Enjoying Fermented Foods
My journey with fermenting started 20 years ago after I met a woman called Christine whom I was studying with for a therapeutic massage diploma in Edinburgh. She introduced me to a strange rubber-jelly like disc, swimming in a bowl of sweet green tea in the hot press! This was her Kombucha scoby, and when she offered me a glass of this delicious golden, tangy and slightly sweet sparkling drink- a whole world of curiosity opened up!
Off I went home on my bike with a piece of scoby, and the rest they say is history. I guess prior to setting up a little kombucha lab then in our student flat, I had always known sauerkraut as part of our family weekly dinner repertoire. One I really didn't enjoy to be honest. The Dutch love their sauerkraut, mixed with mashed potatoes and some kind of Boeren Worst (sausage). Adding half a bottle of tomato ketchup was all I could do as a kid to hide the funky smell and taste of fermented cabbage. Fast forward 30 years or so coupled with the unfolding of our scientific understanding of the role of cultured foods in gut health and the creative culinary delights to be had- fermenting vegetables is one of my favourite kitchen flavour experiments. Wether it's adding foraged and fruity flavours to kombucha or water kefir, or mixing spices, herbs and combining different vegetables with salt to leave and do their microbial magic, I simply love both the making and eating of fermented foods. With four children in tow I'm surprised at the different tastes they all have. My older two will hold their nose as the kraut appears on the table, whereas the younger two will ask "pass the kimchee please Mum".
Fermented foods are not only a wonderful source of probiotics (live bacteria supporting of healthy gut flora) but they also provide a different taste experience, adding colour and texture to what may otherwise be a less-than-interesting plate of food. I'm super grateful to my favourite fermenting inspo; Dearbhla Reynolds from The Cultured Club in Northern Ireland. I first met her a few years ago with her hands in a jar of salty tomatoes at Kilrudery Tomato Festival, making it all look super easy and achievable to try our own fermenting flavour combinations. Dearbhla's debut recipe book is an absolute must read if you are interested in food fermentation. She has such a fun angle of combining delicious foods with the world of microbes. This carrot ferment is a version of her super versatile recipe and one of my absolute favourites thanks to Audrey from nourishenflourish who introduced me to this zingy and spicy ferment she made alongside a curry one night. Audrey is both a dear friend, chef and Nutritional Therapist living in Holland and together we are giddy about making various different flavour combinations of fermented carrots! When I have some carrots to harvest from my own garden I always add the carrot tops to this ferment, a perfect solution for food waste and adding that extra carroty flavour. I've included step by step directions on how to put this delicious and simple vegetable ferment together. I really hope you give it a try!
What you'll need:
1x 1L sealable flip-lid jar like this one
measuring spoons, large mixing bowl, box grater or food processor with coarse grater attachment
A heavy weight that will fit in your jar; I use a beach pebble which has been boiled for 20 minutes and cooled.
800g of carrots, grated
1 tsp of dried cumin seed
1/2 tsp dried turmeric or 1 tblsp fresh grated turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 cloves of garlic grated
1 chopped scallion
chopped chilli (optional)
1 tblsp pink himalyan rock salt or sea salt
What to do:
Firstly grate the carrots either on the box grater or through the food processor into your large mixing bowl. Then add your chosen spices. You can use which ever spices you like! Some additional options are fresh ginger, fennel seed or fresh herbs such as coriander and parsley- the choice is yours! Now add your 1 tablespoon of salt. in fermentation-terms this is ratio of salt to veg is known as 2% salt. It creates exactly the right medium for beneficial microbes to start thriving but restricting the growth of known pathogenic bacteria.
With clean hands start to mix and squeeze the carrots with the spices and salt. After a few minutes you will see the moisture (brine) from the carrots being drawn out by the salt- this is what you want. Keep mixing until you see enough liquid that will cover the top of your veggies in its jar. This take a little intuitive know-how. If you are not sure, place the carrot mixture in the jar and see. You need to cover ALL the veggies in order to create an anaerobic environment (no oxygen able to get to the veg)- so as to avoid any growth of mould.
Now, as you start packing the carrot mix into the jar, make sure to gently but firmly press it down to release any air. Place your circle of parchment paper on top and position your weight to make sure all the carrot mixture is weighted down underneath the brine. Leave 2cm of space between the brine and the lid. Now close the lid and place on a plate and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
Over the next two days your ferment may be fairly active in the form of making lots of bubbles. You can gentle release the lid to "burp" the jar for the gas to escape. After 5 days or so you can taste the carrots to see if its to your liking. I often prefer leaving it for 7 days and then to be stored int he fridge. You are now ready to enjoy your fermented carrots!
Let me know if you give this a try and how you got on. Here's to healthy gut bugs and happy taste buds.