What better season than autumn to start fermenting? With the market stalls full of vegetables and gardens that provide endless harvests, now is the time to extend this period of abundance!
Why not choose lacto-fermentation? It's easier than canning since there's no need to sterilize equipment, and it's safer. There's also no risk of intoxication, since the contents of the jars become too acidic for pathogenic bacteria to develop. Another advantage: lacto-fermented vegetables are healthy. They are stuffed with probiotics, more digestible than raw vegetables, and their nutrients are preserved, and even enhanced, by the lactic acid bacteria. And above all, it's delicious! The fermented vegetables develop new and nuanced flavors, and their tangy taste is addictive.
When you begin, we advise you to test each vegetable separately. This allows you to both discover the unique tastes that develop and understand how fermentation evolves over time. Afterwards, do not hesitate to mix ingredients! Pay attention to the proportions, however: some foods, such as onions, have a taste that can overwhelm the more delicate flavors of other vegetables.
So here are the 10 best vegetables to ferment in order to fully enjoy the harvest season.
Cabbage is the emblematic fermentation vegetable. It's inexpensive, easy to get, and almost impossible to miss. With salt, spices, and a little time, it turns into a crunchy and juicy sauerkraut. The traditional Alsatian sauerkraut recipe calls for juniper berries and laurel, but do not stop there! Caraway seeds, fennel, and dill go well with the acidulous taste of sauerkraut. And try discreetly slipping grated carrots or apple slices into your jar. You will thank us!
Carrots integrate well with all kinds of fermented vegetables, but they also shine alone thanks to their great versatility. Finely grated, they ferment like a sauerkraut; in slices, they slip into sandwiches; and in sticks, they make a crunchy snack. You can also have fun with the flavors: a slice of orange in your jar for a sweet version, a mixture of curry spices for an Indian-style condiment, or simply ginger and garlic as an Asian dish accompaniment.
Recalling our traditional marinated beets, fermented beets are a real delight in Eastern Europe. The harvest season also offers a wide range of varieties: try the yellow beet, or the chioggia with its nice pattern! Although fermented beets can be eaten as is, they are also the basis of a delicious fermented and slightly effervescent drink: Beet Kvass. But beware! Always place a container under your jar, as this fermentation is very active and the brine may overflow.
Managing the abundance of tomatoes in the fall is a real challenge! Although traditionally canned, tomatoes are easily fermented. Since they tend to lose their texture during fermentation, grind them up to ferment as a sauce. If you mix them with onions and chili peppers, you can ferment the best salsa ever!
Did you know that you can also ferment green tomatoes? This is even recommended, since a few weeks of fermentation reduces the amount of solanine, a toxin found in immature tomatoes, to negligible amounts, making them perfectly edible and delicious! Once fermented, you can munch them as is or fry them.
Cauliflower goes well with all kinds of vegetables. Simply place the florets and herbs in the brine alone or with some friends (carrots, peppers, celery, onions) and let ferment for several weeks. For a wow effect, dare to use purple, yellow, or even Romanesco cauliflower... something to embellish your plate! Do you have a white cauliflower on hand? Slip in some pieces of beetroot to make it a pretty pink!
Unlike canned haricots, which are soft and tasteless, fermented haricots keep all their freshness and a little crunch. Once fermented, eat the haricots as pickles or fry them in a little oil with nuts and herbs. They are also excellent in salads.
Although this is not the first vegetable we think of when it comes to fermentation, celery is delicious and only takes a week to ferment. Cut into sticks, place in a jar with some pickling spices, sprigs of dill, and a little garlic, and cover with brine. Use in your chicken salads or soups.
8. Hot peppers
Hot peppers are fermented whole, sliced, or pureed, alone or with other vegetables. Once fermented, use them in your favorite recipes or turn them into succulent hot sauces! Even the brine can spice up your plate and keep you warm all winter!
Want to know more about hot sauces? Get the book Fiery Ferments, which offers many recipes and techniques for fermenting hot peppers (and all other spices that have the power to wake up your taste buds).
Fermentation softens the spiciness of raw garlic while keeping its distinctive taste. And good news! Its properties and nutrients are preserved, even increased tenfold! To ferment garlic, you have two choices: mashed or brined. Fermented garlic paste is easy to mix with vinaigrettes and marinades, while whole fermented cloves are used fresh or chewing like pickles.
Fermented cloves of garlic can turn blue or green as the acidity reacts with the chemical compounds in the garlic. Don't panic! It's perfectly normal and edible!
Fermented onions have more subtle flavors and a less acidic taste than their marinated cousins. Want a little color? Add red onions to your burgers, salads, and sandwiches. Also consider fermenting whole small pearl onions in brine to use as an accompaniment to a raclette or stew.
And then ?
Are your jars ready? Great! Now it's up to you to seize every opportunity to taste the fruits of your labor!
Add your fermented vegetables to your sandwiches, burgers, and pitas for a little boost of crunchiness and flavor. Include them in your abundance bowls (Buddha bowl, bibimbap, dragon bowl, etc.) for a little freshness. Try them in your fried rice and soups for a nice touch of acidity. Or simply serve them as an accompaniment to any meal.