Pickled & Fermented Veggies
With summer days beginning to shorten and as the cooler winds blow in, I find myself looking for ways to prolong the remaining days of summer, especially in my kitchen. Fermenting and pickling are great ways to preserve all that local summer goodness and can be enjoyed in the cooler months to come. Cabbage, carrots, onions, beets, cucumbers, cauliflower, radishes, beans and turnips all make for great preserves and can all be readily found at your local farmers markets! Given that it is mostly a hands-off process that requires no special equipment and minimal prep time — just select your vegetables, submerge them in salty water, seal them up, and wait — makes it very approachable for even a novice in the kitchen. It is also a great science experiment for kids that will teach them about the micro-organisms with whom we share our planet.
Fermented foods as a group are highly nutritious and digestible. Fermentation pre-digests foods, making nutrients more bioavailable. As the vegetables sit in their salty brine, lactobacillus bacteria and other flora that are naturally present on vegetables consume the starches in those vegetables and convert them into carbon dioxide and lactic acid. In many cases fermentation generates additional nutrients or removes anti-nutrients or toxins. Ferments with live lactic acid producing bacteria intact, aka probiotics, are especially supportive of digestive health, immune function and general well-being. These bacteria also produce B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes not present before fermentation.
To try it for yourself!
Start with quart-size glass wide mouth mason jar and enough veggies to fill the jar with 1⁄2 inch of space at the top; cauliflower, carrots, and turnip are all great picks. Get creative with some spices: garlic, coriander seed, mustard seed and peppercorns (just remember that a little goes a long way). Pack them in a clean (or sterile) jar, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of kosher/sea salt to keep unwanted bacteria and mold away, and enough filtered water to cover the veggies. Optionally, you can place a cabbage leaf on top of the veggies to keep them weighted down. Seal the jar, shake to distribute the salt, and place on the counter at room temperature for at least three days. Every 24 hours ‘burp’ the jars by opening the lid to release some of the gases. The longer the veggies ferment, the tangier they’ll get. After the third day, open the jar and taste. Once they taste good to you, move the jar to the refrigerator.
If the veggies rise above the water, push them back down or just add water, to protect against the growth of bad bacteria. Beyond that, fermenting is pretty foolproof and very forgiving. If it’s wrong, all five senses will tell you not to put it in your mouth. Still nervous? Not to worry, you can get the benefits from fermented foods in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Just make sure the ingredient list doesn’t include vinegar which kills the beneficial bacteria.
So get out to your local farmer’s market, pick up some of your favourite veggies, pull out your mason jars and salt and get cookin’….ehem, fermenting!!
by: Sheri McConaghie
Sheri McConaghie is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Health Coach and Yoga Instructor living in Toronto with her best bud Jack, a veggie loving maltipoo. For more nutritional wisdom follow Sheri @anandanutrition.