Today I would like to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Steven Zoncki. He is a wonderful individual and a passionate herbalist. He continues to inspire me to push myself and dream big. I hope you enjoy his words of wisdom as much as I do.
Fermentation - for the future you
By Steven Zoncki
Founder and Herbalist, One Tribe Herbals
The harvest moon has come and gone and the community supported agriculture program has now come to a full stop for the season, leaving us with enormous piles of harvest-season vegetables, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, onions, and kale coming out our ears.
Its, I know, a dilemma, that I am incredibly grateful for as this is also the time for many less fortunate who's personal gardens were their only food source throughout the summer. However, to honor my commitment to those less fortunate and the memory of our frugal ancestors who used this time to put up surplus and planned their families winter meals, today I am challenging myself and the readers of The Verbal Herbal to ferment some or all of the surplus vegetables in your fridge, pantry or root cellars and contribute some of the grocery money saved to a local food bank or charity where it will help other families get through the winter months to another season of bounty.
Yes, I challenge you to seize the opportunity to take back some self sufficiency, support the wellness of your family and friends and learn why the time honored process of food fermentation is so dang good for us as opposed to the modern canning and preservation that we get in today's grocers.
"Fermentation". To some it might bring up images of those rotten tomatoes in the bottom of your fridge and others might think of that incredible homemade beer or wine made earlier this year.
Fermentation is far more important to us than trash or treasurer. It is a process that can help make vegetables more palatable for kids (and those anti-veggie eaters) and help us more easily assimilate the nutrients locked up in cellulose rich vegetables.
We hear nearly every day on radio, television, web ads and billboards about how our human body benefits from supplementing the good bacteria in our digestive system. Well here is a time honored method to make vegetables taste better for kids and supplement your Gastrointestinal tract (GI). The health of our children and communities could be vastly improved if we each rediscovered lacto-fermentation like our grandparents or great grandparents used each autumn and early winter.
The process... Simple.
Chop up, grate or food process your fall crop vegetables into bite size to small pieces, add starter and let sit out for a week or three.
Crunch it with your clean hands to help some of the vegetable juice come out.
Add the starter (see below)
And BAM! You've got sauerkraut or preserved vegetables, or delicious homemade pickles.
So, here's the scoop, You can use almost any vegetable as long as you include cabbage and/or cucumber in the recipe. These two vegetables contain higher natural levels of the lactobacillus organism and will be your insurance that your ferment is promoting bacteria that are good and safe for humans to consume.
The ingredients for a spicy sauerkraut
5 lbs cabbage
1/2 daikon radish
1 clove garlic
Putting it all together
Different people put it together in different ways. But first you must shred the cabbage, or at least cut into small pieces that you and your family will enjoy eating. Slice, dice or shred the carrots and radish and slice or chop the garlic. Some people sprinkle a little salt on each layer of veggie as you chop. I have used this method most often, it is less accurate on the brining and often turns out ferments that are pretty salty - beware to those with high blood pressure.
I know what you're thinking. That's not enough garlic and onion, but trust me the ferment process enhances and strengthens the flavor of most spices and herbs. By the time the 2-4 weeks has passed, you'll be glad for just one clove of garlic. This advice is even more critical when you decide to make those spicy duly beans. A little fresh jalapeño goes a long way.
Once you've chopped or shredded your veggies. In a bowl, hand mix them together, scrunching them just a bit to get the liquid flowing out of them to start the brining. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt... scrunch it together well and set it to the side for about an hour. The salt and your scrunch will start the juices flowing so you end up with brine at the bottom of your bowl. Be sure you have sterile glass jars with lids.
Once the veg-mix has begun you can begin to pack it into jars. Pack it nice and tight into the jar so when You press on the veg you can see the juice in the jar. Work out any remaining air pockets and bubbles to the surface. Your veg should be packed tight enough to maintain the water above the level of the veg. If you are a little short use the following brine recipe to fill jars to about 1 inch above the level of the vegetables.
Cover with a couple layers of muslin cloth and rubber band around the rim of the jar and let sit on the counter or other clean, dry, cool area of the kitchen for a couple days to a couple weeks depending on how you like your sauerkraut.
Taste a little each day to see if it is done to your taste and not "overdone" and when its ready skim off the top layer of foam, cover with the jar lid and keep in the refrigerator for the next several months. Use it cold as a condiment, hot cooked with your favorite veggie sausage or on the homemade reuben sandwich.
Voila! In a few weeks you made your very own delicious tangy sauerkraut. Produced a great lactobacillus supplement for your family and saved all those end of summer vegetables, saving money in one afternoon of fun work (include your own high energy music to play throughout the afternoon here)
You can use the same method with cucumbers, dill, garlic to make amazing pickles, all of which support the good flora in your gut and help you become more able to assimilate nutrients in your intestines. Not to mention the great fiber that most Americans need to increase in our diets.
You can purchase online a lactobacillus starter mix that you mix with water and add to your vegetables, but cabbage and cucumbers are a great natural source for this particular type of bacteria and include some cabbage or cucumber in your ferment recipes can act as a starter for you. Bear in mind that starting from scratch will mean the ferment takes longer on your counter, whereas the prestart mix is usually live ready to go bacteria and also great for those of us who might go a little insane with the wait time. Once you have started a ferment you can actually use a cup of the juice now rich with lactobacillus to start your next batch of vegetables, miso, yogurt... but that's another ferment lesson entirely.
Extra Brine Solution
2 Tbsp kosher or sea salt (preferably not the iodized processed salt that contains anticaking chemicals)
1 Quart Distilled or spring water (tap water nearly always contains chlorine that inhibits the good bacterial growth) Be careful too if you are using well water to insure it is free of other bacteria.
There are bazillions of resources online from other fermenters and nutrition sites who support fermentation. The Verbal Herbal writers have included just a few of these below. Or do a search with your favorite search engine and you'll see so many more from all around the world. I recommend this approach, because fermenters are always willing to share their amazing and delicious recipes from Sauerkraut to fruit ferments, to beverages, kimchi, miso, hot sauce and Oh! so much more. Have Fun and Herbal On Verbal Herbies!