Can you name a fermented food?
Did you come up with kimchi, kombucha, chutney, or natto? I had heard of these and even tried some, but never ventured in making them myself. Not until today! With the help of my mother-in-law, we created this DIY lacto-fermented mixed vegetables. They are crisp, tart, and a nutritious way to enjoy and preserve a variety of vegetables.
Whenever mum visits, our kitchen transforms into a 24/7 restaurant. Yes, I know, lucky us! And we love her for spoiling us with all the mouthwatering and often times, exotic cuisine. I say exotic because Deepak’s side of the family are from Madagascar and France. That mixed with their Indian roots, and well, you can imagine the dynamic flavors mum creates.
Deepak’s family LOVES fermented foods and it’s a common feature in their daily menu relative to my family’s diet. Fermented foods appear at nearly every meal as a side, and often made from scratch. And because of this, I was keen to learn how to whip these up. Mum was excited to share this DIY lacto-fermented mixed vegetables recipe and we made it together <3
So, what are fermented foods?
We often hear about fresh foods being the best for us (and rightly so). But these days more and more, we’re hearing about the health benefits of fermented foods. So what’s this trend with fermentation?!
Lacto-fermentation of foods is an ancient art. It’s been practiced for thousands of years as a way to preserve different foods. The process breaks down many vitamins and other nutrients into more easily digestible forms. Additionally, lacto-fermentation increases the palatability and nutritional quality of food.
Most lacto-fermented foods are made from raw vegetables, without heat. To those who are unfamiliar, lacto-fermentation may sound complicated and confusing. And no it has nothing to do with dairy! Lacto actually refers to lactic acid. All fruits and vegetables have beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus on the surface. In an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, these bacteria break down the sugars found in food into lactic acid. It is this that inhibits harmful bacteria and acts as a preservative.
And…what are the benefits of eating fermented foods?
Lacto-fermentation is thought to help increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients. This means they are more easily taken up in our bodies. The process also destroys some anti-nutrient components of certain raw foods, such as oxalates and phytic acids. Anti nutrients have shown to reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Scientists believe that the possible health benefits of fermented foods are because they are a source of probiotics; which help to keep our gut healthy. What’s more, recent research has been attributing the health of our gut (microbes in our gut) to mental health. So, getting more fermented foods in may benefit both your physical and mental health.
Using raw foods as the starting ingredient increases the vitamin and mineral content of fermented foods. And what better way to introduce more of these foods into your diet than by taking a shot at making fermented foods yourself!
There are several ways to prepare the vegetables for fermenting: grating, shredding, chopping, slicing, or leaving whole. How you choose to prepare your vegetables is a personal choice, though some vegetables are better suited for leaving whole, while others ferment better when shredded or grated. I choose some of my fave colourful veggies for this recipe to get a variety of nutrients in. I chopped some, whilst leaving others whole. The green beans are actually Indian green beans, and are thinner relative to french beans. Regular green beans would work just as well for this recipe.
How do I know fermentation is complete?
I leave my jar out on my counter for 2-3 days before moving it into the fridge. Watch out for the following signs that may help to know if they are ready.
- Look for bubbles. The lactic acid fermentation process produces bacteria that release gases when they feast on the vegetables. These gases are often visible as bubbles after a few days at room temperature.
- Trust your nose! Opening the jar after a few days may release a sour, vinegary aroma.
- Taste the tanginess! Tasting your veggies will also confirm if they are ready to be moved to the fridge. They should taste tangy and DELICIOUS!
How do you incorporate fermented foods into your diet?
- 2 tablespoons Himalayan salt, sea salt or pickling salt
- 1 litre water (see Recipe Notes)
- 1.5 cups small cauliflower florets
- 6 radishes, cut in quarters
- 1 carrot, large, cut in strips
- 1 cup Indian green beans, ends trimmed
- 10 clove garlic, peeled, whole
- 5 green chillies, long, whole
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- Combine salt and water in a measuring cup and stir until the salt is dissolved. Let it come to room temperature before making the pickles.)
- Place the remaining ingredients in a clean, dry jar.
- Pour the salt water over the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
- If necessary, add more water to cover the vegetables.
- Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature for 2-3 days. If any mold or scum has formed on the top, simply remove.
- Check for the 3 signs (as above) to assess if the fermentation process is successful.
- After the fermentation process is complete, transfer the jar to the refrigerator.
- These fermented vegetables will last for at least a month or longer in the refrigerator.
Rinse the vegetables in un-chlorinated water rather than tap water. Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation. Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water if you can.
So, kuch kuch hota hai? If you try this recipe, would love to hear from you! Leave a comment, rate it, or share a photo and hashtag with #desiliciousrd on Instagram and twitter! Can’t wait to see your photos.
- Selhub, E. M., Logan, A. C., & Bested, A. C. (2014). Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 33(2). DOI: 10.1186/1880-6805-33-2
- Swain, M. R., Anandharaj, M., Ray R. C., & Rani, R. P. (2014). Fermented fruits and vegetables of Asia: A potential source of probiotics. Biotechnology Research International, 1-19. doi:10.1155/2014/250424
- Taamang, J. P., Shin, D., Jung S., & Chae, S.(2016). Functional properties of microorganisms in fermented foods. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7(578), 1-13. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00578