There is no better time to make cultured veggies than in the summertime! The fruits and veggies are abundant and when you ferment them they'll last nine months in your fridge! Culturing, or what can also be called fermenting, is a no-sweat endeavor. It's so much easier than canning and you'll get probiotics, enzymes, and increased vitamins in your veggies. Did you know if you ferment your veggies, the vitamin C increases from 60 milligrams to almost 700 milligrams? And that's not all - other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and B, increase too. And the minerals are easier to absorb since cultured foods are predigested foods due to the process of fermentation. I haven't even begun to tell you about all the probiotics you get. One spoonful of cultured veggies contains more probiotics than an entire probiotic supplement bottle. I love the juice from cultured veggies. Sometimes we just drink the juice and we call them gut shots!
Fermenting foods is an art and it will be unique to you. You have different temperatures and bacteria in your kitchen that are special to you. Fermenting may work slightly differently for everyone, but it still works and you will discover the magic of your own kitchen. In time, your foods will ferment better and better as you grow in your ability and confidence. You have helpers in these unseen microbes that ferment the foods and make them safe for you. They are really doing the work.
This is much easier than you think and I’m here to help if you need it. I have over 76 cultured vegetable recipes on my site not counting the ones in my three books and Ebooks for Biotic Pro Members. If you are new to all of this, first try store-bought versions to see what you like. You can buy cultured vegetables in the refrigerated section of most health food stores. Try them and see how you like them Then you can learn to make your own. The journey of learning new things is the best part, so don’t miss it.
7 Tips For Making Cultured Veggies
1: Gather Your Ingredients
Buy the freshest veggies you can find - this makes summertime the ideal time to ferment veggies. However, I've cultured a lot of vegetables in the winter too. You'll get less kahm yeast which is harmless white yeast that can occur if your veggies aren't fresh. You'll want to remove it if you see it because it can make your veggies taste bad.
You can culture almost any vegetable. As a general rule of thumb, cabbage takes six days, while most other veggies like carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, etc., can take two to three days. Check out my recipes for more details.
2: Starter Culture
Cutting Edge Cultures: This is my favorite starter culture. It ferments my veggies perfectly every time and gives me tons of probiotics. I've tried making veggies in many ways using kefir whey, salt, and other cultures, and I found this product works the best. I actually helped design this product to give you more Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum) (super bacteria) than anything else on the market. That being said, you don't have to buy my product to make cultured veggies. You can make cultured veggies with kefir whey, salt, or another brand of starter culture, but I've simply found that Cutting Edge Cultures works the best. I just want you to make really good cultured veggies so you can reap the many health benefits that they offer.
Without a starter culture: The method of using salt to make cultured veggies has been around forever. Most methods using salt will ferment them for 3-6 weeks. I don't recommend fermenting them for this long since it diminishes the probiotics as the bacteria run out of food and the acidifying bacteria turns to a more vinegar type of brine over time. It's important to use extra salt (3 tablespoons per gallon of veggies) if you're not using a culture. You need to drop the pH and without enough salt, you won't achieve the safe and proper balance to allow them to ferment properly. I also don't recommend fermenting other veggies with just salt. Cabbage works very well, but other veggies don't ferment properly and don't have the proper pH so I recommend only doing cabbage recipes.
Kefir whey: If you make a lot of kefir cheese and have extra whey then you can use it to make cultured veggies. You need to make sure the kefir whey is freshly strained (within a day of straining) before using it. Otherwise, the culture won't have the proper bacteria strains to culture your veggies properly. One of the reasons I don't use kefir whey is because there are a lot of different bacteria in kefir that aren't specific to cultured veggies. L. plantarum is the one that you're looking to get the most of in cultured veggies. The diverse bacteria and yeasts in kefir whey compete for dominance as to which one will rule - making L. plantarum diminish. Sometimes this can change the taste of the veggies over time, but not always. It just depends on what's going on with the bacteria in your batch. Each batch has a mind of its own! Kefir whey still makes good cultured veggies, I've just gotten more picky over time and want to get the most L. plantarum I can. It's got superpowers!
