I decided to dip my toe into the world of fermented foods a couple weeks ago.
With a million tri-color carrots cropping up in our garden and heads upon heads of cabbage rolling in from our CSA, I decided to try my hand at pickled carrots and sauerkraut, both done in the old-school way (meaning pickled in their own brine instead of vinegar, and not heat-processed).
Why? I keep hearing about the benefits of fermented foods, and the lamented fact that they’re not a part of our diet like they once were. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, and the fermentation process can actually increase the vitamin content of many foods. (Here’s a great rundown of the benefits of fermentation from Homemade Mommy).
It just so happens, too, that fermentation is a delicious way to preserve your food! Although fermented foods do need to be refrigerated and won’t last as long as heat-processed canned goods, you still get a good couple of months out of them, and that’s all I really need — especially with summer’s bounty just around the corner. You can add the step of heat-processing these carrots (or other fermented foods) to make them shelf-stable, but that does have the drawback of destroying all the lovely probiotics you just added to your foods through the fermentation process.
The pickled carrots went over like gangbusters. They were easy to make, and they are tangy, salty and crunchy straight from the fridge.
The sauerkraut… not so much. Let’s just say there was mold involved, but the compost pile was happy to take care of the failed product for us. So, onward and upward! I may try again soon, but for now I’ll stick with pickled carrots. This is such a great way to preserve carrots (especially when you have a million to use up at one time) and even add some nutritional benefit to them. Win-win!
- 2 lbs carrots, trimmed of greens and scrubbed
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 dried hot chili
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- Split any carrots larger than your little finger in half or quarters lengthwise.
- Combine the salt, water, bay leaves and chili in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute or so, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Pack the carrots and the thyme sprig into a clean quart-size Mason jar and pour the cooled brine over them (you will have leftover brine).
- Pour the leftover brine into a plastic bag and seal it or tie it off. Push the bag into the jar so that the carrots are completely submerged in the brine. (This prevents the veggies from contacting air while fermenting, which will result in mold.)
- Put the jar into a cool, dark place for at least 3 days, and up to 2 weeks, depending on how tangy you want your carrots to be.*
- After fermentation is complete, remove the bag from the pickling jar. Screw the cap on the jar and store your new carrot pickles in the fridge.** Kept in the fridge, these pickles will last up to 6 months.