I’ve had a lot of fun the last few years experimenting with lacto-fermented foods. In that time I’ve made several kinds of sauerkraut using cabbage, turnips and kohlrabi. I’ve made hot sauces using all kinds of homegrown peppers. And lately I’ve been making ginger beer. I’ve made it with ginger alone and also with a bit of fresh grated turmeric added, and it is not only tasty but easy to make. I use it as a tonic for my digestive system, drinking a few shots of it every day. I’m always looking for more ways to get probiotics and beneficial bacteria into my personal microbiome, and lately I’ve found a couple more to add to my list.
Last fall my wife and I took a trip to Colorado. We always search out farmers markets when we travel, and found one in Colorado Springs called the Downtown Sunday Market at Acacia Park. One vendor there was selling her spicy homemade pickled vegetables that she called Lu-Style Giardiniera. We talked to her about the process she used, and she said she let the ingredients lacto-ferment for a day or two before adding raw unfiltered cider vinegar, which effectively stopped the fermentation. It had a great taste, and my wife and I decided it would be nice to try and make our own.
Last week I finally got around to making a batch. I used mostly ingredients from the grocery, including cauliflower, onion, carrots, celery and red bell pepper, plus garlic and dried oregano from our garden. After chopping up the veggies, I added a brine solution (1 Tbsp sea salt per 2 cups of non-chlorinated water) and poured in a quart jar. I let the mixture ferment on the counter for four days, then moved the jar to the refrigerator. I did not add vinegar since I wanted the mix to continue to ferment.
We got a taste of it today for lunch, when it served as a side dish to burgers. It was crunchy and mildly tart, and my wife and I both decided it was a keeper. The giardiniera is still fairly ‘young’, and I think it would benefit from more fermenting to allow the flavor to develop and become more tart. My wife and I also decided the oregano was too strong for the other flavors. With that in mind, I whipped up another batch this afternoon. This time I made two quarts, one for her with no onions and one for me with onions plus a couple of dried Aji Angelo peppers to add a little heat. I also tossed in a few extra cloves of garlic (Idaho Silver) in mine, since I like to eat them after they are pickled. I hope to use some of our homegrown kohlrabi and peppers when they are in season, and experiment with different veggies when we have them. I’m also growing Napa cabbage in hopes of making some kimchi.
The next thing I want to make is water kefir, which is fermented using water and sugar instead of dairy. I ordered some fresh water kefir grains online, and started my first batch today. It should be ready for tasting in a few days. After the first ferment, you strain out the grains and save them for later batches. At that point you can add fruit or other ingredients to flavor the kefir, or drink it as-is. I will be sure and report back on how it tastes, and with future experiments.