Canning and Pickling Made Easy: Fermentation

Last summer I was introduced to Backyard Homesteading and Sustainable Living; I became aware of the danger of buying food from grocery stores that aren’t organic, and the convenience of growing my own organic food.  There are many different ways to provide for yourself, if you have land to garden great, and if you don’t have land, its ok, there are pots, crates and all sort of ways to make it work….just look on Pinterest!

I care about what I put into my body, so this past spring my dad, sister and I build gardening boxes for my our backyard, as well as a herb ladder.  We planted zucchini, summer squash, carrots, snap peas, spinach, kale, kohlrabi, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, chives, garlic, dill, thyme and a few other herbs and spices.  I have loved being able to walk out and just pick my greens for my dinner, and slice up fresh tomatoes.  Aside from eating fresh from the garden, I have begun to start canning and preserving the garden goods.  I have pickled carrots, pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and beets using lacto fermentation. (Recipe at the bottom)

What is Fermentation?

Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lacto fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. The process of lacto fermentation preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the probiotics created during the fermentation process, may explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion.

Not only do fermented foods taste great, there are also several immense benefits of eating and many reasons to start making these foods!

Probiotics– Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity.

Better Food Absorption– Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Pair this with your healthy real food diet, and you will absorb many more nutrients from the foods you eat. You won’t need as many supplements and vitamins!

Budget Friendly– Incorporating healthy foods into your diet can get expensive, but not so with fermented foods. Ingredients to ferment foods are inexpensive and in the end saves you a lot of money from buying the same foods from a store. Drinks like Water Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home also and cost only pennies per serving. Adding these things to your diet can also cut down on the number of supplements you need, helping the budget further.

Easy Way to Preserve Foods– Homemade salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge- Fermented homemade salsa lasts months! The same goes for sauerkraut, pickles, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.

For all of my foods that I processed (tomatoes, carrots, beets and cucumbers) I used this simple recipe:

8 cups water

1/4 cup Kosher Salt

(I quadrupled this…so basically for every 8 cups of water there needs to be 1/4 cup salt)

  1. Bring water and salt to roaring boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the boil has been met, remove from heat and let cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, clean your jars (if needed) and begin to prep your vegetables.
  4. Place desired spices and herbs in each jar: dill, garlic cloves, peppercorn, mustard seeds.** for pickles I place two large heads of fresh dill in the bottom and two garlic cloves and a teaspoon of peppercorn. Once cucumbers have been placed in, I add two more heads of dill (mustard seeds sometimes)**
  5. I like variety in shape so I make a few jars of spears for pickles and carrots, and a couple jars with circular slices.  The beats and carrots were cut into quarters.
  6. Place all vegetables in desired jars and once water mix is cool, ladle in to each jar. Ensure that the mix covers all of the vegetables, nothing should be poking out.
  7. Screw lids on, do not tighten all the way!
  8. Jars should sit out for 2 days and then can be placed in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. After this they are ready to eat and can stay in the refrigerator for up to 3 months

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