While the amazing benefits of food fermentation have been around for thousands of years, it’s been in my house for a little over 3. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, my husband and I were at our midwife’s house for a prenatal visit. This is the woman that I’ve considered my nutritional guru for the last decade. She always has some interesting food up her sleeve. This time is was a mason jar of fermented vegetables. Always apprehensive to try new things, especially while pregnant, I politely declined a taste. My husband, the complete opposite of me (I blame it on the chef in him,) would have devoured the whole jar. As is the case with most things that intrigue him, he learns everything there is to know about it. It wasn’t long before he was eyeballing jars at IKEA that would be suitable for this new venture. He decided to go with something simple like cabbage. The girls and I still remember the putrid smell coming from that jar over the next few weeks. Much to my surprise the results were unbelievable. Not that I doubted him…just…you know.
Over the years there have been many experiments. Once he mastered kraut he moved on to other veggies like green beans (that was a fail,) cauliflower and carrots (OMG-so good!) and now pickles (some batches are better than others.) There have also been a handful of fermenting containers. Like I said, we originally used a jar from IKEA, this one, but we didn’t have a good lid. I vaguely remember a Macgyver operation where I dug up an old blender lid and there was saran wrap involved. It worked fine, but wasn’t very user-friendly. Then we moved onto the crock in the photo below, a lovely gift from my mother-in-law. We thought this would be amazing, but it ended up not being waterproof and grew mold on the bottom.
There are a lot of expensive fermenting options out there and eventually we may try some of those. For now our system is working well. We recently started using this jar (also from IKEA.) We use this prep bowl from Pampered Chef. It fits into the jar perfectly.
Clean jars, cutting board, knife in hot soapy water.
Wash vegetables in a veggie wash
To make the brine: heat 1 gallon of water warm enough on stove so that you can dissolve 3/4 cup of kosher or sea salt. Once dissolved set aside to cool
Prepare veggies by cutting them up. For kraut slice the cabbage as thin as possible. We use Trader Joe’s persian cucumbers to make pickles. They are the perfect length for the IKEA jars.
Decide which flavors to add. For pickles we use a couple of cloves of garlic, a pinch of whole peppercorns, and dried dill.
Pack the jars with your veggies. Fill up all the space you can leaving an inch or two at the top. Make sure you’ve added any flavors and spices.
Once the brine has cooled, fill the jars within an inch of the top.
Carefully set the prep bowl inside the jar. Some of the brine will spill over but this will create an almost airtight seal. It will allow any gasses produced to escape without letting mold or air in.
You’ll likely notice an odor coming from the jars the first few days which should settle down once the fermentation takes over. Depending on room temperature, time of year, etc, it can take 2-6 weeks to be fully fermented. Tasting and smelling are the best indicators. You will need to do maintenance over the few weeks. The veggies need to stay submerged in brine. One way we deal with this is by keeping a jar of brine in the refrigerator and topping off your veggies as needed. We’ve learned the hard way about mold and scum taking over your fermentation. Check your jars regularly and skim off anything that forms on the top. When it’s done, move to refrigeration and eat up quickly. Enjoy all the probiotic benefits of your labors.