Fermented Vegetables

I visited France many years ago, and fell in love with the salads. Celeriac, beets, carrots. 3 simple vegetables made into delicious salads that I lived on while I was there. The process of fermenting vegetables was unknown to me at the time.

Only recently did I discover that the reason my salad de celeri was not the same as the salad I had in France. All of this time, I thought my roulade sauce was not right. The salads in France started with the simple act of fermenting the vegetables before dressing them.

Fermentated vegetable tools

There are a few tools I use for this process. The most thing you will need to allow for is time. It can take anywhere for 3 days to 9 weeks depending on what vegetables you are preparing.

Glass jars or ceramic crocks. I prefer glass canning jars. They are easy to keep clean and you can ferment small batches. I like variety, so small batches are attractive. I also happen to have a fabulous collection of canning jars that I have collected over a lifetime. Plus I like old things, so I have collected some very old canning jars over the years from friends, garage sales, and others peoples discarded kitchen items.

Clean lids or pickle pipes. I prefer pickle pipes, so the burping happens all by itself, and I don't have to worry about possible explosions and the nuances of when the optimal burping time is. Pickle pipes operate with the fermenting process all by themselves, burping at the perfect time. Other wise, you can use 2 piece canning lids, which will need to be burped regularly throughout the process. You can also opt to place the band around the lid without tightening it. This will avoid too much pressure building up if you are unable to burp at the perfect time, but it will also increase unwanted bacteria risk.

Grater or food processor. I use both depending on which is better for the project at hand

Sharp knifes

Large and small bowls. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, whatever you have.

Salt. I prefer natural sea salt, table salt size.

Space. A shelf, away from live plants and your sprout operation. Also away from your sourdough starter. All other bacteria will effect the bacteria you are trying to make inside your jars. Even though the pickle pipes have the advantage of letting air out, but not letting air in, I still keep it on the other side of my kitchen.

Basic Preparation

The basic preparation for fermented vegetables is simple. There are specifics depending on what vegetables are being fermented.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before beginning any food preservation process. I prefer bar soap for this, preferably the scrubby odor eating Tough Guy that is usually at our kitchen sink..

Wash the vegetables with dishwashing soap and water. I prefer scrubbing them with unscented soap, and a scrubby sponge. Pay close attention to washing the parts usually discarded. These bits will be used as your weight to keep the vegetables being fermented submerged in their brine.

Some fermenting teachers sell glass weights. Others recommend using a plastic bag filled with water or your salt brine. I prefer to use the vegetable ends that are not going to be eaten.

If you use old fashioned crocks, be very selective about what your weights are and pay attention to avoid unwanted bacteria formation. I will also caution against using repaired crock lids. 

Contamination issues can be avoided by proper cleaning and avoiding using plastic bags, which are never as clean as they were when you took them out of the box. 

Since I use discarded vegetable bits, after they are removed from the vegetables to be fermented, I wash them a second time by placing them in a small bowl of clean water and to let them soak, while doing the rest of my prep.

Washed celeriac and peels
Peeled and chopped celeriac. This size fits in my food processor
Celeric discarded bits soaking to be used as my weights

Fermented Celeriac

I find that 3 medium celeriac roots will pack in and fill a wide mouth quart canning jar.

As you can see in the photos above, I scrubbed the celeriac with soap and water. The bits in the photo to the left are peels. I select the best and cleanest bits for my weights and soak them in a bowl of clean drinking water.

I make sure to use filtered water that has no chlorine or fluoride in it. 

The peeled sliced celeriac in the middle photo is ready for my food processor. If you are using a hand grater, there's no need to make the extra cuts. You can just grate the whole root.

Food processor
food processor grating blade
packing the washed celeriac tops in the jar as weights

Recipe or instructions

Grate the celeriac and place in a big bowl. Salt. You can find many discussions about salt brine percentages and measurements. I find that these salt quantities are usually too salty, especially for celeriac, which is a high sodium content vegetable. So I sprinkle about 1-2 teaspoons of salt over the top of my 3 grated celeriac roots. After you make this recipe a time or two, you can adjust the salt to your preference. 

Mix the salt throughout the grated celeriac. I use something to gently pound and bruise the celeriac as I distribute the salt.  A big metal or wooden spoon, a wooden pounding tool especially for fermenting, that you can make or purchase. Your hands are a good tool, if you don't mind the salt drying our your skin. Sometimes, I use the blade end of my stick blender. Whatever you have.

You will notice the celeriac to begin to sweat. Let it sit for 5-30 minutes, while you prepare your jar, pickle pipe, and bits of peeling weights.

Celeriac packed with tops as weights. Notice the little bit of water on top
More peel bits packed on top
This jar will be ready for the pickle pipe after the bits are topped off with water

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Jar packing instructions

Wash your hands again (again, I prefer bar soap) before packing the jars with soap and water. I pack my jars with one handful of prepped celeriac and tamp it down with a tool or my hand. Repeat this until your jar is filled 2 inches from the neck.

Carefully select your vegetable bits for weights, and pack them in making sure to cover every spec of vegetable you want to have for eating. Tamp it down as best as you can. Fill up to the neck.

As you fill and tamp, you will notice water making a brine. This is the water coming out of the vegetable of choice. As it seeps out of the vegetables and mixes with the salt, this creates the brine.

Cover the weights with water. If there's any salt left in my bowl, I rinse it and use that so all of salt is used and none is wasted.

Carefully place your pickle pipe so it will seal the jar and put your canning jar lid band on and tighten. Place on your shelf and wait.

After 1-3 days you will notice the pipe swell up. It will begin to burp and fart. It will smell like kraut. You have successfully begin your vegetable fermentation journey.

rinsing 

For Salad de celeri, I ferment the celeriac for 7-10 days. Unlike other fermented vegetables, I rinse the celeriac and squeeze out any excess water, before I dress it in the roulade.

Storage: pack the dressed salad loosely in a glass jar with a loose fitting lid in the refrigerator. One time, I made the mistake of storing this dressed salad with a closed tight fitting lid and the celeriac turned to mush. It still tasted great, but it lost its crispness.

bon appetite!

Fermenting cauliflower
Fermenting collard greens
Fermenting celeriac

In the photos above, notice the color of the collards in the center, and how bright green they are. Then look at the celeriac photo to the right. Next to that is the collard greens a few days later. Notice the color change to a kaki green. 

In the cauliflower photo on the left, notice the pickle pipe is bubbled up. It's getting ready to burp and fart. Sometimes, there will be a little bit of brine juice that spits out of the vent. When that happens, I take note to make adjustments to my salt and how full I pack my jars to avoid spitting the next time. It doesn't hurt anything when it does happen. I simply use it as a salt gauge for my own taste preferences.

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