Whether you are looking for traditional sauerkraut, a delicious jar of pickles, or something more exotic, it’s easy to make fermented vegetables. Here is everything you need to know about how to ferment vegetables, along with links to recipes so that you can ferment everything from Avocados to Zucchini!
How to Ferment Vegetables
- CLEANLINESS: The general rule is to keep everything as clean as possible to avoid contamination. This is even more important for things like pickles and sauerkraut that can ferment for a month or longer. Here’s a full post on how to sanitation for fermentation.
- TEMPERATURE: Vegetables like to ferment at around 18 C (65 F). If you don’t have anywhere cool to stash your fermented vegetable, expect them to ferment quickly.
- DARKNESS: Keep your vegetable ferments in a dark cupboard, or wrap them up in a towel to avoid exposure to light. Light encourages mold.
- STARTERS: Most homegrown vegetables have a good bacterial culture on their skin. This is particularly true for cabbage. However, sometimes it is a good idea to use a starter. Here is my post on when to use a starter.
- SALT: The right amount of salt will prevent most problems. Here’s a handy brine calculator to help you figure out how much salt and water to use.
- CONTAINERS: If you are just starting out, use any glass jar with a weight to keep the vegetables below the liquid brine (and away from exposure to air). I find that a jam jar makes a good weight for a wide-mouth mason jar. If you plan on doing a lot of fermenting I recommend buying a fido jar or a mason jar with an airlock.
How to know if it’s safe to eat?
If it’s your first time fermenting, you may be concerned about whether your homemade fermented vegetables are safe to eat.
Fermented vegetables should always smell and taste good. If they look funny, smell funny, or taste off, then don’t eat them.
Some vegetable ferments will be a bit cloudy or have powdery sediment settling in the jar. This is perfectly fine. The biggest risk for fermented vegetables is mold. Here’s how to tell the difference between mold and kahm yeast. And here’s a general post on how to solve common problems with vegetable ferments.
Here are some of my favorite vegetable ferments. For more recipes check out all of my fermented vegetable recipes.
Snacking Vegetable Sticks
Snacking vegetables are a great way to get started. They only take a few days to make, and you end up with a delicious snack! Try making Carrot Sticks, or mixed Picnic Basket Vegetables. Personally, I LOVE the Italian-style fermented Giardiniera.
Fermented vegetable pickles are a traditional way of preserving food. While Old-Fashioned Pickles are always popular, the list of vegetables that you can turn into fermented pickles is endless. Here are a few of my favorites: Beets, Cocktail Onions, Garlic Scapes, and deliciously pink Turnip Pickles.
Relish and Other Condiments
Traditional Cabbage Ferments
As I mentioned above, cabbage has its own lactic bacteria culture, which is why it is so popular to ferment! Curtido is South American fermented cabbage and onions, which is delicious on pupusas. Koreans eat kimchi at almost every meal. If you are new at fermenting I recommend making sauerkraut because it is such an easy and reliable ferment for first-timers.
And if you are looking for some new and exciting ways to get more sauerkraut into your diet here are some ideas.