Some words just sound tasty, like ‘molten’, for example. Other words do not get most people reaching for a fork; ‘lacto-fermented’, for example. I know this to be true because since I’ve started dabbling in fermenting, whenever I talk about it, people give me a look that is somewhere between confused, blank and horrified. Which is exactly how I probably looked, when I was introduced to the term about a year ago, through working with Helen from Nourish-ed. Let’s face it – ‘lacto’ and ‘fermented’ are not particularly appealing independent terms… together they sound really scary.
So why is this jar of lacto-fermented vegetables now sitting in a cool dark spot in my kitchen, patiently waiting 3 days to be opened? The honest answer is that I was worn down. There’s only so many times you can hear how fabulous something is, how it will change the health of your gut (and therefore your whole body), possibly even change the world, without becoming curious. I must add at this point that no-one was actually physically standing on my doorstep, like a Jehovah witness, trying to convert me. No, nothing like that. It’s just I was editing a blog series we ran ‘Diary of a Barefoot Healthfreak’ for the clinic and there was just a whole lot of fermented stuff being credited for some small miracles. Then we had a clinic educational session during which some lacto-fermented carrots were passed around (wow – that sounds more illicit than it actually was). By this stage I was intrigued… I was also suspicious. But you know what, they tasted OK. Not good enough to have me reaching straight for the grater but good enough to get me thinking about reaching for the grater, and thinking about different combinations that would work.
With me, once I get curious, I start reading. The best thing to read, if you’re curious about fermented vegetables, is Sally Fallon’s ‘Nourishing Traditions’. Some people see it as a kind of bible, but she’s a bit down on sugar so I take it all with a large pinch of salt. No one’s going to be talking me out of my chocolate habit any time soon. Anyway, I digress, the point is that after hearing a lot about it, trying it, and reading up on it I came (albeit rather slowly) to the conclusion that lacto-fermented veg is a really good thing, with a really rubbish name.
I also came to the conclusion that whilst there is a bit of an underworld out there of fermentors, trading special, secret, fermenting knowledge then regular people can do it too…with a couple of spoons of sea salt…Shall we just call it preserving and move on?
If you want to follow a recipe then get hold of ‘Nourishing Traditions’. I’m not so good with recipes so here’s how I do it;
Sterilize a jar – like the one in the photo ..needs to be glass, with an airtight seal. Get a pile of vegetables (preferably organic) and grate them. Today I used carrot, beetroot, courgette with a fresh chilli (for kicks) and some parsley (because I’m drowning in it). If you have an electric grater of some kind then this will be easier. Make sure the pile of gratings is about 2 – 3 times the size of the jar because you are going to pack them down. Add 2 tablespoons of salt per jar (assuming you have litre jars as per the photo). You can also use a salt / whey mix, but I go with the easy salt only option. Mix the salt around and then give the veg a bit of a bashing with something. I imagine there is a kitchen gadget that is perfect for this, but I have successfully bashed with a variety of kitchen objects (bottom of clean cup etc). Once you’ve got a bit of juice coming out of the veg then scoop it into the jar and bash it down some more until the juices cover the gratings. Leave a little gap at the top of the jar, seal it and put it in a cool spot on the bench (out of direct sun ) for 3 days. Then it’s ready to eat – you can keep it in the fridge , for an eternity.
If you’ve read this post and you’re intrigued, then take a look at the Nourish-ed website. I’m just a converted skeptic, having a go..trying to make it sound a bit less intimidating…because it really will change the health of your gut for the better (maybe not the world though).