Tis the season to be fermenting! Fall is an amazing time to get some foods going! There are so many things in season just begging to get bubbly: things like cabbage for sauerkraut, kimchi and cortido to apple cider and cucumbers for making pickles. One of the easiest things for me to ferment is root veggies. I'm not a real big beet, turnip, rutabaga type of person. I have tried to implement turnip and beets into my kitchen and I just can't get into them. I think I’m still traumatized from being forced to sit at the table until I ate my beets as a child, it's one of the few foods I don't like. I blame it on my location that I was just never introduced to turnips as a child. I have learned though that I do really like root vegetables once they are fermented and believe it or not, my kids like them too!
Fermenting food is a traditional way of preserving foods and quite frankly the natural process and unavoidable way of living before a "sterile" world. It is the breakdown of sugars into lactic acid which acts to preserves the food or drink by inhibiting spoiling bacteria. Given the proper environment many, many foods benefit from fermentation and increase in nutritional value, digestibility, and enzymes. One of the biggest benefits of consuming fermented foods is the beneficial bacteria which help in the growth of flora in the intestine which is guards our gut from disease and negative bacteria. Today, especially in the U.S., we are grossly lacking healthy bacteria in general. Instead of relying on a healthy gut to keep us safe from harm we rely on sterile conditions of our environment to keep harm from our gut. That’s impossible however and works against us. All the antibiotics we feed ourselves and the animals we consume work to kill the healthy bacteria in our gut. Of course, with the way our animals are typically fed and housed, it would be almost insane to not feed them antibiotics… but I am getting off track. My point is that fermented foods are very, very, very good for us and quite possibly the healthiest way to eat food ever.
A couple days ago I started my first of the season fermented root veggies! I used mostly turnips, a few radishes, a giant gold beet and a few chopped green onions. I sliced them all fairly thick so they wouldn’t get mushy. I sprinkled all the veggies with salt as I sliced them and threw them into a bowl so I could get them all mixed up. Then I packed them into a jar and pressed them in firmly and tightly. After a few minutes the salt and compacting pulled out a fair amount of liquid from the veggies, in this case though it wasn’t enough brine to cover the vegetables all the way. If I had shredded them instead of slicing them I’m sure there would have been enough, but no matter, I just added a little water and two tablespoons of whey for the half gallon jar and one tablespoon of whey for the quart. Salt water to the top would have been good as well if I didn't have any whey. I used half pint jars full of water to weigh down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the brine.
In two days my roots were delicious with beautiful bubbles rising to the top. Day three I declared them perfect, a quick process for sure. You can leave the veggies fermenting as long as you like, my kids will more readily consume them if they are crisp which I have noticed means a shorter fermenting time. Three days is the earlier of time frames. I would say for a lot of veggies a week is the norm but sauerkraut can actively ferment for months and months. It all has to do with the temperature of the room and personal preference. Some people just leave a pot of fermenting veggies out all the time constantly replenishing the stock with fresh vegetables.
Fermented foods are addictive. Once you start, you crave them! And they nourish you.