Saturday, November 13, 2010


Daikon growing in the garden.
Daikon fermenting in a quart jar.
Two quart jars full of fermenting daikon now sit in my sewing room. This is my first attempt at lacto-fermentation -- using whey, lactic acid -- to ferment vegetables.
It is not my first attempt at fermented foods. My only two attempts at saurkraut failed miserably. I believe I know why they failed, but I have been reluctant to attempt it since. However, this past summer I received information on how to use whey obtained from plain yogurt for a nearly fool-proof fermentation.
In a few days, when the daikon is supposed to be done fermenting and I can check on my success, I will pick a nice cabbage and try sauerkraut again.
Fermentation of foods -- from sauerkraut, to wine, to vinegar -- has a long, long history. It was perhaps the first method of preserving food available to humans, with the exception of dehydration, perhaps.
No doubt both of those methods were discovered accidentally. I do not want to imagine the stomach aches and such that were suffered as humans tried to capture those techniques.
Proper fermentation of foods depends on the right microorganisms colonizing the food and doing their thing. Lacto-fermentation, which introduces the microorganisms that have already properly fermented milk, is supposed to squeeze out any of the wrong microorganisms that caused my original attempts at sauerkraut to go rotten.
One of the keys to fermenting, I've learned, regardless of the method, is to keep the vegetable materials completely submerged in liquid. Which means that if you can't create enough liquid by pounding the you-know-what out of your veggies, you must add water.
Until now, all of my successful pickling has used vinegar. Which is not fermentation, although one uses a fermented product -- vinegar.

Pickles, pickles, pickles!
Pickling is a great way to preserve excess vegetables and even fruit that you have no room to freeze or do not want to otherwise can. Canning vinegar pickles can be done with a boiling water bath, unlike regular canning of non acid vegetables, which requires a pressure canner.
Pickled cucumbers and long beans.
You can pickle pretty much any vegetable or fruit. Just find yourself an all-purpose booklet on pickling and once you get the hang of it, the sky is the limit. I use the recipes for the proper proportions of water, vinegar and pickling salt, then let my imagination run with the seasonings.
The most common pickle is cucumbers. I used to just pickle my excess cukes, but they were usually soft and mushy -- tasty, but soft and mushy.
This year I planted pickling cucumbers (which can be eaten as fresh cukes if they get too large) and picked them small, about 4 to 5 inches long.
Pickled peppers.
This year's pickles are crispy as well as tasty. When the okra and long beans came in too fast to cook right away and I started running out of freezer space I pickled them, as well. We eat lots of salads and all of these pickles are great with them.
A couple of weeks ago when we got more freezing weather I decided to let the peppers go. So what was I going to do with all of those green bell peppers? I pickled 12 pounds of them. I also pickled some green tomatoes.
So now I am graduating to actual fermentation of vegetables. These fermented foods even have some health benefits, if you don't put them through the high heat of canning and kill off the beneficial microorganisms. They must be kept in cold storage.
Who knows, maybe next year I will even try to ferment cucumber pickles.
At some point, my fermentation efforts will move on to hard cider (when the apple trees are producing).
For now, though, I will wait for my daikon relish.

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