Prep Time: 2 hours
- Green cabbage (comprising 50% or more of veg mix)
- Red cabbage
- Sweet potatoes
- Cilantro (coriander leaves)
- Ginger (adds wonderful taste)
- Bell peppers
- You can also add parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano
- Hot pepper (be careful, one might be enough)
Juice a quart of celery juice; dissolve the starter culture in the juice. Let is sit for 20 min or more. Peel and shred all vegetables. Add the juice with starter culture and thoroughly mix it with the vegetables. Fill jars to 75% with vegetables. On top of vegetables place a cabbage leave. Make sure vegetables are completely emerged in brine. Leave in room temperature for 7 days to ferment. Store in a cool place.
I want to show you how to ferment vegetables at home and create one of the most delicious, health-promoting superfoods you can imagine. The idea to this specific recipe I got from Dr. Mercola; I’ve just made a few changes to fit my own taste. But it’s a wonderful recipe that I’ve used many times; always together with a good culture starter.
Following this step-by-step guide on how to ferment vegetables, you will have delicious fermented vegetables ready to enjoy after about one week.
NOTE: Don’t worry about buying equipment right away; used whatever tools and jars you have in your kitchen and most likely you’ll do fine. Just try to get started with a few batches and in time you’ll see if you need to acquire any better tools.
In this recipe I use a culture starter which greatly promotes the fermentation process and creates a more complex and rich taste. I also have a simpler recipe if you’re a beginner.
How to ferment vegetables: Choose your ingredients
You can add any ingredients you your choice, and remove what you don’t like or can’t get. It’s wise to use vegetables that are in season. The vegetables used in this recipe are a wonderful mix of the following ingredients (amounts are just approximate; don’t be too picky):
- Green cabbage: 6 lb (3 kg); forms the bulk of your batch; use hard, tightly packed heads
- Red cabbage 2 lb (1 kg); adds a beautiful color in the jars, very appealing
- Carrots: 2 lb (1 kg)
- 3 sweet potatoes
- 3 celery bunches; celery adds a nice, mild salty taste; the juice contains substances protecting vegetables
- Ginger root; love the taste of it. I use about fairly big size root
- Coriander leaves or cilantro (I use a lot because its great mild taste and has major health-promoting properties)
- Celery leaves (these you cut off when juicing the celery stems, but don’t toss them into the trash bin, they are nutritious and beautiful)
- 3 Fennels (smell wonderful when shredding)
- 5 red bell peppers (remove the seeds)
- 1 green bell pepper
- In this recipe I use NO salt; instead I only use celery juice that adds a salty taste (if you prefer salt, then add just a little Himalayan or other unprocessed salt)
- Body Ecology Starter Culture (is one of the best!). You can also use the excellent Dr. Mercola Complete Probiotics; use two capsules for every quart of vegetables.
Step 1: Prepare the culture starter
When fermenting vegetables, using a culture starter makes a BIG difference. How to ferment vegetables without a starter culture.
My own experience is that a culture starter…
- makes the fermentations process more predictable; same high quality each time
- vegetables ferment faster
- vitamin K2 production is much higher (if the starter culture contains the right bacteria)
- amazing taste—wonderfully refreshing, a little more tart, acidic and complex taste together with a ginger background and crunchy vegetables
- packs the fermented vegetables with many more probiotic bacteria flooding your gut. A few tablespoons of these fermented vegetables can contain trillions of good bacteria; this is more than an entire probiotic supplement bottle containing 120 capsules.
Therefore, always use a high quality culture starter when fermenting vegetables!
Begin by preparing you culture starter. Here I’m using Body Ecology Culture Starter for vegetables (I use the same for cultured butter). I really like this product; it contains 6 different, carefully selected probiotic bacteria strains.
I use only one packet (5 gr.) for 10-12 pounds (5-6 kg) of vegetables; this seems to work well; but you can also use two packets if you want more bacteria or during winter when room temperature is lower.
Mix the culture starter with celery juice
I make about a quart of fresh celery juice in a juicer, add a teaspoon of raw honey and mix well. Then add the starter culture and make sure you dissolve the powder completely in the juice.
Leave this mix in room temperature while you prepare the vegetables; leaving it for 30-40 minutes is fine. This will allow the bacteria to wake up from their sleep, become active and start consuming the sugar in the juice.
These are the beneficial microorganisms that will transform all your vegetables to probiotic-packed, nutritious superfood.
Step 2: Rinse, cut and shred the vegetables
Red and green cabbage are the basis of many recipes for good reasons; they are cheap but packed with phyto-chemicals, vitamins, enzymes, minerals and the very important vitamin K2.
The fermentation process makes all these nutrients much easier for the body to assimilate.
TIPS: Leave one cabbage leave for every jar you have; save these for later when packing the jars.
Rinse the vegetables well
It is important to properly rinse you vegetables thoroughly in water. This you should do even if you use organic products. But you don’t have to disinfect the vegetables.
Some people use some natural fruit and vegetable wash which is also fine.
Cut the vegetables as need to be able to shred them. We have a big shredder and therefore we don’t have to cut the vegetables too much.
Shredding is fast if you have a good machine; it only takes about 10 minutes to shred 10-12 pounds.
In the beginning I did it all by hand; this can be quite demanding! But for smaller batches it’s OK.
Put all of the vegetables into a big bowl where you can mix them easily.
The vegetable mix is just gorgeous!
Step 3. Add the culture starter to the vegetable mix
By now the starter culture, celery juice mix has been sitting for about 30 minutes. The bacteria are now active and ready to indulge in the vegetables.
