(could be subtitled “Why I Now LOVE to Get Turnips and Radishes in my Farm Share!”)
Benefits: Preserves, develops flavor, creates a ready-to-eat convenience food, enhances enzyme and probiotic bacteria content (uses the same bacteria, Lactobacillus, that creates yogurt) for better digestion.
Method: Generally, this method is SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE! It involves chopping or grating root vegetables or cabbage, mixing with salt, and submerging the vegetables in their own juices (and perhaps a little added water) in a container such as a glass canning jar or ceramic crock. If you have one, a food processor can come in really handy for chopping and grating the vegetables. Once the chopped or grated vegetables are mixed with the salt, stuff them into either glass canning jars or ceramic crocks. It is not recommended to use metal containers for fermenting. As you put the vegetables in the container, press down to get the juices flowing and keep the vegetables under liquid always. Fermentation takes about 2 days for grated roots like carrots or turnips, or a week or so for cabbage (at about 60- 70 degrees, on your countertop or out of the way place in your kitchen works well). Once fermented, the vegetables can be stored for months in a cool basement (40 degrees) or the back of the fridge. Fermentation slows down in these cool temperatures, but does not stop entirely. If you like the veggies less sour, then you may want to ferment in waves, making a batch once a month or every 2 weeks.
Best vegetables to ferment:
Cabbage (sauerkraut Recipe),
Turnips (sauerreuben–grate turnips and make like sauerkraut, ferment for a week or so, to taste), fabulous paired with meats or rich stews and added to sandwiches.
Radishes (sliced, pickled radishes, grate with turnips for sauerreuben, or chop and add to kim-chi)
Carrots (pickled carrots or use in kim-chi),
Garlic (pickled garlic or use in kim-chi)
Kim-chi: Cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, radish (optional), and hot peppers or red pepper powder. Other greens can also be added, but you want the cabbage or radishes to be the dominant texture. Ginger and garlic are critical ingredients here. Chives, green onions, and fish sauce can be added in prior to fermentation (or afterward) to add another flavor dimension. My family likes kim-chi that is 2 or 3 weeks old, so I make it once per month through the winter.
How Does it Work?
(adapted from Wild Fermentation.com, “Vegetable Fermentation Further Simplified”, Excerpted from The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved…) In addition to pulling water from the vegetables, salt hardens pectins in the vegetables, rendering them crunchier, and discourages the growth of bacteria other than Lactobacilli. By inhibiting competing bacteria, salt enables the vegetables to ferment and to be stored for longer periods of time. As a starting point, try 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pound of vegetables. More salt will slow the fermentation process; less (or none) will speed it up.