The Basics of Fermenting Vegetables

Vegetable fermenting is an easy process that involves a few basic steps and a bit of time. By fermenting fresh veggies from your garden — or from your local farmer's market — you can enjoy produce that lasts longer and keeps your body feeling better!

Preparing your vegetables for fermenting

You can chop, shred, or leave your veggies whole, depending on the vegetable you're using and the end result you want to achieve. Sauerkraut is most often shredded while cabbage for kimchi is traditionally chopped in larger pieces. Root vegetables can be cubed or sliced thin for a different texture. Cucumbers can be sliced into coins, halved, or left whole.

Salting in the fermenting process

There are two basic approaches to salting vegetables for fermentation.

  • Brine: Dissolve salt in water. Add to your fermentation vessel with the vegetables, making sure they are completely covered. Some recipes call for soaking vegetables in a brine for a few hours to soften them before draining and packing as usual.

  • Dry salt: Sprinkle salt on your prepared vegetables, then massage and pound them (with a spoon or even your hands) until they release enough juice to cover them in your chosen fermentation vessel.

You can make a basic brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons of sea salt in 1 quart of water. Use this ratio to make whatever quantity of brine you need. Then just pour over your veggies and let the fermentation begin!

Packing jars with veggies ready to ferment

Once your vegetables have been chopped and salted, it's time to pack them up. Add them to your jar or crock and press down to submerge the vegetables in their juices and release any air bubbles. This could take some time, so keep trying if at first it doesn't seem like there's enough juice to cover them. If the vegetables still aren't covered, you can add some filtered water.

Waiting and tasting (and waiting some more!)

How quickly your veggies ferment will depend on a few factors, including how much salt was used in the preparation and how warm the location is. More salt will result in a slower ferment. A warmer room will speed it up.

Your vegetables will start to ferment after a few days, but the process will continue for much longer. Traditionally, fermented vegetables were prepared to preserve the harvest through winter, so keep that in mind when deciding when your batches are ready. The flavors will change and grow as days and weeks go by.

Once your ferment has reached its peak (according to your own tastes), move it to the fridge. It will still continue to ferment, but at a much slower pace. And it will probably be gone before too long!

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