+ Well Nourished | Fermenting Vegetables

Fermenting vegetables – a probiotic powerhouse!

So I’ve discussed the process of lacto-fermentation and the enormous health benefits from consuming these probiotic and nutrient rich foods, beginning with the lacto-fermentation of dairy here.  Now for the equally beneficial, very simple (and cost effective)  process of fermenting vegetables…

Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions
“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances.  Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

How to lacto-ferment vegetables?
I have to start with a confession.  I actually have limited experience fermenting.  I have made quite a few batches with great success and I share with you my method below (actually it’s most people’s method, nothing original here).  However, I very much welcome any additional tips, tricks or even links to recipes (post a comment below so everyone can learn from you).

I have also bought fermented vegetables from Peace, Love and Vegetables.  Though a word of warning when buying them…many supermarket sauerkraut or Kim chi are actually just pickled vegetables and not actually lacto-fermented at all (and therefore have none of the previously explained benefits).  Once you make it yourself, you’ll never look back – it’s sort of addictive.

The process of fermenting vegetables is ridiculously simple, I can’t believe I’ve resisted this for so long.  Choose your veggies, either just one or a combination of vegetables.  Root vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, radish, daikon), cabbage, garlic ginger and cauliflower work best.

Basically, you need to scald a large mason jar (the pickling jars with the rubber sealed lids), by washing it well then running boiling water over it.

A good, simple starting point for homemade Probiotic Carrot Sticks…

Ingredients
750 gram (approx) carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (if they are little you might like to leave them whole, up to you)
1 tablespoon of organic sea salt
4 -5 tablespoons of organic whey (you can omit this, see my notes below**)
Filtered water (I used 200ml, how much depends on the size of the jar you are using)

Note: it is best to invest in organic ingredients as the chemicals on conventional produce may interfere with the fermentation process (good bugs don’t grow well with chemicals).

Method

  1. Mix the salt and whey if you are using it in water until combined.
  2. Wedge the carrots into a mason jar and pour over the water mixture.
  3. Place the lid firmly and store undisturbed for 7-21 days (during summer less time is needed to ferment, winter more).
  4. Don’t open the lid or you will ruin them!
  5. After  about 7-21 days they are good to go and you can store them in a cool place or on the top shelf of the fridge.  They will continue to ferment, but at a much slower rate so don’t be too alarmed if the taste changes a little.

Optional extras:
You might like to add some seasoning.  Garlic, ginger, peppercorns, chili.  Herbs like caraway seeds or cumin seeds,

At first, I was really concerned that I might poison myself and my family.
However according to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, “Some lacto-fermented products may get bubbly, particularly the chutneys.  This is natural and no cause for concern.  And do not be dismayed if little spots of white foam appear at the top of the pickling liquid.  They are completely harmless and can be lifted off with a spoon.  The occasional batch that goes bad presents no danger as the smell will be so awful that nothing could persuade you to eat it.”

** Whey is the liquid left remaining when you strain yoghurt.  Make labne (cultured cream cheese) and use the whey to ferment vegetables.  You can find my whey recipe here.  If you don’t have whey, add another tablespoon of salt.  However, you will have more consistent success lacto-fermenting vegetables if you do use whey.

Another delicious recipe is this probiotic Apple and Beetroot Relish over at Nourished Kitchen.

 

Love to hear about your experiences with fermenting vegetables?  Please post a comment below.

 

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Get your kids to follow mine and make their own probiotic carrots – when they make them, they are much more likely to eat them and benefit from all their goodness.


Fermented veges

  • Toni

    Never tried fermented carrots before! Definitely on my to-do list this week! NB I’ve made the nourished kitchen apple and beetroot relish (a couple of times – we are big beetroot lovers my Dad and I!) – way too many cloves though! With my next batch of yoghurt, I’m going to try the labne/whey – I assume they both keep separated as well as the yoghurt?

    • Funny, I reduced the number of cloves, thought as much. Yes keep them all separate. Let me know how the carrot sticks go – my kids say this is their new favourite food! G x

  • kelly seach

    Hi Georgia, thanks for the inspiration. I made these and the kids are happy to eat them so that’s a win. I think they taste quite salty though and am concerned about high salt foods, do you have any thoughts on this?

  • FirstFridayKickball

    Hi! Can we use the whey even if we have a dairy intolerance? Does the fermentation process mitigate that? Thanks! 🙂

    • There is a very small amount of lactose in whey and yes fermentation generally involves to metabolism of sugar (lactose).
      However, to be on the safe side, I need to advise you to just use salt – it will bring the exact same result, I just find the whey brings more consistent results for some reason. Good luck, G x

  • Isabel

    Hello there. We make a weekly batch of kimchi and it’s so so easy n yummy. I ll try the carrot sticks now. My little 4 yr old is not too keen on spicy cabbage 🙂

    • My kids will eat, but aren’t super keen on fermented cabbage either. They can’t get enough of the probiotic carrots though! Let me know how they are received, G x

  • k.

    How do you know they are ready to put in fridge and eat?

    • It’s something you get the hang of just by trying it out. I find 7-10 days when the weather is warm (they ferment quicker) and up to 3 weeks if the weather is cold (bacteria take longer to grow). The longer they ferment the softer and more vinegary they become. So it is a matter of trying it out and getting to know your environment, how quickly they ferment and what you like. I like them with a little bit of a crunch – so less time I find suits me. I started off with the carrot divided into 3 jars and I fermented for different times just to taste. Hope this helps, G x

  • Nikki

    Hey, do you not weight your vegetables down under the liquid? If not doesnt it go mouldy? I did sauerkraut and placed a larger piece of cabbage on top to try and keep it down. The whole thing floated up after 2 hours so I naughtly quickly removed the large leaf. I left it for a week before putting it in the fridge and it’s been there a week also but I’m a little paranoid about mould as it wasn’t submerged. Do you think it would have visible mould by now if it was to go mouldy? I currently have some carrots fermenting and I packed them in super tight but they too have risen! I’m looking into getting some glass weights to save the paranoia, lol.

