You should always use ORGANIC vegetables that are raw. This is because they are not treated with chemicals that can harm the living ferments and contain more good/live bacteria needed for the fermentation process. The quality of your vegetables WILL affect the quality of your ferment. If you use low-quality vegetables, you will NOT get the best results possible.
Don’t feel like you have to have a separate jar for every veggie you ferment. Go ahead and combine some delicious combinations of veggies like carrots, radish, turnip, parsnip, cauliflower, parsley, peppers and beets!
The basic steps of fermenting anything are:
1. Prepare your food: Wash, peel, chop, grate, or slice your food as desired. You can also leave some foods whole, such as cucumbers, grapes, or eggs. The smaller the pieces, the faster the fermentation will be. You can also add salt, sugar, spices, herbs, or other flavorings to your food at this stage.
2. Pack your food into the jar or crock: Transfer your food into your vessel(s) of choice and pack it tightly, leaving some space at the top for the brine and the gas that will be produced during fermentation. You can also add some water, whey, or a commercial culture to your food to help start the fermentation. If you are using salt or sugar, you can dissolve them in some water first and then pour the brine over your food. Make sure your food is completely covered by the brine. If not, you can add more water or brine until it is.
Some basic rules for using a salt solution (brine) to ferment
Always use chemical free salt such as pure sea salt, Kosher salt, or Himalayan salt. These salts kill off the bad bacteria’s we do not want in our foods. However, the good bacteria we DO WANT (lactobacillus) loves a low to medium salty environment. Keep the good, kill the bad.
Your brine solution should be between a 2% brine solution and as high as 6%. A rule of thumb I use is 2% for all veggies EXCEPT pickles and peppers. Pickles can be fermented using a 4% brine solution and peppers can go slightly higher 5%-6%.
To calculate exactly how much salt you need…
3. Weigh down your food: Place a fermentation weight or a smaller jar filled with water on top of your food to keep it submerged under the brine. This will prevent mold and spoilage from forming on the surface. You can also cover the jar or crock with a lid or a cloth to keep out dust and insects. If you are using a lid, make sure it is not too tight as the gas that will be produced during fermentation needs to escape. You can also use an airlock, which is a device that allows the gas to escape but prevents air from entering the jar or crock.
4. Ferment your food: Store your jar or crock in a cool and dark place, such as a cupboard, a pantry, or a basement. The ideal temperature for fermentation is between 18°C and 22°C (64°F and 72°F). Avoid direct sunlight, heat, or cold as they can affect the fermentation process. Check on your food every day or every few days and taste it to see how it is progressing. You can also smell it, look at it, and listen to it to see if it is bubbling, fizzing, or changing color. Depending on the type of food, the starter, and the temperature, the fermentation can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months. The longer you ferment, the more sour and complex the flavor will be. You can stop the fermentation when you are happy with the taste and texture of your food.
5. Store your food: Once your food is ready, you can enjoy it right away or store it in the fridge for later. Fermented foods can last for several weeks or months in the fridge, as the cold temperature slows down the fermentation process. You can also can or freeze your fermented foods for longer storage, but this will kill the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in them. You can eat your fermented foods as they are or use them as ingredients in other dishes, such as salads, sandwiches, soups, sauces, dips, etc.