Ditch the hype: make your own fermented vegetables at home

A collection of vegetable and spice blends fermenting on my counter.
At my local yuppie grocery store, a jar of fermented vegetables cost more than nine bucks a pop.

There is a lot of hype lately about fermented foods. Common items like artisanal sauerkraut and kimchi have been rebranded as probiotic superfoods. Indeed, fermented vegetables are tasty and nutritious; however, I find that many of these products are overpriced given how simple they are to make. Keep your hard-earned money and try making your own fermented vegetables for pennies on the dollar. The process is simple. Here is a recipe to introduce you to at-home fermentation. Once familiar with the technique, experiment with different spices and vegetables to your heart’s content.

Start with peppers: it never fails

I recommend starting by fermenting red/yellow/orange bell peppers because they are so delicious; however, this recipe can be used for any firm vegetable. Avoid fermenting dark leafy green vegetables because they produce a disagreeable flavour.

1 Add 2 1/2 table spoons of non-iodized salt (e.g. sea salt; iodine kills the bacteria you want) to one quart (1 litre) of water.

2 In a clean mason jar: Add spices first, then cut firm-vegetables. I recommend Sichuan pepper, ginger, coriander seed, one hot pepper and 1/3 clove of garlic with red peppers.

3 Cut a piece of plastic (e.g., yogurt container top) so that it’s diameter is slightly larger than the diameter of the mouth of the mason jar (about 1 cm bigger); poke or cut several small holes in the plastic. Force the plastic into the jar so that it is snug against the vegetables (this will hold them under the salt water).

4 Add the salt water nearly to the brim of the jar. Everything must be submerged; tap loose air bubbles. Place a loose top on the jar. Place anywhere without direct light; warm places, like the top of a fridge, will speed up the process.

After 4–5 days, the solution will turn cloudy. It’s done! You can let it ferment for longer if you want to develop the taste further.

If any mould or slime forms on the surface, simply scoop it off — it’s not harmful and this sometimes happens when you do not add loads of toxic preservatives to your food. I think that’s a fair trade-of.f

Store in the fridge for up to 3 months; best before 1 month.

Enjoy!

Fermented shitake mushrooms have a potent flavour and make a great secret ingredient to many meals.

This recipe is adapted from an original posting on my Facebook page about personal chefs.

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