How to Ferment Food at Home: A Beginner’s Guide

If hearing “fermented food” scares you, then you’ll be reassured to know that you’ve been eating fermented food all your life. Bread, wine, cheese, chocolate, and even some varieties of tea are made using different kinds of fermentation processes.

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What exactly is fermentation?

Fermentation refers to the promote the life of good bacteria present in different food items to change its flavour. Lactobacillus is a naturally occurring bacteria that all vegetables are covered in. The process of fermentation involves slicing and/or grating the vegetables, and then covering them in salt. The vegetables go on to release the water and mingle with the salt to create a brine. Covered in this brine, the lactobacillus multiplies and breaks down the vegetable, converting the natural sugars to lactic acid. This lactic acid is what creates the typical tangy flavour fermented foods are known for.

How do I ferment food at home?

While it may sound complicated, it’s actually extremely easy to do at home. You will need some sterilised jars, vegetables you want to ferment, baking parchment, and patience.

 Step 1:

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Sterilise your jars. You can buy new jars if you want, but any large-mouthed jar will work fine. Use a jar with a plastic lid, because jars with metal lids can react to the acids formed. Don’t skip this step at all, since unsterilised jars can promote the growth of the wrong bacteria and that’ll make you sick. Wash your jars well in soapy water, then soak them in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Take them out, leave them to cool, and once dry, they’re ready to use.

Step 2:

Slice or grate your vegetables. Carrots, radishes, cabbage, broccoli, beets—literally any vegetable will work, so use what you have or like. Place the prepared vegetables in the jar, making sure there’s about 1-inch space left on the top.

Step 3:

Add any herbs or spices you’d like to use for extra flavour. Peppercorns, caraway seeds, dill, basil, bay leaves—whichever flavour appeals to you.

Step 4:

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Mix together 2 cups water with 2 tablespoons coarse salt, and stir till dissolved. Pour this over the vegetables till it reaches just below the top of the jar. Make sure the vegetables are properly submerged in the brine, and use a folded bit of parchment paper to press down on the vegetables to ensure this.

Step 5:

Tightly shut the lid and keep them in an area with a moderate temperature and away from direct sunlight.

Step 6:

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The vegetables will be ready to consume anywhere between Day 4-9. The longer you let them ferment, the tangier they will get, so you should start to taste them from day 4 to figure out what you prefer.

Step 7:

Once you’re happy with the level of sourness, keep the jar in the refrigerator where they will keep for 2 months.

 Note: As the fermentation begins, you will see some bubbles forming inside from day 2. Slowly loosen the lid to let the gases out once a day.