Lacto-fermentation is an ancient form of food preservation that also enhances the health benefits of food. During fermentation, healthy bacteria such as lactobacilli form, which are probiotics believed to support and improve the body’s immunity. You've probably had lacto-fermented dairy such as yogurt or kefir, but people across the world have also been fermenting vegetables for ages – think German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi.
Walk into any health food store or organic supermarket, and you'll find jars of kimchi selling for upwards of $10 a jar! Here's how to make your own delicious, tangy lacto-fermented roots at home.
Can’t tolerate lactose? Not to worry. Naturally fermented vegetables are totally safe for people who don’t do dairy.
See also Kimchi Tacos.
- 1/2 pound of carrots
- 1/2 pound of radishes
- 1/2 pound of beets
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt
- 3 cups water
- Stir the salt into a splash of boiling water, then add more cool water to make 3 cups total of brine. The hot water helps to dissolve the salt, but you want the water to be room temperature before it touches the vegetables. Set the brine aside.
- Shave the carrots and radishes into the thinnest slices you can manage with a knife or mandoline. A food processor slicer blade also makes quick work of this. Cube the beets into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Mix the vegetables, pack them into a clean, wide-mouth Mason jar, and then cover them with cool brine. Don’t fill the jar higher than 2 inches from the top. Discard any extra brine.
- Weigh the vegetables down with something like a plastic bag with a little water in it, or a narrow jelly jar. You want to be sure the chunks of vegetables are totally submerged in the liquid.
- Leave the jar full of vegetables out on the counter for about a week, covered with a tea towel and rubber band. Do place a bowl or plate under the Mason jar to catch any drips. (There will almost certainly be some amount of counter-staining, fuchsia drips.)
NOTE: If you don’t have time to wait around for vegetables to ferment, it’s fine to take a short-cut by marinating them instead in a solution of 66% vinegar, 33% water in place of the salt water. They’ll still need at least 2 – 4 hours in the fridge. Quick pickles lack the complex nutritional and flavor profile of lacto-fermented vegetables, but they’re still sour and beautiful.
Spinach Panzanella with Fermented Roots
Panzanella is a classic Italian summer salad featuring bread and vegetables. Incorporating your lacto-fermented veggies into this salad makes it even more nutritionally dense.
Hands-on Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: One week for fermenting vegetables
- 1/4 pound spinach, washed and dried
- 1 1/2 cups lacto-fermented roots (from above)
- Whole-grain bread to make 4 cups of croutons
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Chop or tear the bread into rather large croutons and toss them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and all of the salt.
- Bake them at 275 degrees until they are quite dry and toasted, about 25 minutes.
- Mix the remaining olive oil and the vinegar and mustard at the bottom of a salad bowl, then add the lacto-fermented roots and spinach along with the croutons, and toss.
Nutrients per serving (100 g of salad): calories: 185, total fat: 16 g, sat. fat: 2 g, carbs: 8 g, fiber: 2 g, sugars: 2 g, protein: 3 g, sodium: 268 mg, cholesterol: 0 mg
Mary Brower owns Bluestem Farm, a year-round organic farm in northern Michigan. Learn more at www.bluestemfarm.net.