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.
Thanks for sharing. I will try lacto fermentation real soon.
Sounds good Dave. We’ve been getting into fermenting the last couple of years. Last week I made fermented beetroot based on a recipe from Permaculture mag online – slice or grate the beetroot (grating makes the ferment faster), stick into jars with spices / garlic etc if you like and then fill with water. Leave for a few days, poking the beet down regularly to keep it below the surface. The bubbles from the ferment made the volume increase quite a bit so I’d recommend initially leaving a big gap at the top of the jar so it doesn’t spill over once the bubbles start coming (we had a couple of pinky spillages hehe). I’ve now got it in the fridge and just topped it off with a bit of home made apple cider vinegar. It tastes good 🙂 and later the thick liquid can be added at the end of a borscht or similar.
It would seem that many of the root vegetables are good for lacto fermenting. I have a recipe for ‘pickled’ beets and turnips I want to try when I have some from the garden.
I usually sit my jar in a bowl when it is fermenting, because I’ve had those spillages too!
I thought that if you got vinegar involved with ferments, it would kill the beneficial bacteria…?
I make water kefir also! I do a two day first ferment, then add fruit and do a second two day ferment. My all time favorite fruit is Concord grapes. Last fall I bought the store out and froze them in seal a meal bags. Makes great water kefir! I prefer my milk kefir though, I make a yummy smoothie with fresh pineapple.
It was my understanding that vinegar killed the beneficial bacteria too, though perhaps small amounts of raw cider vinegar wouldn’t. The giardiniera we bought at the farmers market seemed to have a lot of vinegar, and I think the lacto fermentation was more about flavor than having probiotics. I don’t put vinegar in my fermented foods.
Thanks for the info on the water kefir! I am anxious to try it, and experiment with fruits. I think adding blackberries would be nice, and we should have some homegrown ones here later in summer. I love dairy kefir too.
I haven’t tried fermenting veggies yet, maybe this summer with the garden produce coming in…
Somewhere I read that the best flavor water kefir is made using the darkest fruits, grapes, berries…or was it purplest? I made a lot of flavors I didn’t like! Apple cider and cinnamon was a good one…I used cinnamon sticks, the powder made it slimy.
Have you looked at Wild Fermentation on FB? Fun bunch of people!
Thanks Wendy, I will check out the FB group!
I really wish someone I knew liked to do what you do … I’d love to eat / drink all of what you make, but have zero desire to try it on my own.
But I do love fermented foods (and have a store-bought bottle of kefir in the fridge right now) – I was out for dinner the other night and they had kimchi fries – yep, fries with kimchi and spicy mayo slathered all over them. YUM!
Kimchi fries? That does sound yummy! Too bad you don’t live closer or we could share.
That ginger beer looks amazing, I wish I had some on hand right now, the cooler weather and bubs being sick is knocking me around! Do you have a recipe for it?
The giadiniera looks good as well, I’m just scared of trying to ferment things because of our frequently warm weather over here.
Also, here’s the recipe for chipotles in adobo! I tried it out and I think it could be a winner, but I’ve never actually tried canned chipotles in adobo before! It smells and tastes good though 🙂 Let me know if you try it and how it measures up!
Thanks for the chipotle recipe! I will definitely give it a try. I am guessing it will be better than the stuff in cans. Homemade usually is!
Here’s a good recipe for the ginger beer:
I use 1/4 cup grated ginger and 1 cup raw sugar, which makes it very gingery and slightly sweet after fermenting. You can always adjust to taste.
You start by making a ginger ‘bug’ which is easy to do:
I keep mine in the refrigerator between making batches of ginger beer.
I’m not a fan of fermented products, but I have to admire your skill and dedication here! Isn’t it nice to be able to adjust a recipe to suit your individual preferences, rather than relying on store-bought mass-produced over-processed products? Here in the UK we are suffering badly from the ill effects of a generation of “ready meals”.