Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Begin Fermenting Vegetables

Cucumbers are easy vegetables for beginner's to practice fermentation.

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Fermentation is an old form of food preservation with historical links dating back to Babylon and ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago, notes the Food and Agriculture Organization. Fermentation extends the shelf-life of the produce you buy, particularly vegetables, which spoil quickly because they contain low amounts of acid. Low acid foods are prone to rapid deterioration because micro-organisms invade the moist environment of the vegetable. Fermentation slows the process of de-compensation by increasing the acidity level of the product.

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Buy fresh vegetables that are free of spoilage. Until you get use to the process, experiment with one type of vegetable. Always choose produce that is intact and unaltered to ensure proper fermentation.


Choose a fermentation method. You can make a salt brine or buy a starter culture to ferment the vegetable. Salt brine is easy and the most common form of fermentation to do at home but it takes the longest to fully ferment the vegetable. To make a salt brine, mix 2 quarts of water with 1 cup of salt for every medium-sized vegetable. As an alternative to salt you can also use whey or wine.


Submerge the vegetable in the brine. For best results, slice or chop the vegetable into smaller pieces to ensure the entire portion of the vegetable is covered by the brine. Vegetables can remain whole but you might have to add more water later in the process.


Cover and store the fermenting vegetables in a warm and dry place. The hotter the environment, the faster the fermentation occurs. Check the vegetables daily to make sure they are submerged fully in the solution. When possible, ferment the product in a glass container or pot with a ceramic interior.


Taste to determine when fermentation is complete. The process can take a full week or longer. Fermentation depends on properly submerging the vegetable and the taste you desire from the vegetables. Tangy or bitter to taste is common when you ferment vegetables. Once it is to your liking, take the product out of the brine and place it in the refrigerator for storage.

Tips & Warnings

Keep the vegetable fully submerged in the liquid for best results.

Practice your technique a few times before fermenting large loads of vegetables. Some vegetables ferment better than others and you might find you don't prefer the taste of certain fermented vegetables.

Prevent harmful bacteria by cleaning your fermenting accessories thoroughly before beginning the process.

Vegetables that float in the solution and are exposed to air will form mold but this is normal and the mold can be removed. Check the vegetables daily and remove mold promptly.

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ReferencesNational Center for Home Food Preservation: Preparing and Canning Fermented and Pickled FoodsWild Fermentation: Vegetable Fermentation Further SimplifiedFood and Agriculture Organization: Fermented Frutis and Vegetables, A Global PerspectivePhoto Credit PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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