We are coming to the end of the cabbage season in Sydney, Australia so rather than lament the change in season lets embrace it and move onto an alternative and still simple way of fermenting the new season with cultured vegetables. Rather than looking to self-brining, cabbage based ferments, let’s start adding the brine to the seasonally available vegetables. It’s still a simple exercise to make and can then be enjoyed for months, between 6-9 months.
Cultured vegetables taste great, cleanse the body and are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are readily available to the body. They provide a diverse range of beneficial bacteria to the gut to re-establish a healthy gut flora as well as being full of fibre to aid and improve digestion. They strengthen the immune system to fight disease and all delivered in a colourful, tasty accompaniment to any meal.
Brining or fermenting vegetables means we can create colourful combinations of cultured vegetables when they are in season, at their best, in abundance and cheap! What more could you ask for? Just choose your vegetables, add flavour and colour, a brining solution and then leave to ferment.
Choose from cauliflower, carrots, beans, radishes, spring onions, turnips, daikon, yam bean and onions that are all seasonally available. Chop them to the desired size and shape ready to toss together before getting creative with what to add for flavour and colour. It’s not that there is a recipe for such a medley of cultured vegetables but rather its making use of what is readily available in the spring/summer season.
Once everything is chopped to your desired size and shape then you pack firmly into the vessel for fermenting, leaving as little room as possible for air pockets before flavouring and filling with the brine.
The spices and herbs that can be added are endless and can be completely tailored to your personal taste. Choose between flavoursome garlic, ginger, bay leaf, dill, rosemary, thyme and oregano, either fresh or dried. Spice it up with any or all of the following: peppercorns, celery seeds, cinnamon quills, mustard seeds, chilli flakes, star anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, black sesame seeds or dill seeds. There are countless others that you may have available to add, so get creative!
Not only can the cultured vegetables vary with the way you chop your vegetables and how you flavour them with herbs and spices, but you can also colour them with beetroots (red, pink or golden), carrots (purple, orange or yellow) and turmeric! There are countless variations and combinations to try.
For this summer medley, mix a brine of 3% which means dissolve 30 grams of salt to each litre of chlorine free water. Use as pure a water as you have access to but for the salt, use as unprocessed a salt as possible. If using tap water you will need to boil this and allow it to cool. A Celtic sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or my favourite, Olsson’s salt, are all good as they are all mineral rich salts. I enjoy the flavour of the grey, damp salts whether it’s fine or coarse is not an issue as it will be dissolved in the brine.
The salt holds the pathogenic bacteria at bay thus allowing the beneficial bacteria to do their job. So, too little salt and it will run the risk of moulds and yeast getting a foothold while too much salt will inhibit the process. The balance for these vegetables is around the 3% mark.
Once you’ve packed your cultured vegetables into your vessel, make sure there is at least 3-5cm of head space for the brine to rise. Secure the vegetables below the surface with either a ceramic/glass disc, a boiled river rock, a small shot glass or even a BPA free snap lock bag filled with brine. Securing the vegetables under the brine will keep them anaerobic (without air) while fermenting for 1-2 weeks out of direct sunlight on your kitchen bench. See the recipe for any further details.
Happy cultured vegetable fermenting this week!