Consider this a love letter to lacto-fermentation. Those who know me well know that I’ve not historically been fond of anything to do with pickles. Growing up, a ‘pickle’ was usually cucumber-based, and often as not dill-flavoured. Well, I have a terrible allergy to cucumber (like anaphylaxis bad), and dill is the Devil’s seasoning, so pickles were right out.
Now that I’m grown, I know more about the world, and therefore about pickling as a preservation method. Specifically lacto-fermentation, or salt-based pickling. Vinegar is all well and good, but for my money it’s salt-brined sauerkraut or nothing. Though I’ve only just recently begun my own home-based experiments in the field, early results are promising.
Ages ago, I found these little gems on the interwebs. As posted here, I bought myself a four-pack as a belated birthday gift to myself, and swiftly whipped up an improvised ferment based on baby kale, carrot and onion. The Fella and I devoured this batch in one go about a week ago, along with some leftover Thai curry. Afterwards, I declared that I felt cleansed from the inside out. Sour, yet crunchy, with a beautiful funk – the perfect condiment!
This all got me thinking about what a friend of ours had said about why it’s difficult for single people to eat healthfully. He essentially said that fresh vegetables will all go bad before one person can eat them all. I rebutted at the time with my typical solutions for prepared raw vegetables, like putting cut up carrots and celery in a tub of water in the fridge.
Now? I’d tell him to make pickles! If the vegetables are going to go bad, you may as well beat them to the punch and make them go bad edibly. And this kind of fermentation is so easy! It’s cheap – just salt, maybe some water, and a Mason jar – and it’s pretty foolproof. The Masontops make things even easier, since you don’t have to worry about mold infiltration or unexpected explosions, but they aren’t necessary.
The Masontops website has a nice little ebook resource here. It gives a good rundown of tips, tricks and methods, plus it has a selection of recipes to get started.
For dedicated krautsters (or kimchi fanatics), check out this site for a foolproof method to make Mason jar sauerkraut. I’ve used the proportions of this recipe to make a double batch of kraut, one gussied up with carrot and garlic, one plain, with great results. Also note the low-tech approach, with handy hints for those who are Masontopless, or who aren’t interested in diving into the million dollar pickle crock market.
Vegetables aren’t our enemy, but entropy is. You can’t stop fresh food from spoiling, but you can control how it spoils. So bust out the sea salt and get rotten – in a good way.