In the last few weeks I’ve got into making my own pickled vegetables. Cultured/fermented vegetables are unbelievably easy to make and said to be VERY good for you – the process of pickling apparently makes trillions of beneficial bacteria for your gut. Many people swear by cultured vegetables as one of the absolute roots of good health and point to the numerous ways in which humans have incorporated fermented foods into their diets over the centuries.
Now, bear in mind that I’m a recent convert to this, so no expert. However, the process is so easy that I am going to share it with you, and then point you in the direction of the experts. Please excuse any mistakes or misapprehensions I may make along the way due to my inexperience. However, this is the process I use and it works absolutely fine:
1) Chop up some vegetables, roughly or finely it doesn’t matter. Include either cabbage and/or cucumber as these two vegetables have the bacteria you need for the fermentation in abundance. Whatever other vegetables you use doesn’t really matter: broccoli, kale, daikon, basil, celery, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, courgettes, carrots, onions, garlic, beetroot etc etc. The world of vegetables is your oyster. One of the things that I like about this process is that it’s a brilliant way of eating seasonally. I do however like to add some chopped or grated ginger, as this adds to the zinginess of the end product.
2) Put the chopped vegetables into a jar and press them down with a tamper of some description – a narrow glass, a pestle etc etc.
3) Make up a salt solution using the ratio of 1 Tbs salt to ½ litre of water. It doesn’t have to be exact – I was originally doing it with ¼ tsp of salt to ½ litre of water and it still worked. (If you’re concerned about all that salt, remember that the bacteria eat the salt so there is none left when you come to eat it.)
4) Pour the salt solution over the vegetables. Any excess air will escape naturally. Press the vegetables down again, place two or three cabbage leaves over them, and weigh the cabbage leaves down with a couple of small weights or stones, to keep the vegetables below the water line. This is because any veggies that are above the water line may go off. No worries if they do – when you come to eat the pickled veg, just scrape off any ‘bad’ ones, the ones under the water line will still be fine.)
5) Put the lid on the jar and leave it for four days. Once a day or so, you might want to loosen the lid to let out the excess CO2 (just to avoid the very unlikely risk of the jar shattering). You might also want to put the jar in a bowl as sometimes excess liquid seeps out of the jar. After four days you can either eat the vegetables, put the jar in the fridge and help yourself at intervals, or leave it out to ferment for longer. Once in the fridge I have heard the experts say that the vegetables will last for six months.
You can get very creative with your pickled vegetables, from plain old cabbage sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers, to various yummy crunchy combinations of vegetables.
There is lots of info online but check out this youtube video by Matt Monarch and Angela Stokes with Wendy Valley for starters:
If the link is still live, listen to the 16 April 2012 edition of Radio 4′s The Food Programe – The Fermentation Revival