Backyard gardens are putting forth the last of their bounty, and late summer vegetables are at their peak of freshness. To squeeze every last drop out of your harvest, give fermentation a try.
Fermented vegetables date back hundreds of years. Back before we had freezers, people had to preserve food somehow. Somewhere along the line, someone figured out that salting food and letting it sit for a week creates a crunchy, tangy pickled vegetable that tastes better than what you started with.
A lot of people find home fermentation to be intimidating. And it can be, at first. As long as you sanitize your cutting boards, jars, and tools with boiling water before you start, there’s a great chance you’ll end up with a beautiful pickle at the end.
Here’s how to do it.
Home Fermented Vegetables: Pickled Giardiniera Recipe
Serves: 10-20, depending on serving size
Time in the kitchen: 15 minutes, plus 5 days hands-off fermentation time
- 1-2 heads cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 6-7 carrots
- 5-6 stalks celery
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 large leek
- 1 lb. green beans
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 3/4 tsp. mustard seeds
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 small bunch oregano
- 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or 1-2 sliced jalapenos)
Using boiling water, sanitize whatever vessel you plan to use for your fermenting. Use care not to burn yourself!
Wash all of your veggies and chop them. Double wash your leeks as they’re notorious for being very sandy.
We recommend a 3.5% salt solution for your fermenting. To figure out how much salt you need, weigh your crock or jar on a small kitchen scale. Tare the scale while the empty jar is on it so the weight reads as 0g. Fill the jar with water until it’s a few inches from the lip of the jar. Record the mass of the water and then multiply the amount by 3.5% to find out how much salt you need.
Pour the water out and add the appropriate amount of salt to the jar. Then, subtract the amount of salt you added from the total mass of the water that fits in the jar. This will give you the mass of water you need to add to the jar. At this point, pour the salt solution you created out into another jar, you’ll need it in a minute. Layer your crock or jar with all of the chopped veggies, the peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, oregano and red pepper flakes. Pour enough of your salt water solution into the jar so the vegetables are fully submerged.
Alternatively, you can keep the salt water solution. Add a few crock fermentation weights to the top which will keep all of the vegetables submerged.
Cover your jar with the appropriate lid. We used an airlock lid kit, which has a small hole in the lid that the airlock attaches to. Fill the airlock with the appropriate amount of water based on your instructions, and you’re good to go! Place the crock in a cool dry place, ideally away from sunlight. The warmer the conditions are in the room you place the crock, the more quickly the contents will ferment.
If you don’t have an airlock system, you can lightly cover the jar with a lid and “burp” the jar 1-2 times daily which will get rid of any carbon dioxide gas that gets produced as the vegetables ferment. This proves to be a bit tedious and runs the risk of your ferment overflowing, so it’s worth the small investment for the airlock system. Check your crock daily to make sure it hasn’t overflowed.
You can taste the giardiniera after 5 days or so and decide how much tangier and longer you want the mixture to go for. We personally like it around 10 days, but it can also go 2 weeks or even longer. Use your nose first! If you taste or remove some vegetable, make sure the contents of the crock stay submerged in the salt solution.
Mold vs. Kahm Yeast
If you see black, blue, or fuzzy circles forming on top, that’s mold. Discard your mixture and start over. If you see what looks like a thin layer of whitish plastic wrap forming on top, with or without tiny bubbles underneath, that’s kahm yeast, and harmless. Do an image search for “mold vs. kahm yeast” so that you can see the difference side-by-side.
Quick Pickled Veggies Recipe
Not interested in fermenting but want to quick pickle instead? Try these quick pickled onions! Perfect for topping salads, primal lettuce wraps, or your favorite burger.
- 2 small onions
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (or you could use coconut vinegar)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. coconut sugar
- handful of black peppercorns
- 1-2 chopped garlic cloves
To quick pickle, thinly slice your onions. Some people choose to boil water and pour boiling water over the onions for 5-10 seconds to blanch them prior to pickling, but it’s not necessary.
In a small bowl or saucepan, combine the vinegars, salt and sugar. Stir or lightly heat until the salt and sugar dissolves. Layer the sliced onions in a small mason jar. Add in the peppercorns and garlic and then pour the vinegar on top.
Cover the jar and refrigerate for an hour before enjoying. They’re best after a few days in the fridge, but can be enjoyed for about a week.