Fun with Fermentation

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been making naturally pickled vegetables, with varying levels of success. Here are two I started over the weekend.


In the photo above, one jar is filled with cucumbers and the other one is all onions. (By the way, these are blue glass canning jars, in case you were wondering about the color.)

Here’s how I prepared these future pickles: I chopped the veggies, mixed them with a bunch of salt and a very few spices, and then filled the jars with water to cover the tops of the vegetables. Now they’ll sit at room temperature for a few weeks until they begin to taste pickled, thanks to the help of some friendly microorganisms. When they reach the point where they taste good (pickled, but still crunchy) they go into the refrigerator to keep them that way.

If you are new to the idea of fermenting vegetables but want to learn more, be sure to check out the books and website of Sandor Katz. Here’s his simple online explanation of vegetable fermentation:

And here’s a quick summary what I’ve learned so far from my own home fermentation experiments:

  • You can use all kinds of vessels for fermentation projects, but if you’re just figuring it out, it’s nice to start small: I’m currently using pint jars. Smaller batches make it easier to justify experimenting with different spices, veggies, and levels of salt, because if it doesn’t taste good, you don’t feel as bad about throwing it out.
  • Most of the vegetables I’ve fermented so far have been greens, and the ones that turned out best were those with the firmest texture: kale and daikon radish greens both worked well.
  • I do not like fermented vegetables that get too mushy. You can keep them from getting to this point by monitoring closely, and refrigerating sooner. Using more salt also works.
  • Again: personal taste here, but I don’t like a lot of sweet spices in my pickles. My favorite seasoning used so far is  crushed red pepper.
  • Overly salty ferments are OK. You just rinse the vegetables before eating – multiple times of necessary. This is also helpful if you used too much, say, hot red pepper.

That’s where I’m at so far! Looking forward to enjoying more naturally pickled vegetables over the summer.



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