Fermented Vegetables — Off the Shelf

Home fermentation isn't just for hardcore DIY homesteaders, thanks to Fermenting Vegetables. Turn your local farmers market or supermarket produce section into some of the most-delicious dishes your kitchen has ever seen.

“Don’t think of vegetable fermentation as drudgery suitable only for the DIY homesteader," Kirsten Shockey, co-author of Fermented Vegetables says. "It is ready-to-go convenience food — fresh tasty salads and condiments are in your refrigerator just waiting for you to add them to your meals.” That captures exactly the balance of science, beauty and tastiness food fans will find in Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey. Kimchi is having its moment, but the possibilities of home fermentation stretch far beyond that, encompassing everything from simple pickles and spicy sauces to more advanced fermenting techniques. You’ll also find composed recipes in which you can use your new preserved foods, delicious dishes like the Northwest Gingered Carrot Cake (recipe after the link for you to try at home), Fish Tacos, Kraut Balls, Kimchi Latkes, cocktails and more (plus all the condiments, pickles and toppings you could ever dream of).

Kirsten Shockey shared with us her top tips for getting started fermenting foods at home:

  • Keep everything below the brine while fermenting; you want to make sure the brine stays with your veggies and keeps them anaerobic. (The process creates CO2, which can create air pockets — just press the kraut and the bubbles will leave and the brine will fill the spaces.) We have a Fermentista’s Mantra in the book that we share with all our students: “Submerge in brine and all will be fine.”
  • Taste while you make your kraut. It’s the simplest way to ensure success by getting the salt right. It should taste salty but not briny or unpalatable, like a good potato or corn chip. Remember, if it is tasty raw, it will be delicious fermented.
  • Be brave, and above all have fun! There are so many combinations to be explored

Fermented Vegetables is an all-encompassing guide, from the very basic techniques and equipment required to an ingredient-focused recipe index that breaks down how you can turn the entire produce section of your supermarket or farmers market into delicious fermented dishes. First time fermenting? Shockey was also kind enough to give us tips on exactly where you should start: "Cabbage-based krauts are very forgiving and give you a good base to expand from when you are ready to experiment. We would suggest starting with Naked Kraut. If cabbage isn’t your thing, the Simple Onion Relish is a great starter kraut. If you want to pickle something besides a vegetable, cranberries are available this time of year, and Pickled Cranberries are a great way to dip into the brine."

Sweet, savory, briny, salty, tangy — all your favorite flavors are here, folded neatly into gorgeous food photos and easily replicated with clear, simple recipe instructions. You’ll never look at vegetables the same way again! You can order your copy of Fermented Vegetables here.

Northwest Gingered Carrot Cake
Serves 12

One of our traditions is that the birthday person gets to pick the three meals on his or her birthday as well as the “cake,” which is in quotes because more than one person in our family is a fan of pie rather than cake. Still, among the cake side of our family, carrot cake rules. When we were brainstorming desserts for this book, we knew we needed to tackle carrot cake.

It wasn’t difficult to get to a ginger-carrot ferment (the main ingredient of this cake) since the fermented version enhances the regular version — it’s somehow lighter and richer than the original, which may come from the interaction of the baking soda and the ferment. The basic recipe is from a favorite baking book, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking. It’s incredibly moist and spicy, so you don’t need much in the way of frosting. We sometimes frost with just a light spread of sour cream. Otherwise, use your favorite cream cheese frosting.

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups coconut oil, melted and cooled
Grated zest of 1 orange
3 cups Carrot Kraut (recipe follows)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, quickly browned in a pan and then chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour either two 10-inch round pans or one 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and mace into a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, and orange zest. Stir in the carrot kraut.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.

Finally, add the nuts and dried fruit. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, usually 30 to 40 minutes. As soon as the middle no longer looks different than the edges and begins to crack a bit, remove the pans from the oven to preserve the moistness of the cake.

Carrot Kraut
Yield: about 1 gallon

This is an adaptation of Sally Fallon’s gingered carrots. Though it’s a colorful and refreshing side dish, we like it best in carrot cake. The kraut adds moisture, and with the cream-cheese frosting, life is good. Note: Due to its high sugar content, this kraut continues to ferment in the refrigerator and will sour more with time.

To Peel or Not to Peel?

It’s not always necessary to peel carrots. If they’re young and sweet, just scrub them and grate. If the carrots are large with darker, bitter peels, pare them before you grate.

8 pounds carrots, grated
1 to 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt

Combine the carrots, ginger, lemon juice, and zest in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the veggies, then taste. It should taste slightly salty without being overwhelming. Add more salt if necessary. Carrots get briny almost immediately and liquid will pool.

Transfer the carrot mixture to a 1-gallon jar or crock, a few handfuls at a time, pressing down with your fist or a tamper to remove air pockets. You should see some brine on top of the carrots when you press. When the vessel is packed, leave 4 inches of headspace for a crock, or 2 to 3 inches for a jar.

Cover the carrots with a piece of plastic wrap or other primary follower. For a crock, top the carrots with a plate that fits the opening of the container and covers as much of the surface as possible; then weight down with a sealed water-filled jar. For a jar, use a sealed water-filled jar or a ziplock bag as a combination follower and weight.

Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 7 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure the carrots are submerged, pressing down as needed to bring the brine back to the surface.

You can start to test the kraut on day 7. You’ll know it’s ready when it has a crisp-sour flavor and the brine is thick and rich.

When it’s ready, transfer the kraut to smaller jars and tamp down. Pour in any brine that’s left. Tighten the lids, then store in the fridge. This kraut will keep, refrigerated, for 1 year, but is better within 6 months.

Excerpted from Fermented Vegetables, copyright Kirsten K. and Christopher Shockey. Photography by copyright Erin Kunkel. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

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