Preserve Summer's Bounty Through Fermentation
- on July 24, 2012
Take advantage of the bounty of summer by fermenting some fresh fruits and vegetables. Ferments are easy to make, delicious to eat and offer a wide range of health benefits. The process of fermentation to preserve and store foods has been practiced for thousands of years. Ferments were often consumed on long sea voyages in the 18th century to prevent scurvy. Several Asian cultures serve a traditional cabbage ferment called Kimchi with many of their meals, and German’s are well known for their fermented sauerkraut, served throughout the winter with a steaming plate of cured sausage.
Pickles and yogurt fall into the realm of fermented foods popular in the United States, but additional vegetable ferments are becoming more and more popular as people search for quick and easy ways to eat healthy year round.
According to Sandor Katz, the world’s renowned expert on and promoter of fermented foods, the key to any successful ferment is the liquid. Fruits and vegetables can be fermented by simply submerging them in liquid over a period of time. Vegetables that rise up out of the liquid will eventually get moldy and spoil, while vegetables submerged in liquid will remain flavorful and nutritious. The fermenting process breaks down sugars into useable enzymes and micro-organisms. Some people prefer mild ferments while others prefer tangier, more robust ferments. The fermentation process can take a few days, weeks, or months, depending on your particular tastes.
Salt is a key to many ferments, but is not a necessary ingredient. Submerging vegetables in brine made up of filtered water and salt, will slow the fermentation process down and allow the fermented produce to remain crunchy. Many vegetables and fruits can be fermented in their own juices without the addition of brine. Fermented liquid can be poured off at anytime and replaced with fresh liquid. In some cases it is the liquid that becomes the end goal of a ferment, rather than the fruit or vegetable.
Ferments should be made in cylindrical shaped glass or ceramic vessels. Metals and plastics often deteriorate from the acids produced during the fermentation process and should be avoided. Canning jars, crocks or nesting bowls work well for fermentation, allowing the produce to be pressed down and submerged in liquid during the process. Ferment vessels do not need to have lids, but it is advisable to cover them with a cloth or plate to keep bugs and critters out.
To ferment at home, chop or grate any vegetable or several different types of vegetables and place the mixture into a bowl. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and then squeeze, mash or pound the vegetables to release their natural juices. Pack the vegetables into a jar or crock and press them down tightly until all of the vegetables are submerged beneath liquid. If necessary, top the vegetables with some additional filtered water. Cover the container and place it on a shelf out of direct sunlight and away from extensive heat. After several days or weeks, open the container and taste the product. Continue to check the ferment periodically until it reaches a desirable flavor and texture. The fermentation process can be stopped at any time by placing the jar or crock in the refrigerator or by storing it in a root cellar where the temperature remains below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Coleslaw and other vegetable based salads seasoned with vinegar and oil make great ferments. Simply pack the left over salad into a quart canning jar, sprinkle with salt and top with an inch or two of filtered water. Screw the canning jar lid into place and store in cool dark shelf for several weeks or months until the desired taste is achieved. Check the jar periodically, opening the lid to release any pressure and tasting its contents for flavor.
This week at Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market you will find a plethora of vegetables perfect for fermenting. Cucumbers, cabbage, turnips, beets, and summer squash all make wonderfully delicious ferments with relatively little preparation. For a more time consuming process, consider pickling your left over watermelon rinds or canning a few of the summer’s last round of peaches. Farm fresh cantaloupe and sweet corn will also be in season this week at Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market.
Maybe even more exciting than the season’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, is the return of the Ross Family Indian Tacos to Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market. A long streak of family related events have kept the Ross’s from serving their delicious hand made Indian Tacos around town until this Thursday, July 26, when they make their season debut at Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market.
Fresh Picked, an acoustical quartet featuring renowned artists Steve Mason, Lauralyn Bodle, Lisa Grossman and Matt Kirby will set the mood for the market and Cordley Elementary School Chess Club members will be on hand to take on any daring challengers in the realm of farmers market chess.
Come join the fun at Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market this Thursday from 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm. Cottin’s Hardware Farmers market is located in the back parking lot of Cottin’s Hardware & Rental at 1832 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence.