Maggie’s house, like nearly all farmhouses of her era, had a root cellar. A small, cool, underground room where they kept all the bounty from the yearly harvests from their garden. I know that Maggie and her girls spent countless hours canning the food that they didn’t sell to preserve to use through the winter when there was no fresh produce.
I’ve become interested lately in fermented vegetables. Here are the first attempts from my kitchen.
Fermented Food Tips:
If you are new to fermented foods Nourishing Traditions has a good section on fermented foods. The first purpose of fermented foods is that it preserves fresh vegetables that would otherwise spoil. Unlike canning or pickling, good bacteria grow preserving the food and giving you the added health benefit of all those good little bugs in your digestive tract. Fermented foods that you make at home often contain a wider variety of good bacteria than store bought yogurt (which is where most of us are used to getting our dose of probiotics from) because the good bacteria that grow in your fermented food come from your hands, counter and life. Many fermented food recipes call for a starter culture or whey. Using these will provide you more consistent results, but you can also just use a salt water bath which is what I usually do. If you are fermenting fruits, using a starter culture of some sort can be helpful to getting a good end product. If you don’t want to buy one online, you can strain the whey from the yogurt in your fridge and put a tablespoon of that in with your salt water bath.
Since I’ve been reading up on fermented foods lately. Tried a couple of things and I finally decided that I should make a fermented version of the foods that I use the most for seasoning when I cook – garlic, onion and jalepenos. Well, I did and it is GOOD! And it’s super easy. If you like spice you will love it. And you get all the good health benefits of garlic, onions and jalenpenos and all those good bacteria that you let grow in there. Here’s what you do….
Peel garlic and onion. Coarsely chop the onion. Cut and remove the seeds from the jalepenos. Put it all in the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Put in a sterilized (scald the jar with boiling water) mason jar (or reuse any glass jar that you have on hand which is what I did). Now pour salted water (1 tsp. sea salt for every cup of water) over your vegetable mix until all the veggies are covered and there is at least 1 inch between the water level and the top of the jar. Let it sit on the counter for 3-4 days and keep in the fridge after that. It’s good to add a little spice to anything that you’d like to make spicy.
Fermented Beet and Apple Relish: Fermenting on my counter now. Will let you know how it turns out. I did a batch of fermented beets before that I really liked but I don’t remember now what spices I put in. Once I figure that out I’ll post that recipe too.