"A jar and a good vegetable and some salt and the confidence that you've got this!"
That's all it takes to start fermenting brightly flavored vegetables at home, according to Kirsten K. Shockey. She and husband Christopher Shockey have written "Fiery Ferments," a collection of enticing recipes focused on condiments from around the globe.
Don't be squeamish about the basics of fermenting: Place vegetables in a briny environment and their natural bacteria will transform carbohydrates into acids, essentially imparting heat and pickling them. "The vitamin load of the vegetables increases" through this alchemy, says Shockey, so fermenting makes them extra-nutritious.
But taste is the ultimate test and the best reason to try these science experiments. "You have so much more choice to make the flavor like you want it," Shockey says. "Suddenly your refrigerator is full of condiments, salads, pickles, chutneys, mustards — things you can dollop on a bowl of soup or spread on a sandwich."
Can't get enough color photos of bulging lids, brine like snot, scum and mold? At the FermentWorks website, you can browse the Fermentation Doctor "hotline" or submit your own question to the Fermentista. Or receive a free five-ferments-in-seven-days online course by signing up for the mailing list.
Spicy Carrot and Lime Salad
"This has become one of our favorite ferments. Crunchy, with a bright flavor, it is easy to make and easy to eat. We make it with Fresno peppers, as they provide a nice heat, and the red strips are striking against the bright carrots. That said, you can use any pepper — depending on availability and the heat level you are trying to achieve.
"Increase the quantity of Fresnos for a nice pepper quality that won't burn your mouth or use Pimento or cherry bell peppers to mellow out the heat. Want more burn? Choose habaneros, Thai chiles or jalapeños (red or green). Peppers peak mid- to late-summer and fall. If you can't find fresh, substitute dried." — Kirsten K. Shockey
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes (excluding fermentation) | Easy | Heat index: mild to mouth-on-fire
Makes 1 quart
- 1-3/4 pounds carrots, sliced as thinly as possible on a grater or mandoline (peeling is optional)
- 3–4 Fresno or other red peppers, thinly sliced, or 1 tablespoon dried chile flakes
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- 1 (1- to 2-inch) piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Combine the carrots, peppers, lime zest and juice, and ginger in a bowl. Add the salt and massage it into the mixture.
- Pack the mixture into a jar (such as a standard 1-quart glass jar with a two-piece lid), pressing out any air pockets as you go. Press a ziplock bag against the surface of the ferment, fill the bag with water, and zip it closed. Screw the lid down tightly.
- Place the jar in a corner of the kitchen to ferment. Open slightly every day to burp. (If you see air pockets, remove the bag, press the ferment back down with a clean utensil, rinse the bag, and replace.) Tighten the lid.
- Allow to ferment for 7 to 10 days. The carrots tend to stay bright, so look for a slight cloudiness to develop in the brine. When it is ready, it will have a pleasing acidic smell and taste pickle-y, and it may also have a bit of an effervescent zing. You can let it ferment longer for more sour and punch.
Store in the refrigerator, where this fermented salad will keep for up to 12 months.
"These carrots make a great side salad to accompany wraps or rice or noodle bowls – or serve as part of a barbecue meal," says Kirsten Shockey. "Or use them as part of the dressing to jazz up a green salad."
Excerpted from “Fiery Ferments,” copyright 2017 by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey. Photographs copyright by Lara Ferroni. Republished with permission from Storey Publishing.