Just pour the juice into the vegetable mix; blend thoroughly with your hands until the vegetables are completely mixed with the juice.
If you want to add a little salt, this is a good time to do it. If you’re not using celery juice, a little salt wont hurt.
Step 4: Pack the vegetables in jars
The vegetables should be pressed or packed hard into the jars. You want to force air out; the less oxygen remaining the better. At the same time juice is squeezed from the vegetables. All of this promote the fermenting process.
You can use a wooden instrument that looks like a small baseball bat; its called a “kraut pounder.” But can also use your fist.
Step 5: Add the cabbage leaves you saved
Putting cabbage leaves in the jars helps keep the vegetables in the brine and keeps oxygen out. The absence of oxygen is vital for a successful fermentation.
When the fermentation process is complete, you can just remove the cabbage leaves, you don’t have to eat them.
Jars are filled and ready for fermentation!
This is beautiful sight! And a great reward for your hard work. Now the jars should be properly stored in room temperature for 5-7 days. The fermentation process often accelerates on day 2 or 3. You’ll see bubbles and it might start to smell a bit; this is the smell of a live culture, beneficial, probiotic bacteria turning the vegetables into delicious food.
Step 6: Fermentation
There could be some brine leaking out during the fermentation process. Therefore, store your jars in a suitable place. We often use the kitchen sink where we can easily monitor the process.
The temperature determines to a great degree how long you should keep the jars in room temperature. During wintertime you might need 7 or more days, but during summertime it might suffice with less. You can open one jar and taste it; if you’re happy with the taste, then put the jars in the fridge.
Ideal temperature: 68-75 degrees (20-24 C.); if cooler than you might need to leave the jars longer since fermentation slows down.
Max temperature: Around 83-85 (28-29 C.); warmer than this could inhibit growth of beneficial bacteria but most of all stimulate growth of other unwanted microorganisms like mold and yeast.
The color of the vegetables changes during the fermentation process. I’m as amazed every time this happens; you behold how microscopic microorganisms rapidly transforms the color of the vegetables!
NOTE: During fermentation pressure will build in the jars. Therefore, if you use Mason jars, don’t put the lid on too tight; this is to allow gas to escape from the jars.
You can also open the lid for a second to let pressure out during the first few days. This is to make sure that you wont have too much pressure building up in the jars.
After fermentation is complete—7 days later—store in a cool place
When fermentation in room temperature is complete, move the jars to a cool, dark place. If you have space in your fridge, that’s fine.
After keeping the jars for a day in the fridge we start consuming the fermented vegetables. This is one HUGE advantage when using a starter culture; the process is much faster.
We have fermented vegetables many times using only the bacteria naturally living on the vegetables and without adding a starter culture. This kind of fermentation takes 7-15 days. However, to develop the same fresh, complex taste takes much longer, several weeks.
This is because the fermentation process is slower without a starter culture, and also because a starter culture contains more different bacteria strains that all are at work at the same time.
When you open your jar to consume the fermented vegetables, remove the cabbage leave you left on top. We just throw it in the trash.
NOTE: After a few days in the fridge you might notice that brine levels are low and not completely covering the vegetables. I add raw, fermented cabbage juice which works really well. But you can also add fresh celery or cabbage juice, or even a little water.
How long can you store fermented vegetables?
We have kept fermented vegetables in the fridge for more that 3 months without any deterioration of taste or texture. Fermented vegetables can stay fresh for a very long time. In fact, we think the taste gets even better after some time.
Traditionally, fermented foods is kept for many months while the whole family slowly consumes them. However, the taste tend to get more tart and acidic after a few months, so if you don’t appreciate this, then consider consuming them faster. But remember that a higher acidity is a favorable sign that the probiotic bacteria are alive and working and therefore the fermented food is “active” and highly potent.
What do fermented vegetables contain?
Lots of good stuff! Here are a few…
- lactic acid (lowers pH, tangy taste, very health promoting)
- large amounts of probiotic bacteria
- small amounts of acetic acid (as in vinegar)
- small amounts of propionic acid
- a mixture of gases, mostly carbon dioxide
- small amounts of alcohol
- a mixture of aromatic esters
- most fermented nutrients are in a condition as if already chewed and digest (by the bacteria) therefore easy for your body to completely assimilate
How to eat fermented vegetables
Now you know how to ferment vegetables, but how do you consume them? You can consume a few tablespoons to every meal, no matter what you’re eating. My wife and I consume a lot of fermented vegetables; we empty one 3 pound jar in 10 days or so.
Therefore, we make a new batch once every two months. When you have done this process once or twice, you will do it much quicker. In fact, my wife and I find it very relaxing and enjoyable to do this work together in the kitchen.
TIPS: If you’re new to fermented food, start off by eating smaller amounts
If you have a medical condition, it might be a good idea to start off slowly, otherwise you might experience symptoms of detox or a healing crisis. This can happen if you have much bad bacteria, yeast, or Candida in your gut. It can also happen if you’ve been on medication for a long time or if toxins have built up in your body.
Fermented vegetables strongly promote the cleaning out of unwanted bacteria, yeast, waste and toxins and this process can cause detox symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild, not dangerous and disappear after a few days. But to be safe, start off with consuming just a tablespoon or so and monitor how this makes you feel.
Now when you how to ferment vegetables you can populate your gut with beneficial bacteria and hopefully enjoy the many health benefits that comes with consuming fermented vegetables.