Yesterday, I whipped up a batch of traditionally fermented carrots. I have been missing my cultured foods lately. Tasks abound in a real food kitchen and sometimes, I get overwhelmed. Little Bean motivated me to get back in the swing of things, though. Earlier this week, he was asking for “cayots with the salt.” 🙂 This kid LOVES carrots, and especially the fermented kind! So, I am lucky! Because fermented foods are SO good for us.
The traditional fermentation process significantly increases the food’s nutrient density and bioavailability! In other words, eating fermented carrots is WAY better for you than even just eating regular carrots. So, it is a huge health win! You might be wondering if you need to eat a lot of fermented veggies to benefit, but you really don’t! Ideally, adding just a couple of tablespoons of fermented veggies to your diet, a couple of times each day, can make a big difference in overall health, digestion, and even mood! I like to add these carrots in to a big salad, or serve them to Little Bean as a snack paired with a string cheese or handful of cashews.
The even-better news is that this ferment is SUPER easy to prepare, especially for people who have never fermented vegetables before! And I am going to show you how you can have a jar of these put up in less than 30 minutes. (That even includes the 20 minutes of hands-free time.) It is a great way to start out with traditional ferments if they seem intimidating. (And in my opinion, it is one of the tastiest options.) One more reason I love this ferment is that good carrots are so easy to find, all year long. So, if you get hooked, the good news is that carrot season never ends. 🙂
First, peel all of your carrots. Then, chop them in the way that you prefer. This time around, I did "coins." In the past I've done "matchsticks," or even used my fancy Pampered Chef crinkle cutter. Any option will work just fine and taste the same. :-)
Put the carrots into a bowl that is large enough to contain some movement as you macerate them. Add the salt.
Now its time to have some fun! To macerate the carrots, and get the fermentation process rolling, take your fist or (what I like to use is) a pestle from your mortar and pestle set, and start lightly pounding on the carrots. (I used to use my fist, but it bugs me when the salt grains dig in to my skin. The pestle is perfect because it has a bit of weight to it and makes the job so easy.)
Don't go crazy with this, but do lightly pound on the carrot/salt mixture until you just start to see some orange liquid coming off of the carrots. At the first sign of that (it will look like just a couple of drops in the bottom of your bowl, and some of the carrots will look a bit "sweaty").
Set the carrot and salt mixture aside for 20 minutes. When you come back, you will notice quite a bit more orange carrot juice in the bowl.
Add your garlic, and mix everything up.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a mason jar that is large enough to accommodate the solids, plus enough room to keep everything submerged in filtered water.
Add enough filtered water to completely cover everything. If pieces of carrot start popping up (either now, or after its been fermenting for a while), push them below the water surface again. This is important.
To keep your ferment clean and free of bugs, but still able to breathe, make sure you cover it. I like to rip half of a coffee filter for this, and secure it with the mason jar ring. Some people say that cheesecloth works well, but I have also heard that cheesecloth may not be the best because it has bigger holes that can allow things in that you don't want. You can also use a piece of, say, an old pillow case that is a part of your rag collection - or any kind of material that is relatively light and breathable.
Now, we wait. :-)
Depending on the ambient temperature of the room your ferment will be living in, and your taste preference, let the carrots sit out (NOT in the refrigerator) for at least a day, and perhaps up to a week. The warmer it is, the faster they will ferment. The more "fermenty" they are, the stronger the "fermenty" taste. (In the summertime, my ferments are plenty "fermenty" enough for my liking within about 36 hours.) My guess is that in Sacramento in a relatively March, I may let this sit for about 3 days.
How do you know when your ferment is ready? There is no one right answer. Its really personal preference. You will know that the fermentation process has started when you begin to see bubbles on the top of the water. (The microbes are working hard!) If you get a little "scum" on top of the water, simply skim it off and close it back up. And don't be afraid to taste! You can always let it ferment longer if its not quite ready. The longer it ferments, the more beneficial bacteria it will have! But you also want to enjoy the taste. So there is a lot of trial and error in this process, but it is a fun process!
When you feel that your ferment is ready, remove the cloth or coffee filter cover, replace it with a regular lid, and put it in your refrigerator. Refrigeration will (mostly) arrest the fermentation process.