities are endless and the health benefits non-stop.  Making up a batch of fermented veggies and using them as a condiment adds much to your meals and your health.  The colors, tastes and textures can all be adjusted to your what your family likes. 

You can turn this:

Into This:

or switch it up and get something like this:

And then, over time, it becomes something like this:
The basic steps are:  Find great ingredients, wash, chop, salt, inoculate (optional), season (optional), wait, pack it into some container so you can keep it under liquid, put it into a quiet, cool place for a while - one to six weeks, bottle, keep cool.  Once the pH level drops below 4.6, unfriendly bacteria just do not thrive.  It is helpful if it can drop within 4 days of mixing it up.

I always taste my sauerkraut "raw" (raw meaning as I am making it - technically, all of this is raw)  It tastes NOTHING like finished kraut.  The taste from the finished kraut comes from time and friendly bacteria.  The more time, the more flavor.  Don't like your kraut?  Wait two weeks and try again.  I sample over and over and over again so I understand as a cook what it tastes like at this stage.  Although it is not the most pleasant part, I now have a good idea what it should taste like at this stage.  When you are making a lot, it is helpful to know this.

What are some of the benefits?

Now that, my friend, is another post.  Stay tuned.