3: Fermenting Time
Fermenting time will change in the warmer months. The warmer your home, the faster the veggies will be done. If your home is warmer than 75 degrees, then they may be done a day earlier or even sooner if your home is 80 degrees or above. The best way to tell if your cultured veggies are done is to taste them. If they taste sour and tart then they're done. This is slightly different for vegetables other than cabbage. Foods like carrots and tomatoes don't taste very sour due to the sugars in the veggies. They will have a slightly tangy taste. Cabbage usually takes six days on your counter to ferment while other veggies like celery and carrots are usually fermented in 2-3 days. It's best to follow my recipes on these. Don't over ferment them.
4: Bubbles And Fermenting Properly
A comment I hear often about cultured vegetables is that they are not bubbly. This doesn’t mean they are bad. If the vegetables rise in the jar and the whey goes to the bottom and they taste sour and tart, you will know they are fine. Bubbles usually occur, but not always, depending on temperature and the culture you used. If the vegetables rise in the jar and push the lid up this is fine too.
It’s the opposite with canned foods. A raised lid is something to always be alarmed with when canning foods, but in fermentation, it is a good sign and means the good bacteria are fermenting and bubbly and doing their job. Canned foods contain no good bacteria (it is all dead) so a raised lid means danger.
5: You Need To Use Salt
It's really important to use salt to make cultured veggies. Without salt your veggies will be slimy and mushy. Salt keeps them crunchy. If you're using just salt to make cultured veggies, you need to use more salt than called for in recipes that use a starter culture (see above). This will ensure that the pH drops and the vegetables ferment properly. You can really use any type of salt, although I'd encourage you to use salt with minerals. Fermentation loves minerals and so does your body. They make everything work better. Salt in its natural form contains 80+ minerals until we start refining it and removing all the minerals. I like Celtic Sea Salt and Himalayan salts to make my veggies, but you can pick any salt that suits you. Salt is important when it comes to making cultured veggies.
6: Jars For Culturing Your Veggies
You can make these foods in canning jars, clamp down jars, crocks, or airlock vessels. I mostly make fermented vegetables using a canning jar with a lid, or an airlock jar. You can use jars with metal lids but I prefer the plastic lids. If the fermented veggies touch the lid, a plastic lid won’t leave a metallic taste. Also, it is better for you not to have metal touch the food during the fermentation process. I love using an airlock jar to ferment my cultured vegetables. An airlock is a special gadget that facilitates the process of gas escaping your fermented vegetables while keeping air out. This allows you to make fermented vegetables while greatly reducing and often eliminating the threat of kahm yeast. I also think they taste a little better, but you can use a lid without an airlock and still get wonderful cultured veggies.
7: The Kahm On Veggies
One of the things that people find most troublesome is what appears to be small areas of white mold growing on the surface of the cultured vegetables. There is no reason for alarm and it is not actually mold but a yeast that they call kahm yeast. It can be found in cultured foods, but is not harmful. It can look scary and unpleasant, and even smell a little strong, but it is not a harmful thing. It should be removed from the jar so it doesn’t impart a strong odor or unpleasant taste. If you can’t get it all removed and a little is left in the jar, it won’t hurt you.
Here are the best ways to prevent this:
- Use fresh veggies: I noticed it most when I used cucumbers and carrots from the store in the winter – when they had sat in my fridge for a while and I hadn’t used them right away. The sooner I used them and cultured them, the less chance I had of developing this kahm yeast.
- Use a culture: When you add Starter Culture, the bacteria stays at a higher level longer than other cultures and methods and helps keep this yeast at bay.
- Keep the vegetables submerged under water: If you keep the vegetables submerged under the water, the good/acidifying bacteria keep this problem at bay.
- Don't over ferment: If you over ferment your veggies longer than the necessary time on the recipes, you have a higher chance of developing yeast (especially on veggies other than cabbage).
- Temperature: Letting them ferment in a cooler temperature is helpful. Cultured vegetables like it a little cooler – between 63 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If they do get kahm yeast on them, simply scrape it off and place them in the fridge. The cooler temperature can often cause the yeast to stop developing.
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Certain foods and sources available in the summer time have nutrients that super charge the immune system. Check out my favorite cultured recipes and summer foods that are fun, easy to make, and oh so good for you!