As summer winds slowly die down and our sunlight begins to dwindle so does our beloved growing season here in Colorado. Though modern conveniences such as refrigerators, freezers, supermarkets and mass food distribution companies create a world of food accessibility and the illusion of a year-round growing season, there use to be a time when we didn’t have such luxuries and surviving through the winter relied heavily on food preservation and storage.
Much to our dismay, we are literally living in a time where we are seeing and feeling the effects of our consumption and watching our world’s finite resources, such as oil reserves, water-tables and land, decline and degrade, while simultaneously seeing costs increase.
Fortunately for us, the art of food preservation has not been lost. Preserving foods through methods such as canning, smoking, salting, drying and fermenting, not only provide us with delicious and nutritious foods with long shelf lives and no need for chemical-based food preservatives, but also helps us lower our overall carbon footprint. Preserving food at home lowers gas use of refrigeration storage and transportation of food from long distances, as well as lowers food waste and minimizes packaging waste that ends up in landfills.
How does one do such food preservation? One very simple and delicious method is by lacto-fermentation. This form of fermentation pickles vegetables in an oxygen-free environment in which “good” bacteria release lactic acid to produce the tangy flavor we desire. Fermented foods not only maintain high levels of nutrients already in vegetables but also increases the absorption of these nutrients and aids in the digestion of foods.
Please note that any vegetable you desire may be used in this process. At the Fort Collins Food Cooperative, we have over 30 locally sources fruits and vegetables available this time of year. We have local green beans and carrots from Native Hill Farm, garlic, cucumbers, and green peppers from Sunspot Urban Farm, cabbage and hot peppers from Ole Dern Farm, onions from Fossil Creek Farms and much, much more for your fermenting pleasure. We also carry over a hundred different spices in our bulk department, as well as a variety of iodine-free salts such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt that are packed with essential minerals that keep our bodies strong.
Here is a recipe published by the web-resource, The Kitchn, written by Emily Han.
Lacto-Fermented Mixed Pickles
3 tablespoons sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt (see Recipe Notes)
1 quart water (see Recipe Notes)
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1 cup carrot chunks or slices
1 cup red bell pepper chunks or slices
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1-2 grape leaves (optional, to help keep pickles crisp)
Combine salt and water in a measuring cup and stir until the salt is dissolved. (You can heat the water first to make the salt easier to dissolve, but it’s not necessary. Let it come to room temperature before making the pickles.)
Place the remaining ingredients in a very clean, large jar (a half-gallon mason jar works well). Pour the salt water over the vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. If necessary, add more water to cover the vegetables. (Optionally, place a small bowl or jar on top of the vegetables to hold them under the brine.)
Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature. About once a day, open the jar to taste the pickles and release gases produced during fermentation. If any mold or scum has formed on the top, simply skim it off. (If using a jar fitted with an airlock, you don’t need to “burp” it; just open occasionally to taste.)
When pickles taste to your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. They will continue to ferment very slowly, but cold storage will largely halt fermentation. As a fermented food, these pickles will last for quite some time, at least a month or longer.
- Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
- Water: Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water if you can. It is also recommended to rinse the vegetables in un-chlorinated water rather than tap water.
Happy food preserving!