I have been blogging about the paleo lifestyle for almost 5 years now. Even though I enjoy the benefits of fermented foods, I’ve always been a big scaredy-cat when it came to actually fermenting my own foods. I’m not sure what lit a fire under my proverbial ass, but something told me it was time to experiment. I was lucky enough to come into contact with Kirsten Shockey. I was immediately drawn to her for superficial reasons. Kirsten and her family reside on a 40-acre hillside homestead in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon, where they have cultivated a handmade life for the last 15 years. This area is just miles away from my hubby’s hometown of Medford, Oregon…so I felt an immediate bond. Then I reached out to her. She couldn’t have been more hospitable than if she had come from my home state of Georgia and offered me a peach pie! Read my story below for inspiration to get started in fermenting, but contact Kirsten at FermentWorks if you have any questions…she and her hubs, Christopher, are the experts. Oh, and get this book…Fermenting Vegetables…it is the dictionary of everything you need to know to not only get started with but to continue and thrive in this arena!
I thought my first try should be sauerkraut…an easy starter project and I followed the recipe from Fermenting Vegetables. By the way, as this Reuben Freak is now a convert…I will always make my own sauerkraut!
- 2-pound, tightly packed head of cabbage
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Rinse cabbage. Set aside outside leaves (primary follower). Thinly slice cabbage.
- In a large bowl, work in salt with your hands into cabbage.
- Massage the cabbage until a brine develops. Think deep-tissue Swedish massage, not a gentle back rub. Repeat this process, working through the entire batch.
- Press cabbage firmly into fermenting vessel or crock, pressing out air pockets. A properly stuffed crock will have liquid about the cabbage.
- Place primary follower (extra cabbage leaves) on the surface.
- In addition to the follower, place a weight, forcing the brine to the top.
- Cover with a cloth and set aside in a cool place.
- During fermentation press to release CO2 and maintain brine coverage.
- Taste to test doneness.
- Firmly pack storage jars and refrigerate.
So, the crocks…which one do you use? Here are the ways I fermented veggies over the past month and my observations:
1. Mortier Pilon: OK, let me first tell you that I love this company. They take the Mason Jar, turn it on its axis and have formed a sleek and funky fermentation crock, complete with weights that is perfect for making kombucha, kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut. One of my favorite things is the chalkboard circle on the top lid. It is excellent for dating your ferment so you know when to refrigerate. I just love, love these folks and their crocks.
2. Stone Creek Trading: Love. I lived in Germany for a few years while my hubs was stationed in Mannheim and Polish pottery was a part of our life. Stone Creek Trading imports their all natural products from small factories in Poland and everything is made from natural products (no plastics). Not only are they durable, they’re beautiful! Also, I’m in love with their very weighted and separated Luna Glass Crock Weights…probably my favorite of all tested. Check out their fermenting crocks and weights.
3. FARMCurious: Their kit is amazing for those wanting to use their wide-mouthed pint Mason Jars. They take the fear out of fermenting. The ideal solution for anyone who’s a little creeped out by the fuzzy stuff that can grow on top of an open fermentation system (like a bucket or crock), this little set locks out the air and all the yeast and mold that come with it. Carbon dioxide escapes through the top of the airlock but nothing is allowed in with their ReCAP lids.
Here were a few ferments I did one day: Sweet Peppers, Red Cabbage, Ginger Carrots, and Garlic Asparagus.
The middle two are utilizing the airlock lids and ReCAP sytem created by farmCurious. Also, the carrot recipe is theirs…I just added a tsp of dried dill. 1.25 cups carrots, 1″ sliced ginger, 1T kosher salt dissolved in 1 cup water. Make enough brine to cover veg. The outside jars have Pickle Pipes Regular Mouth Silicone Waterless Airlocks.
Asparagus: 1 bunch of asparagus (woody ends trimmed), 4-5 cloves of garlic, juice from 1 lemon, 1T kosher salt dissolved in 1 cup water. Make enough brine to cover veg.
Red cabbage: 1 thinly sliced small head of red cabbage, 1 carrot (long thin slices), 2-3 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp caraway seeds. Massage until brine is created. No additional brine needed.
Mini Sweet Peppers: 2 cups seeded and sliced sweet mini peppers, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp peppercorns. 1T kosher salt dissolved in 1 cup water. Make enough brine to cover veg.
Another recipe from Fermented Veggies using a Stone Creek Trading Crock!
- 1 gallon Kimchi Brine (1 cup unrefined sea salt to 1 gallon unchlorinated water)
- 2 large napa cabbages
- 1/2 cup chili pepper flakes or salt-free gochugaru
- 1/2 cup shredded daikon radish
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 3 scallions, greens included, sliced
- 1/2-1 head garlic, cloves separated and minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- Drain the cabbage for 15 minutes, reserving about 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Set the separated outer leaves aside.
- Meanwhile, combine the chili pepper flakes, daikon, carrot, scallions, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl, and blend thoroughly.
- Chop the brined cabbage into bite-size pieces, or larger if you prefer, and add them to the bowl. Massage the mixture thoroughly, then taste for salt. Usually the brined cabbage will provide enough salt, but if it’s not to your liking, sprinkle in a small amount, massage, and taste again.
- Transfer the vegetables, a few handfuls at a time, into a crock, jar, or onggi pot, pressing with your hands as you go. Add reserved brine as needed to submerge the vegetables and leave about 4 inches of headspace for a crock or onggi pot, or 2 to 3 inches for a jar. Cover with the brined leaves. For a crock, top with a plate and weight down with a sealed water-filled jar. For a jar or onggi pot, you can use a sealed water-filled jar or ziplock bag as a follower-weight combination.
- Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cook, for 7 to 14 days. Check your ferment daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged.
- You can start to test the kimchi after 1 week. It will taste mild at this point, like a half-sour pickle. The cabbage will have a translucent quality and the brine will be an orange-red color. Kimchi is often quite effervescent; it’s normal whether it’s bubbly or not.
- When it’s ready, spoon the kimchi into smaller jars, making sure the veggies are submerged; screw on the jar lids, and store in the fridge This kimchi will keep, refrigerated, for 9 months.