Before refrigerators were invented, practically everyone fermented their vegetables in order to keep them longer. Fermenting is a variation of curing. Sauerkraut is among the best-known examples of a fermented vegetable. Sliced white cabbage is placed in a pot covered with salt and buttermilk or whey. The salt prevents the proliferation of undesirable bacteria, while the lactic acid bacteria transform the cabbage’s natural sugars into lactic acid and keep it juicy. Lactic fermentation has many advantages. It gently transforms the vegetables, enhancing their taste, making them easier to digest and more interesting from a nutritional point of view, since it forms amino-acids, vitamins and minerals. Our intestinal flora also benefits. Plus, the vegetables remain crunchy and keep their shape, so that they are easily recognisable. This helps explain the renewed success of lactic fermentation. One Asian technique, specifically from Korea, is Kimchi, which is becoming increasingly popular. The vegetables are chopped up and placed in a large jar or dish, then mixed with salt, water and whey (10 cl of whey for every 10 litres of water), so that they are completely covered. The jar or plate is covered with plastic film and left overnight at room temperature, long enough for fermentation to begin. Bubbles on the plastic film show that the fermentation process is under way. The container is then placed in the refrigerator and fermentation proceeds at a slower pace. Cold temperatures delay the process and the vegetables can be kept for several months. To add flavour to your vegetables, after the first night of fermentation you can add seasoning such as ginger, spring onions or garlic cloves, or an Asian mix of fish, chili and soy sauces. Taste the fermenting vegetables periodically. When you feel the taste is just right, they are then ready to be eaten. If you want to hasten the process, keep the container at room temperature. After two or three days, the vegetables will already have a slightly fermented taste.
Culinary Technique - Fermenting
- Clean and wash the vegetables. Dice them.
- Put them in a large dish. Cover them with salt. Add buttermilk or whey.
- Mix thoroughly, then add enough water to cover the vegetables. Cover the dish.
- Keep overnight at room temperature to start the fermentation process. Then place in the refrigerator and allow it to ferment until you are happy with the result.