Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ferments: the first of Summer 2012

Omne vivum ex vivo
Yum to the yum! Fermenting is where its at! Easy. Extremely low on energy consumption. Tasty. Healthy. Crunchy. Salty. Dilly. Garlicky. Bubbly. Aids in digestion and its a quick and easy way to put food by. This summer I did my first ferments when we had no power on the Fourth of July and a week later they were tasty and ready to be eaten or placed into cold storage. I have stored fermented foods for over a year and they are crisp and delicious as the day they were jarred, albeit with a much different and alive flavor. Fermenting is a little bit of magic and a little bit scientific. A fermented food relies on the surrounding environment and the microorganisms that exist within that environment. By creating an anaerobic environment using salted water and fresh vegetables, lactic acid is formed and thus helps to begin the breaking down of the food causing that pungent, sour and fizzy flavor we associate with fermented foods.

Fermentation Equation
C_6 H_{12} O_6 \Rightarrow 2 CO_2 + 2C_2 H_5 OH
Or simplyfermentation is the conversion of sugar molecules into ethanol and carbon dioxide by yeast.

Paradoxically Louis Pasteur (the handsome dude above) who made great discoveries and contributions to modern medicine, vaccinations (rabies and anthrax) and the invention of Pasteurization, discovered how fermentation spontaneously "happened". He concluded that fermentation is the result of the growth of micro-organisms and growth of bacteria in "nutrient broths" is due to bio-genesis. Bio-genesis is the belief that "All Life is From Life". Now the paradox; he is also the fore-father of our modern day "War on Germs". 
Recently the New York Times published in the Opinion Pages an article about Dirtying Up Our Diets. I find this discussion very timely given the abundance of hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial soap and our over industrialized food industry. Read it....I'll get off my educational soap box now.

Simple Ferment

Salty Solution: 3 tablespoons sea salt (I love this salt) to one liter of filtered water. Make as much salty solution or as little as you like; it all depends on how much you are fermenting. If you don't use all the salt water, store it in the fridge for later.
Veggies like green beans, cucumbers, beets, radishes, turnips, zucchini fresh heads of dill and whole cloves of garlic
Pint size to quart size mason jars or any glass jar with a metal lid

Make salty solution
Clean and dry your jars
Wash your veggies
Peel your garlic and smash with the side of your knife
Add garlic and dill to jars
Add veggies to jars and leave at least 1.5 inches of head space
Press veggies down with your hand
Pour in Salty Solution and place lid on jar
Date the top and wait!

You will hear your jars "talking" after 24-48 hours, I usually "burp" mine by releasing the lid just a bit then tightening it. After three days I taste one and usually start eating from that jar. You can place the jars in the refrigerator after a few days but I usually eat them too fast to make it to the fridge. If you taste your ferment and like the taste place it in the fridge and that will slow the ferment way down so you keep that flavor. Each time you ferment the flavor will be slightly different... that's your micro-organism world speaking to you!