If you haven’t noticed, I’m on a bit of a fermenting kick right now, which is a really new thing for me. It all started with my super easy Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot. I still had some whey left over from making this, and I had a big bag of carrots that needed to be used up. So, for this edition of the Self Reliant Skill of the Week, I decided to make some lacto fermented carrots.
I’ve recently joined a FB group about fermenting, and it has really sparked my interest. In it, I found a great-sounding recipe for fermented carrots in a ginger-citrus brine. It didn’t call for whey, but I had lots of it left and I thought it would give this ferment a bit of a jump-start.
I am trying to eat healthier, and find alternative ways of preserving the food I grow in my garden. So fermentation has been very intriguing to me. Fermented foods are very good for the flora in our gut. They are high in probiotics and preserve a huge amount of the food’s natural vitamins and nutrients. Plus, fermented food normally retains its raw texture and taste.
There are tons of people that don’t know anything about lacto fermentation. I’ll admit it, I was one of those people until very recently! So I thought I would share my brand-new experiences with this easy food preservation method.
What is lacto fermentation?
Lacto fermentation is a food preservation technique that has been around for thousands of years. Lactobacillus, a bacteria that is present in everything grown in the earth, is what goes to work in this process to ferment the food. This bacteria, combined with a salt brine and an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment, feeds on the sugars in the raw produce. It then turns those sugars into lactic acid.
Lactobacillus is one of the only bacteria that can survive in a salty environment. So when you start a ferment with a 2-5% salt brine, the only bacteria that will thrive is lactobacillus. The lactobacillus then changes into lactic acid.
Lactic acid, just like any other acidic environment, makes it very difficult for bacteria to grow and spoil the food. Without this bad bacteria, your fermented food can last for months without worrying about spoilage.
And if you are on a raw food diet, lacto fermentation is a great way to preserve your food, conserve the nutrients, and get probiotics too!
Some notes on fermenting
It’s important when you’re preparing your salt bring that you use filtered, or non-chlorinated water. If you have a well, like I do, your water should be fine to use. However, city water normally has chlorine and/or chloramines that can negatively affect your ferments. Since these are used to prevent bacterial growth in water, they interfere with the natural process of lacto fermentation. Using chlorinated water will normally kill off all of the lactobacillus.
Make sure the salt that you use in your brine doesn’t have any iodine in it. Iodized salt interferes with the actions of the bacteria in your ferments. Try to use a more natural, unrefined salt. Sea salt and Himalayan pink salt are the best choices, as they won’t make your food taste salty, and also add healthy minerals.
Also, make sure your utensils and jars are sterilized. Most people put them in the dishwasher on the hottest setting to sterilize, but you can also boil them. Just make sure no bacteria is lurking on your food prep tools, or you could be introducing additional bacteria into your fermented foods.
Here is my video for this episode:
Ginger-Citrus Brine ingredients
2 cups filtered water
2 tsp salt
Juice from 1 lemon
1 garlic clove (optional)
1-2 Tbsp whey (optional)
Lacto fermented carrots directions
Wash whole raw carrots thoroughly. If you’re using whey, you can peel the carrots. If no whey, be sure and leave the skins on, as that is where most of the lactobacillus is located. Slice them either into spears, or 1/4 inch thick medallions. I found the spears fit in the jar better and stay under the brine really well. Place the carrots into a 1-quart mason jar, and pour the brine over them. You will probably have some brine left over (I’ve heard this makes a great marinade for chicken).
Put the lid on the jar, and leave the jar in a warm location out of direct sunlight. If using a regular jar lid, you may need to “burp” it daily. Let sit for 3-5 days, then taste your carrots. If they taste good to you at that point, you can put them in the fridge to slow the fermentation. If you’d like them more tangy, leave them out for a few more days. Keep tasting every day until your lacto fermented carrots are “done” to your liking.
After 3 days on top of my fridge, the contents in the jar were REALLY fizzy. Fizzier than even my lacto fermented sodas! The taste was pretty good, and the texture was very much like raw carrots. The garlic flavor was pretty strong, and I think it could have used just a little more ginger. And I think I’m going to let it sit for a couple more days.
The speed at which your vegetables ferment depends a lot on the temperature that you keep it in. Typically, in the summer, it goes a little quicker. My kitchen stays about 70 in the winter, so it’s cooler right now than in the summer. I have been keeping my ferments on top of my fridge, as it’s a little warmer there.
The bag worked pretty good to keep everything submerged in water, but I really would like to invest in an airlock fermentation system. Hopefully I’ll have one soon!
Have you ever fermented vegetables? What varieties have you tried? Let us know in the comments!