Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fermented Vegetables: Class Handout

Here is the handout for Neil Schmidt's Fermented Veggies class.  If you're interested in taking this class, keep an eye on The Natural Gardener's events calendar for the next time Neil will be presenting it.  


Lacto-Fermented Veggies
(Class Notes)
by Neil Schmidt
Education Coordinator & Presenter
The Natural Gardener

Brining the cabbage
Food Preservation:     Lacto-fermentation is due to Lactobacillus bacteria that produce lactic-acid in anaerobic environments.  These bacteria are found on the surfaces of vegetables and the digestive systems of humans and other animals. Lacto-fermentation not only retains the nutrients in the veggies but they are more easily digested since they have been slightly broken down. Most food processing for storage decreases the nutrient content of the food.  Lacto-fermentation allows for medium to long term storage without losing nutritional content.  It is also less resource and labor intensive than canning or freezing. On top of these benefits the microorganisms in lacto-fermentation are highly beneficial probiotics for intestinal health.

Whole cabbage leaf to hold down smaller pieces.
Traditional Fermented Foods:  Every culture on Earth has developed some types of fermented foods.  We will focus on the veggies!  Pickles, Sauerkraut, Kimchi and Escabeche are just the tip of the iceberg!

                                          Container w/ lid Fermentation vessel needs to be large enough to hold all veggies and at least 1-2” of brine above.
            Weight Ceramic, glass, sterilized rock, wedged chopsticks (anything to keep the veggies submerged)
            Large Metal Bowl Large enough to mix veggies with salt and squeeze thoroughly.
            Jar Funnel Helps keep the area cleaner and easier to pack jars.
            Large Spoon – Used to get veggies in and out of the fermenter and jars.

Fermentation vessels each with a different airlock system.

Process:  3 rules to keep in mind: Use fresh organic produce, keep it salty and submerged.  If you follow these tips your finished product will be delicious!
1)      Clean all equipment thoroughly.  It does not need to be sterilized.
2)      Cut veggies to desired size, place in large metal mixing bowl and coat with salt. Massage salt into veggies and squeeze out all liquid possible. Let sit for 2 hrs.
“The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting.” Sandor Katz
(I prefer to leave the veggies in larger pieces so the bubbles can escape to the surface keeping the veggies from lifting out of the brine.)
Kahm yeast – edible but can impart off flavors. 
Increase salt content of brine and the issue should go away.
     3)      Squeeze out all liquid again.  Then spoon into fermentation vessel pouring brine on top to cover veggies. More brine can be made and added if there isn’t enough. 1 tsp-1 tbs/cup of cold clean water.
     4)      Cover the surface of veggies by layering whole cabbage leaves to keep pieces from floating to the top. Place weight on top on cabbage leaves.
     5)      When the desired sourness is achieved (5 days- 2wks) skim all growth from the surface of the brine and unpack fermentation vessel.  Pack into clean jars, fill with brine and refrigerate.

Kahm yeast again.
Contamination by mold or other harmful organisms is not very common when the 3 major tips above are followed.  If mold is found or the veggies have started to disintegrate and become mushy you will want to discard that batch!  Basically when in doubt through it out! However, strong smells do not indicate a problem.  I have found it always smells worse (stronger) during the ferment than once it is harvested. Kahm yeast is a common organism that can grow on the surface but presents no problem other than slightly off flavors.  If Kahm yeast becomes a problem make your brine a little saltier. If the batch seems too salty or vinegary the veggies can be rinsed and new less salty brine added to the jars when putting them in the fridge.

More information from Sandor Katz's website WildFermentation.com

Now go ferment something!

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