Okay, so I know I’ve been posting a lot of fermented-food recipes lately, but it’s fall and there’s not a lot going on in the garden right now, so my creative energy has been going towards cooking and fermenting. Though I guess I was doing a lot of fermenting in the summer, too – here’s a photo of the various ferments on my countertop in early August:
Being a good German girl, I’ve always loved sauerkraut, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered that *other* veggies (pretty nearly anything) can be prepared in a similar fashion. I’ve always been fascinated by fermentation, even doing a research project on sourdough starters for my microbio lab in college over a decade ago, and nearly always have several fermentations going at home: beer (the husband’s endeavor), wine or mead, two different sourdough starters, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, and ginger bug sodas are all staples. And I’ve been lacto-fermenting veggies up the wazoo lately – it seems as if I always have a jar of one or two things fermenting on the countertop, and something bubbling away in my 3-gallon crock.
I don’t remember how I discovered these carrots, but I started fermenting batches of them last winter, and always have a jar of them either in the fridge or fermenting on the counter (it’s a sad day when I run out of them from the fridge and don’t have a jar that is nearly done fermenting and ready to eat!). There are recipes for these carrots all over the internet, usually containing only ginger as a flavoring, but I nearly always include brown mustard seed, and have experimented with various other spices: cumin, coriander, dried orange zest, curry powder, chili powder, hot chile flakes, etc. All have been fantastic! I love these carrots as a condiment on just about anything – they are great on egg dishes, meats, beans, baked potatoes, stirred into coleslaw, and are especially delicious as a topping on tacos.
I use a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients and determine how much salt to use, and definitely recommend this method as it is much more precise than measuring by volume, especially when one cook may pack their carrots much more loosely than another, or use a different kind of salt (such as kosher salt, which has a higher ratio of volume per mass than table salt). If you don’t have a kitchen scale (and you should – you can get a decent one for as little as $20 – $30), go by taste: the carrots should be rather salty, but not inedible, before fermenting (the sourness of the final product makes the saltiness a bit less perceptible, though they will still be salty – they’re meant to be eaten as a condiment).
You will also need a glass jar or ceramic crock (without lead in the glaze) in which to ferment these. Don’t use plastic, and DO NOT use metal! The fermentation process will create acid, and the acid will react with a metal container, creating an off taste.
Here is my basic recipe:
- salt (I use fine Himalayan pink salt, but any kind will work)
- brown mustard seed (optional)
- other desired seasonings (some tasty ones I’ve tried: cumin, coriander, dried orange zest, curry powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes)
- Grate enough carrots to fill a pint or quart jar to the bottom of its neck, packed tightly. (For me, this is usually about 1.5 – 2 lbs of carrots.) Don’t overfill, as the fermentation process will create bubbles that will cause the level of liquid in the jar to rise – you want to leave about an inch of headspace.
- Grate or mince a knob of fresh ginger, and add to taste (I usually add about 1-2 tablespoons per quart jar, but I like a lot of ginger).
- Add mustard seeds (about a tablespoon per quart jar) and/or other seasonings to taste.
- Place the carrots and seasonings in a large mixing bowl, and weigh them (make sure not to include the weight of your bowl in this measurement!).
- Calculate 2% of the weight of the carrot-spice mixture; add approximately this weight in salt. (For 1.75 lbs, for example, I use 0.60 oz of fine Himalayan pink salt, which is about 2.5 teaspoons.)
- Mix well with your hands, squeezing and stirring to get the carrots to release their juices.
- Transfer mixture, including all the juices, back to your pint or quart jar, packing tightly. The juices should cover the surface of the solids in your mixture; if not, wait an hour or so and re-compress the mixture in your jar. If there is still not enough liquid to cover the surface, add a little water.
- Set a lid on the jar, but DO NOT tighten the lid! (Alternately, you could drape a cloth napkin or tea towel over the top and rubber band it to secure.) If you seal the jar, the gas pressure created during fermentation could cause the whole thing to explode shreds of carrots and shards of glass all over your kitchen. Not fun.
- Let your carrots sit on the counter for 3-10 days, depending on the weather (warmer weather = less fermentation time needed) and depending on how sour you like them. Sample daily to test for desired sourness, and re-compress the carrots daily to ensure they remain under the surface of the liquid (air bubbles may cause them to rise).
- When you are satisfied with the sourness of your carrots, close the lid and store in the refrigerator. They should keep for at least several weeks in the fridge (mine never last that long, simply because we go through them so quickly!), but will lose some of their probiotic goodness over time.