I always get so excited when it's time to make more fermented vegetables! I think it's because they look so pretty in the jars, and I love the anticipation of waiting for them to ferment so I can taste all of the salty, pickle-y goodness!
Fermented vegetables, aka lacto-fermented vegetables, are great for your digestive system. They contain lots of natural probiotics to keep the good bacteria in your gut thriving. If you are ever having stomach issues such as gas, bloating, difficulty digesting or just a stomach ache, eat a couple of spoonfuls of fermented vegies, and you'll feel great in about half an hour. I kid you not, these things are amazing! If you've heard of people taking probiotic supplements, this is basically the same thing, only in a more natural form.
Fermenting veggies is pretty easy, as long as you follow a few simple rules:
1. ALWAYS use filtered water! Tap water is not pure and your veggies may end up moldy.
2. ALWAYS use natural sea salt -- not table salt. You want those minerals from the earth in there to help "up" the nutrition factor.
3. ALWAYS use fresh, well-washed, and preferably organic vegetables. Don't buy pre-chopped veggies, because those can have nasty preservatives, or they may have been sitting for a long period of time before you bought them. Fresh is best!
I like to chop up the veggies into bite sized pieces rather than large chunks. You can fit more in the jars that way, and they're easier to eat as well.
So here's what you do. Grab some quart or pint sized mason jars and make sure they are good and clean. Chop up some fresh veggies of your choice. Some of my favorites are cabbage, green beans, carrots, and cauliflower. I like them to remain pretty firm, so I stay away from zucchini, bell peppers, cucumbers, and other soft vegetables that can tend to get too mushy.
Fill up your jars with the veggies, layering in some spices as you go. My favorites are peppercorns, dried dill, garlic, and red pepper flakes. If you like spicy, you can add some fresh chopped jalapeno for some kick!
Combine 2 cups of filtered water with 2 to 2 1/2 Tbsp. Natural Sea Salt. This will be enough to fill up one quart jar or two pint jars. Cover the veggies completely with the salt brine and top with a cabbage leaf. This will hold the veggies under the water to keep them from molding. Leave a little breathing room at the top, like 1/4 of an inch.
You'll need to get some plastic lids to go on the jars, and you can find these at Target or at Amazon.com. Don't use the metal lids (flats and bands) because these will corrode from the salt. Put the lids on tightly and wipe down your jars. Leave them on your counter, but not in direct sunlight, for 5 to 7 days.
It's a good idea to take the lids of every day to release any built up air from off-gassing. After 4 or 5 days, you can begin to taste the vegetables. When they taste how you want them to, salty or sour enough for your liking, then you can move them to the refrigerator.
You can eat your fermented veggies on sandwiches, as a side dish, or on top of rice or quinoa. Use your imagination! My favorite way to eat them is with crackers and cheese as a salty snack.