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With all of the gardening and preserving of food that I enjoy to store up for the winter, I wanted to share with you a traditional form of canning that has increased in popularity over the years.

Lacto-fermentation.  Just the word fermentation can sound so scary and beyond any regular persons capabilities, right?!  Here is some good news.  When we really begin to understand what fermentation is the less scary it becomes.  Fermentation happens all around us and many of us are eating fermented foods on a daily basis.  Bread, yogurt, cheese, wine, and beer are all examples of foods that undergo a process of fermentation.

According to dictionary.com

fermentation is a chemical reaction in which sugars are broken down into smaller molecules that can be used in living systems.

I just sowed 2 different varieties of beets and will be fermenting them to enjoy all of the rich health benefits one receives from eating fermented foods.

In order to ferment beets or any other vegetable, all this really means is that it undergoes a salt brine cure set out in room temperature for about 3 days to 2 weeks.  Naturally, one would think, “won’t the food spoil?”  By covering your food in the brine and allowing it to sit in room temperature it creates an ideal condition for the lactic acid-forming bacteria existing on the food surface to feed upon the sugar naturally present in the food.  The lactic acid will continue to grow (or ferment) until enough has formed to kill any bacteria present that would otherwise cause the food to spoil.

The benefits of naturally “pickling” our bounty is that the lactic acid, not only keeps the vegetable in a perfect state of preservation but promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.

According to Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions

The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.

It’s so funny that what used to be completely normal and so unscientific now needs a clear definition in order to feel comfortable to begin to adapt these foods into our lifestyle.  Clearly our age of pasteurization has everything to do with it.  Unfortunately, we are depriving our bodies of needed bacteria in order to have a healthy intestinal flora.  I really believe that a lot of our sickness starts in our gut and by incorporating and reintroducing many different varieties of lactobacilli, we can begin to rejuvenate our intestinal flora improving our digestion and health.

The more that you start preserving and adding canning books to your bookshelf you will notice that every canning book has at least one recipe for brine curing or lacto-fermentation.  Before the age of canning and using vinegar to pickle, our ancestors preserved their bounty by means of fermentation.  All across the world we have natural pickling recipes to prove this true.  From kimchi in Korea, cortido in South America, sauerkraut in Europe, and relishes in the States.

One of the things I really enjoy about fermenting is that you don’t have to spend all of the time needed to can!  A definite bonus for me πŸ˜€  Also, it’s another great way to get your kids involved in making real food.

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Below are a few recipes for fermenting foods from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

Korean Kimchi

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For me any form of sauerkraut was well… unappetizing.   I did not grow up with this and found my first batches of sauerkraut and kimchi rather unappetizing.  After research and reading seasoned fermenters experiences I have come to find out that in order to get the best tasting sauerkraut it needs to be fermented for at least 6 months.  Meaning 3 days fermenting at room temperature and placing in the fridge for 6 months before eating.  Wow, did I find this to be ever true!!  I fermented a large batch of this kimchi and would try a bit of it every month.  It has now officially been 6 months and taste out of this world delicious!!  I will now start a routine to make a few jars of this every 6 months or twice a year to have a delicious and nutritious batch of kimchi at all times.  This idea would hold true for regular sauerkraut and cortido.  This has just enough spice and tang, so yumm!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup daikon radish, grated
  • 1 tbls freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 green onions diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)

Place vegetables, ginger, garlic, red chile flakes, sea salt and whey in a bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices.  Place in a quart sized, wide mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage.  Cover with a large cabbage leaf to ensure the kimchi stays below the liquid.  The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

Fermented Beets

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This has to be my favorite fermented food so far because my kids LOVE it!
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They are so easy to make and taste so good!  Earthy yummy beets.
Ingredients:
  • 12 medium beets
  • 1tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)
  • 1 cup filtered water, this is very important.  In order for proper fermentation your water needs to be filtered and clean of any chlorine which will inhibit the fermentation process.

 Prick beets in several places, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, or until soft.  Peel and cut into a 1/4 inch julienne or slice.  (Do not grate or cut the beets with a food processor – this releases too much juice and the fermentation process will proceed too quickly, so that it favors formation of alcohol rather than lactic acid.)  Place beets in a quart-sized, wide mouth mason jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over beets, adding more water if necessary to cover the beets.  The top of the beets should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

Cortido – Latin American Sauerkraut

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Ingredients:
  • 1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise and very finely sliced
  • 1 tbls dried oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)

In a large bowl mix cabbage with carrots, onions, oregano, red chili flakes, sea salt and whey.  Pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices.  Place in 2 quart-sized, wide mouth mason jars and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage.  Cover with a large cabbage leaf to ensure the kimchi stays below the liquid. The top of the cabbage mixture should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jars.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

These are recipes, some adapted, from Nourishing Traditions.  There are numerous ways you can begin to ferment your own vegetables.  Really, you can include any sort of vegetable or spice to your liking.  This year I’m going to experiment more with my harvest.  I plan on buying a crock and try to do some large scale fermenting including vegetables such as cauliflower, onions, garlic, dill, green tomatoes and wow.. the list can go on.  I can’t wait!!  I also have a few recipes utilizing fermented veggies that I can’t wait to share!

I hope you found this way of preserving vegetables exciting and something to try in your own home.  Please do share if you’ve fermented vegetables and how they turned out.  Like and dislikes.  I was excited to create this post especially for Annette’s lacto-fermenting carnival over at Sustainable Eats.

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Diana is a mother of three, proud wife, and humbled daughter of God. She finds the most joy meeting with Jesus in her organic gardens. She is completely blessed to be able to call herself a stay at home mom where she home educates her children, joyfully serves her husband, and cooks nourishing, real food, for her family. She loves connecting with people on facebook, google+, pinterest, and instagram.

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