Fermenting veggies

Someone had asked me recently about fermenting veggies. I take a pretty simple approach. Here is what I do.

Make the brine
Adding 3 Tbsp salt to 1 quart of water makes a brine with salinity of 5.6%. That’s a good number to keep the bad growies in check, which is the goal. Any non-iodized, canning or kosher salt will get the job done, though it doesn’t hurt to use a quality salt like Eden’s Celtic Sea Salt.

Use Fido jars 
Fido jars rock. They seal just tight enough to keep the air out, but loose enough for the Co2 that is created to push the air out of the jar. You can actually hear the pressure escaping when they are actively fermenting. Be sure the lid has a tight seal before you pack the jar full of veggies. Other than that, Fido jars just work.

You can pick up the Fido jars at the Container Store for a reasonable price, along with replacement seals. If they seem expensive, it is just because you don’t realize how well they work. My favorite size is 2L, though the 5L works very well if you have a lot of hungry pickle eaters. FYI, I haven’t been so pleased with the Fido knock-offs that you can find at World Market for a dollar or two less. While the knockoffs do work, I decided to standardize with Fido so I always have reliable, interchangeable parts.

I don’t sterilize the jars, but I do wash them well with very hot water and let them air-dry. I also like to use fresh rubber rings if the old ones get nasty or have been used for fermenting at all. Of course that is optional, but they aren’t so expensive and I don’t go through very many of them.

Find your veggies
I use all sorts of things. Carrots, green beans, garlic and okra are some of my favorites. It just depends on what is in season. I try to get them from the garden into the brine as quickly as possible. You don’t even have to spend too much time washing them. Just get off the stuff that will break your teeth or make that awful crunchy, “I just bit into a bunch of dirt!” sound.

Grab some seasonings
I use whatever picklish type of spices I have kicking around that won’t try to kill me. It depends on whatever use I have planned for the batch in question. I often use fresh or dried dill weed, dill seed, celery seed, garlic cloves or chunks, dried or fresh hot peppers in one form or another, maybe a few whole pepper corns, whole juniper berries, whole cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, and horseradish leaves. Just pick a nice blend and run with it. Take some notes if that’s your style. Put them in the bottom of the jar and cover them with a grape leaf, a horseradish leaf, or a piece of kale if you don’t have anything else.

Pack in the veggies
Take those veggies you found and pack them into the jar nice and tight, leaving as few air pockets as possible. Be sure to mix it up, because nothing is worse than wanting access to the layer of carrots at the bottom of the jar, but having to eat through half a quart of ridiculously hot peppers to get to them.

Top it off
Pour the brine you made into the jar full of veggies, but leave an inch or two at the top for expansion or they will waste your brine. Be sure to fill the jar slowly and swish it around to make sure there aren’t any air pockets. Remember, air is the bad guy.

Stow and ferment
Put the full, sealed jars in a dark place at room temperature for at least three days. Be sure to monitor the progress. If they start overflowing, put a pan under them, but don’t tip out any of the brine. The level and pressure will normalize.

As long as you have a good seal on your jar, you can leave them fermenting for a long, long time. I recently took out some jars that had been fermenting (unopened) for three and five months, and the results were amazing. The green beans were even crunchy.

Are they safe?
If they don’t smell terrible, they are safe. The nose knows. The difference will be abundantly clear.

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