Preserving Summer’s Bounty – Jams, Pickles and Ferments

Pickling foods in vinegar and fermentation are ancient processes for food preservation that create healthy, tasty, durable foods, completely free of preservatives and additives. Prior to the advent of refrigeration, these methods were critical for ensuring the availability of vegetables throughout the seasons and while traveling. Seafarers relied on them, as did migrating settlers, and warring armies.

Since the availability of electric refrigeration in the 20th century, along with commercial canning and freezing, these methods are no longer strictly necessary to ensure vegetables in the winter, but preserved vegetables are now appreciated for their taste, healthy qualities, and economy.

When we think of fermented German foods, naturally sauerkraut is right at the top of the list. However, Germany also has a tradition of preserving many other vegetables.

Fermented vegetables are tasty, economical, easy to make, and super healthy for your digestive system. Fermented foods are easier to digest because of the beneficial microorganisms created during the process. Eating fermented foods supports healthy bacteria in our intestines and helps ensure the health of our immune system. Most of our immune cells, 70% in fact, are in our guts.

Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and sourdough bread are all fermented foods, as are beer, yogurt and cheese. All rely on the actions of friendly bacteria to convert ordinary raw food into something that’s longer lasting and different tasting.

The easiest vegetables for fermenting are the firm ones, such as cabbage, beets, carrots, pumpkins, cucumbers and cauliflower. When preserving vegetables, look for organic vegetables, so your preserves will be free of pesticides.

Eating 1-2 tablespoons of fermented foods each day will be enough to have a beneficial effect on our gut health and our immune systems.

Fermentation in Five Steps

Select and prepare your containers
Preserving in glass jars is the most popular, and can be found either with a rubber ring to seal or a screw top. The most important thing is to sterilize your containers before you fill them with vegetables, or your vegetables will be in danger of being spoiled by mold. Glassware is sterilized with boiling water or steam.

Chop and press the vegetables
Wash your vegetables well before you begin. Chop everything relatively finely and of even size. When they’re chopped, add a bit of salt and press the vegetables well to squeeze till they give up some of their liquid.

Fill the glasses
Fill the glassware with the veggies and their liquid, but leave room at the top for the gases that will escape during fermentation. The veggies should be tightly packed and totally covered by liquid. If the veggies come into contact with oxygen, the may begin to spoil or go moldy.

Check and wait
Bleed the glassware daily for the first few days, when gas formation during the fermentation process is at its most active. Depending on the whether, fermentation will take about 14 days at room temperature.

Enjoy!
Keep refrigerated until enjoyed.

Recipes:
Quick refrigerator cucumber pickles
Cauliflower pickles
Basic Fermented Vegetables