What if I told you you could take all the excess veggies from your garden and preserve it all without ever having to turn on the stove and heating your house? Sounds too good to be true? Well, it doesn't have to be...although you might need a root cellar with how much space it would all take up, or a second fridge.
What is this magical proccess that would allow you to not have to can any veggies? I have talked about it before and I will talk about it again. It's been such an amazing discovery for me, for my digestive tract, that I need to keep telling others.
I first started doing this as just another experiment in a long list of "old world" ways of doing things that I wanted to try.
It's called lacto-fermenting. The easiest way to describe it is that you are inoculating food with probiotics which also preserves the food...magically. The Greek word for this was alchemy. "Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruit by the proccess of lactofermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibitotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps fruits and vegetables and fruit in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine." (from the book "Nourishing Tradition")
There are limitations to this proccess though. Fruit can only be kept this way for about 2 months because the sugars in the fruit eventually will turn alcoholic. Some have claimed that their veggies are still just as edible after one year so it's a longer term storage for veggies but not fruit. If you recall, my favorite lactofermented food so far is mango chutney. Delicious!! It didn't last two months because I ate it all so no worries there.
Unlike canning, you can do either large or small batches. You can do a single pint jar or a large crock full with 20 jars worth of sauerkraut all at once (without heating your house up, remember).
It's a very simple proccess. In a nutshell, you chop up your veggies, put into container (usually a jar), add spices, mix whey with filtered water and salt, pour water mixture over veggies (making sure the water is higer than the level of the beggies and seal the jar. Leave it on the counter for 2-4 days before putting into cold storage. Cold storage is either the fridge or a root cellar. I don't have a root cellar so I am pretty limited on how many jars of fermented foods I can have going on at once. I have half the bottom shelf reserved for them and part of another shelf. Once I have my root cellar though, I can make as much of whatever I want.
The two most important parts are the whey and salt. I make my own whey. I empty a container of plain yogurt into some cheese cloth and hang that to drain the liquid out. The leftover solids is now very close to cream cheese and the liquid (which is quite yellow) is the whey. The salt is used to keep putrification at bay until enough lactic acid is produced to keep the bacteria away by itself. You should use sea salt or some other salt that hasn't been iodided. (And when it's called for, you should use filtered water because the chlorine in water straight from the tap can kill the good bacteria.)
Bubbling food is nothing to be concerned about during this process. It stops bubbling when the fermentation levels off. Sauerkraut can be eaten after the first few days but imrpoves over time, becomes more mellow flavored. Some say the optimum time is 6 months. I gave a jar of sauerkraut to my SIL recently and while we were visiting, it was sitting on the table. After a few minutes, bubbles started escaping out under the lid and my SIL looked at me like I was trying to poison her. lol...it's ok. It's all part of the process.
When I buy ginger, I am buying it for just one recipe so inevitably, the rest of the ginger ends up going bad in the fridge. But with this method, that doesn't happen anymore. I just cut it up, put it in a jar with the water solution and I use that when a recipe calls for fresh ginger. Little costs like that can add up so this can save you a bit of money as well.
If you are interested in learning more about it there are a couple books I would reccomend: "Nourishing Traditions" and "The Wild Fermentation".
In the months I've been making these, I haven't shared a single recipe with you. So here's my favorite, Mango chutney.
3 cups firm mango, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into a julienne
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, cut into pieces (I didn't use that so I can't say how it tastes with that)
1/8 cupe sugar or honey
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup whey
1/2 cup filtered water
Mix mango with ginger, peppers, onion, mint and cilantro and place in a quart sized, wide mouth mason jar. (I followed this recipe and ended up with the three jars instead of just one.) Press down lightly with a wooden poubder or a meat hammer. Mix remaining ingredients and pour into jar, adding more water if necessary to cover the fruit. (I ended up having to make up a lot more water mixture to accomodate the three jars instead of one.) The chutney should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to fridge. This should be eaten within 2 months.
It's really simple, really. Give it a shot and see how your body responds to it. I didn't know what I was getting into when I started but I am glad I stumbled upon it!
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