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Weekend hacks: How to ferment vegetables at home

By Cédric Barbarat
Last updated on: April 04, 2020 09:43 IST
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It is cost effective, involves no cooking and is high on nutrition content.

Why fermentation is good for you

IMAGE: Pickled vegetables can be stored and put away in air tight jars to be consumed later. Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay.com

Billions of people have been called to stay home throughout the world to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

At this time when resources are scarce and you cannot step out, it would only be apt to spend your days learning new ways to keep yourselves busy with limited resources.

Have you heard of fermentation?

It is mainly driven by anti-waste trends and encourages healthy cooking at home. In fact it is one of the oldest methods of food preservation.

The entire family can be involved in testing this long forgotten, organic and natural method while they spend time together at home.

Lacto-fermentation

Lacto-fermentation takes place when lactic acid bacteria (found in milk and dairy products) transform carbohydrates into lactic acid.

Food processed in this manner obtain a more or less pronounced tart flavour depending on the length of fermentation.

The process being natural, cost-effective and involving no cooking, allows for obtaining food of high nutritional quality, with excellent health benefits, in particular for the digestive system.

It is also a good alternative to freezing and sterilisation.

The lacto-fermentation can be used to preserve a wide variety of vegetables and even certain types of fruit. For example, in French gastronomy, one can mention sauerkraut. More exotic examples include kefir, kimchi, soy sauce, black tea or pickles.

Here are some health benefits of fermentation:

  • This preservation method does not use heat, therefore the enzymes in food are not altered and the minerals are better assimilated upon consumption.
  • The high enzyme content allows breaking the larger molecules that the body usually takes longer to digest, making the product easily digestible.
  • The number of vitamins and lactobacilli is increased: bacteria produce vitamins during the fermentation process and these foods are an excellent source of probiotics, necessary for the proper balance of the intestinal flora.
  • Through fermentation, the concentration of nitrites, nitrates and pesticides harmful to health is reduced.

In order to fully enjoy the benefits of this preservation method, it is advisable to consume raw fenrmented foods rather than cooked, as it will allow for the enzymes and vitamins to be entirely conserved.

On the other hand, as with fibres, it is advisable to avoid abruptly consuming a large quantity of lacto-fermented vegetables in order to allow time for the body to accustom to these new foods.

Here's a step-by-step guide

Take vegetables, wash them, cut them into pieces or grate them, and put them in a clean glass jar.

Cover with brine: salt water where there is usually 30 gm of salt per liter of water. You can add flavorings (parsley, tarragon, bay leaf, thyme, dill, etc.) or spices (star anise, cinnamon, ginger, etc.) to your taste.

During the fermentation process, lactic acid bacteria develop, thanks to anaerobic conditions and the presence of salt. This stage is called pre-fermentation. It is then left to ferment at room temperature for 3 days (between 18 and 25°C.). A duration of 3 days is generally recommended but it can be slightly less (2 days) or more depending on your preference for acidity.

The jars used must be able to close tightly, those with a rubber seal are perfectly suitable.

There is no need to sterilise, the usual washing is enough. Then place the jars in a cool place: cellar or refrigerator, where the fermentation will continue but at a much slower pace.

The vegetables prepared in this manner can be preserved for a year or more. Once opened, they can be stored for several days or even weeks in the refrigerator. The result may not be up to your expectations: it is by performing your own experiments that you will obtain vegetables to your liking.

Fermentation takes time but you can learn it. You can make fermented cabbage, fruit and milk kefir, fermented vegetables, radish pickles with kumquats, sarmales, herbal condiments and kasha.


Cédric Barbarat is executive chef at École Ducasse -- Paris Studio. Cedric can be contacted on ga@rediff.co.in .


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Cédric Barbarat