Fermenting veggies is shockingly easy, healthy & tasty
A couple weeks ago I was strolling through the South Bend Farmers Market chatting with my good friend Brittany. I was telling her how much I loved autumn for the weather, the colors and mainly the bounty of local produce. She described how she was blanching and freezing certain vegetables so she could enjoy local produce throughout the winter. Her sentiment seemed so wise, so I responded by saying something really stupid: Maybe next year I’ll make it a goal to preserve more local produce for the winter.
Right then I knew I was being ridiculous, so I marched on over to the Ridge Lane Farm stand and bought a pound of green beans and a handful of dill. I was not going to put it off until next year. I would at least try my hand at fermenting these green beans and the green tomatoes left in our garden.
Last year my Mom gifted Dan and I with an easy guide to food preservation: Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen. We were shocked to find out how simple it is to ferment foods. The most basic sauerkraut only requires cabbage, salt and a jar with a special lid! Seriously.
Now that I know about fermentation, I can’t even begin to understand why someone would want to make cooked pickles. Fermentation is so much simpler, tastes better (in my opinion) and is the only method of food preservation that actually enhances the nutritive value, healthfulness and digestibility of foods. Real Food Fermentation says: “The microbes responsible for fermentation create enzymes and vitamins, break down difficult-to-digest food components, and make minerals more available for your body to assimilate.” And fermented foods are full of healthy microorganisms that promote a healthy gut and whole body system.
We made a couple batches of sauerkraut and kombucha last year, so it was time to branch out into other realms. Not too far though. I made a batch of spicy fermented green beans that started with a layer of cubed celery root and then I did a batch of spicy green tomatoes following the same recipe, and then another batch of not spicy green tomatoes. Dan followed this up with a fancy and delicious pico de gallo made with green tomatoes, etc. All delicious!
We use Fido jars, which are cheap to buy at the Christmas Tree Shops in Mishawaka. These basically let no oxygen in so only anaerobic bacteria can grow, but at the same time the lid allows off-gassing so that the container doesn’t explode from carbon dioxide building up. There are many other fermentation container options available, but the swing-top Fido jars have been easiest for us. Make sure to do a little research or buy a basic guide book like Real Food Fermentation to get you started.
If you’ve got a taste for salt and vinegar chips, pickles or the like, you’ve got to try real fermented foods. The flavor is complex and a little spicy, even if you don’t use any additional spices; and they’re so good for you. If you want to get your hands on some local, healthful fermented foods to try first, you can find the products of Joe Gady of Farming for Life at Purple Porch in South Bend, Maple City Market in Goshen and other regional locations. I just met Joe Wednesday at the Purple Porch Co-Op where I bought Fermented Spicy Mexican Beans! So good! It never occurred to me that you could ferment beans! I sampled the Fermented Supertonic, which I may have to purchase soon, and his tasty Fermented Lentils. Maybe I can go see what he’s up to in Rochester some day and write a post about it …
I think later this week I’m going to try fermenting some Brussels Sprouts … and maybe butternut squash too, but not together. : )
Fermented Dilly Beans (or green tomatoes)
*Recipe adapted from Cultures for Health.
- 1 pound organic green beans, washed
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or 1-2 small chopped hot peppers
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped or crushed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- ¼ teaspoon of black tea (optional; helps keep veggies crunchy)
- Dill, about a handful
- Sea Salt
- 2-4 tablespoons starter from sauerkraut if you have it (I did one set with and one without; both were successful)
- 2-quart Fido jar
- Make a brine with a ratio of 1 tablespoon of sea salt to every 1 cup of water. Set aside.
- Put red pepper, garlic, peppercorns, caraway seeds, tea and dill into the Fido jar.
- Place the green beans on top of the seasonings; you can cut them if you like. Cover with brine up to 1 inch from top of jar.
- Seal the swing-top lid and allow to ferment at 60° to 80°F for 3 to 10 days, tasting to determine when it has fermented to your taste. (It will get tangier and sort of spicy as it ferments.)
- Transfer to cold storage or fridge.