This month I have been re-visiting the art of vegetable pickling or more accurately lacto-fermented vegetables. This is a kitchen practice I have dabbled with in the past but not so much recently with two young children my precious kitchen hours are taken up with the bare essentials required in a mostly package-free household – bread, muesli bars, yogurt, dinner…
- approx. 1 kg beetroot
- seeds from 2 cardomom pods
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoon whey* or 1 Tbsp additional salt
- Trim the beetroot and cut into similar sized pieces. Place into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the beetroot is just cooked i.e. when you can pierce the flesh with a knife. Leave to cool in the liquid.
- Peel the beets - the skin will easily rub off when cooked - and cut into 0.5cm x 4cm long batons. (Do not grate as too much juice is released). Place the cut beets into a 1 litre Agee preserving jar (or similar sized jar) and push down with a wooden spoon to pack tightly into the jar.
- Pour over the cooking liquid to just cover and add the cardamom seeds, sea salt and whey. Top up the liquid to cover the beets by 2cm and secure the lid (ensure there is 2 cm space between the liquid and the lid). Give a little shake to mix through the salt and whey and leave for 3 days at room temperature and then transfer to the fridge or a cool pantry until ready to use. They will keep for several months once opened in the fridge, and 6 months unopened.
Lacto-fermented (LF) vegetables are not your typical sweet/ sour pickle familiar to us as the well-known gherkin or pickled onion. But rather a traditional method of fermenting vegetables for long storage with the assistance of lactic acid. This is best explained by quoting my favourite recipe book Nourishing Traditions – ‘Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are present on the surface of all living things and especially numurous on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground’.
The proces of LF is more than just a means to increase shelf life it also:
- enhances the digestibility of vegetables (such as cabbage);
- increases the vitamin levels;
- produces enzymes which assist digestion of food;
- and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut
If our bodies are low in beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) we are unable to breakdown food effectively which can lead to low immunity, allergies, digestion problems, eczema and more. In fact, many health practitioners place the health of our digestion at the heart of our overall health. Many people now take a probiotic on a daily basis for this reason. I prefer to eat food which provides what my body needs rather than rely on supplementation.
Some LF vegetables you may be familiar with include sauerkraut and Korean Kimchi. My husband is German so we reguarly eat sauerkraut as a side to meat which I make with red cabbage rather than green cabbage for a delightful bright purple addition to our dinner plates. Even my 2 year old quite likes a little red cabbage pickle! Yogurt is another excellent source of probiotics especially when it is made fresh. This week I decided to branch out and make something different with a HUGE beetroot from the farmers market I made this pickled beetroot recipe.