    • Yes you can weigh it down but I just fill my fermenting liquid to the very, very top so even if they float, they are still submerged. In the case of this recipe, I wedge the carrot sticks in so tight they don’t budge. Generally it is pretty obvious when it has been contaminated. But yes weights on top of a cabbage leaf will save you any doubt. Good luck G x

  • Kirsten

    Wanting to try but worrying about a couple of things – does the jar need to be sealed or does it have to be able to let gases out? (I don’t have those lovely jars that you have so thinking of options….) Would I be able to use some liquid from the end of a jar of bought good quality kraut instead of the whey?

    • Hi Kirsten – I’m no expert (I have my method and that works so haven’t really experimented much beyond that). There is loads of info and other tecniques online though. The good bugs are anaerobic so need an O2 free area to ferment – so a plastic or rubber seal / mason jar is required. I recently saw great mason jars at Coles for $2 so they should be pretty easy to come by. Good idea re the liquid from a past ferment – I haven’t tried it personally with vegetables, but this is the method I use when fermenting dairy (to make yoghurt). The only advice I can give you here is if you do try it, just make sure you are careful to strain any solids. Love to know how it goes G x

  • Casey

    Wanting to give these a try and just wondering how often you eat them once they are done? Also what would be the side effects of eating them if they’re not done right? I’ve been interested in fermenting for a ehile but im too scared ill ruin it and harm myself or my kids!

  • Alex

    Hi Kirsten – just came across your site and love it. Quick question – can I cook the fermented carrots? (Boil, bake etc) or are they to be eaten raw?

  • Thanks Alex, glad you are enjoying it. It’s best not to cook or heat the carrots once fermented because heat destroys all of the beneficial bacteria. I eat them as is, they are like a pickle, quite vinegary in taste. You can also chop through a salad or with cheese on a cracker is yum too. Georgia x

  • Hi Casey. It does seem a little daunting (I can remember the first time I fermented being terrified I’d stuff up). Like with any food prep, there is always a risk of contamination. I’m yet to have a fail with this method, but from what I have been told, if they are contaminated they really stink and you wouldn’t want to eat them because the smell is foul.
    A good ferment will taste vinegary, like a pickle or sauerkraut. It is normal for the pickling liquid to look cloudy and sometimes a bit of white bubbly (scum) sits on the top and very bottom of the ferment. This is okay and doesn’t mean they are spoiled.
    I eat them as is, my kids love them in their lunch to replace cut up carrot ( they are softer so suit the kids when they are cutting teeth). You can also chop through a salad or with cheese on a cracker is yum too. Hope this helps G x

  • Craig Muller

    Out of curiosity, why do you peel the carrots?

  • Deb dunt

    Georgia could i grate the carrots instead, and mix with cabbage,radish and daikon, garlic, ginger and chopped chilli?

  • Yes absolutely – this is exactly how I make Sauerkraut – you may just need to weigh down the grated veggies Gx

    • Deb dunt

      So how do I weigh them down inside a jar?

      • I use pie weights or cabbage leaves G x This article is good http://phickle.com/the-tools-of-submersion/

        • Deb dunt

          Thanks. I will try the cabbage leaf method first. The 1st time I pickled veggies I put a small ramekin on the top of them inside the jar. It worked ok. Will the cabbage leaf go mouldy though?

          • I haven’t found this, works for me Gx

          • Deb dunt

            Ok great.

  • Katie

    Hi Georgia, my whey was quite cloudy – is that ok and will it still work? I assume some of the milk solids made their way through the cheesecloth…will it alter the taste at all?

    • Hi Katie, Cloudy is fine, mine is usually cloudy with a thicker white layer towards the bottom. If it is contaminated it will smell bad. G x

  • Megan

    Hello,
    Just wondrring how to store them? Or do i keep them in the fermenting liquid?

    • As soon as they are ready put the whole lot int he fridge as is. This will slow the ferment and help preserve them. I just fish them out of the liquid to eat. G x

  • ingeborg de smet

    one week in warmer weather in queensland, does airconditioned kitchen impact the fermentation or do you keep jars in unairconditioned rooms?

    • The one week is if kept at room temp/warm (no air-con). Yes it will slow down ferments a little the cooler the temps. G x

  • Deb dunt

    Hi again Georgia. Could you give me a specific sauerkraut recipe to follow please, with quantities of ingredients ?

  • Deb dunt

    Hi Georgia. Would little cucumbers work ok using the same fermenting recipe as the carrots?

    • I can’t see why not Deb – I’m intolerant to cucumbers so I’d love to hear how they go Gx

  • Deb dunt

    Thanks. I will give them a go. Where would I find the jars that you use? A kitchenware specialist?
    Also, when a recipe suggests using vegetable starter sachets can I leave that out and just use the 4-5 tablespoons of whey? The sachets that Pete Evans suggest, are sooo expensive!!

    • I just use whey or a probiotic capsual. The jars I use are ‘Weck’ brand. I’ve seen at kitchen stores and also at Wheel and Barrow G x

      • Deb dunt

        Thanks so much Georgia. I will try to find them in our Geelong kitchenware stores like Matchbox or Chef’s essentials.

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