Fermenting in the airing cupboard.

All sorts of things happen in our airing cupboard.  Like proving dough, storing bicycle helmets, Culturing kefir grains (see subsequent post), hidden toys between the sheets and  it is wonderful hide-and-seek territory; and it has sufficient constant warmth for fermenting.

January is always open head and open heart territory.  Don’t get stale, try something new.  I’ve already started with fermenting on a small and very domestic scale. Sufficient for us.  Yet again I was inspired by Cornersmith, I’ve mentioned it before.  Anyway, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Fermented carrots

A jar of fermented carrot, with its friend pickled fennel, just lounging around in the fridge.

These seemed the easiest to start with and We’ve used fermented vegetables as side dishes and as part of dishes such as in salads, roasted vegetable taboulleh, Freekah with aubergine.

Fermenting is, in its simplest terms, a method of preserving. You either use a starter culture, whey or brine.  I use brine as it is the easiest way to start.  Fermenting might sound a bit of a fad – it is all about ‘good’ bacteria – but it is embedded in worldwide culinary culture; think sauerkraut, kimchi etc. Think East European. North European. Scandinavian. Think Middle East, Far East. Fermenting is ancient and universal – it isn’t new at all. So although ‘good bacteria’ might sound like a fad, finding such bacteria is normal and natural and is embedded in old cultures across the world.

Start with something easy and inexpensive like carrots or radishes.  Take 10g salt and add 500ml filtered water then bring to the boil and leave to cool.

Sterilise Mason or Kilmer jars making sure they are absolutely spotless.

Mix 1 thinly sliced onion with 40g grated fresh turmeric  and 40g freshly grated ginger.  You can substitute ground turmeric (1 heaped teaspoon) but fresh ginger is a must. Slice 500g carrots very thinly. Mix all these ingredients together then pack into the jars. be careful not to bruise the vegetables (I use a pestle to gently press them down).

Pour in the brine. Add one thick carrot or celery stick across the neck of the jar so all the ingredients are submerged. Seal the jars.

Let the jars sit at room temperature for 2-4 days when you should notice small bubbles inside the jar.  The longer you leave at room temperature the more lacto fermentation will progress but it does depend a lot on the ambient temperature.  Being too parsimonious to have the central heating on all day, the only place where we have consistent temperature in our house is the airing cupboard! Once fermentation is underway the environment within the jar is hostile to bacteria.  The ferment should smell slightly yeasty or sour.  It should have visible bubbles.  The kids might look slightly rounded if you are using metal tops. It should not smell foul! Put the jars in the fridge after a few days to slow the fermentation.  You might need to release a little ‘gas’ from the jars occasionally so keep an eye on them. Should keep up to 6 months in the fridge.

After you have experimented a bit, you might want to get more daring!

From Olia Hercules Kaukasis published by Mitchell Beazley and one of my cook books of the year.

Straight from Olia Hercules book Kaukasis comes fermented beetroot and cauliflower.

Make a brine with 1litre filtered water and 25g salt. Add aromatics such as allspice, coriander seed, pink peppercorns or sprigs of thyme.

Peel four beetroot and slice very thinly. Break one cauliflower into florets. Peel a few garlic cloves and one or two sticks of celery chopped into bite sized pieces.

Put all the vegetables into a 3litre sterilised jar and pour in the brine and aromatics and as before, wedge a piece of celery or carrot across the top. Now pour in the brine making sure everything is covered.

Cover the jar with a piece of muslin and leave the jar at room temperature for 5 days or so – it depends on how warm your kitchen is. Look for bubbles. Once there are bubbles, remove the muslin and out on the lid.  Keep in a cool place for a couple of months.

Good luck, and let me know how you get on!




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