I grew up with homemade fermented vegetables, but somehow I was still intimidated by trying to do it myself. I took advantage of spending some time with my parents and finally tried my hand at fermenting vegetables. Here I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes, fermented mixed vegetables. There are some basic rules you need to follow, other than that is super easy.
Basic Rules of Fermenting Vegetables
There are a few basic rules you need to follow to have success with fermenting vegetables. Here they are:
Make sure your jars are squeaky clean. The dishwasher will do a great job, or some hot water and dish soap. You can also boil them but in my experience, I don’t find that necessary.
Use spring water. The tap water has chlorine, and the point of chlorine is to kill bacteria, but bacteria (the good ones) are the main ingredient of the fermentation process. Makes sense, use spring water or filtered water that filters chlorine.
Use non-iodized, good-quality sea salt or rock salt. Added iodine is a no-no for fermentation, so make sure the salt you are using is the right kind.
Do not completely close your jars. Of course, I made this mistake in the past, because I’m obsessed with tightly closing jars and containers. After you fill your jars with the vegetables and the brine, add a lid on top but don’t tighten it. I use the canning jars you see in the picture, and just put the lid down, without closing and without the rubber ring. Every now and then, remove the lid and press the vegetables with a clean fork to let more air in.
Keep your jar at room temperature until it ferments, then cover and store in the fridge or in a cold pantry. The warmer it is in the house, the faster the fermentation process is. For example, my jar was ready after 7 days on the kitchen counter, while my dad’s batch took about two weeks (even more) in a cold pantry. While the specialty books recommend a controlled temperature environment, I think that’s hard to achieve at home.
What are the vegetables that work together for fermented mixed vegetables?
In my experience, these are the vegetables that work well together, both in terms of flavor but also texture and timing.
- Celery leaves
- Cabbage (red or white)
- Beetroot (it will turn your brine all red)
- Green/unripe tomatoes (this is very specific to Romania, and the fermentation process should take care of the lectins in tomatoes, but if you don’t have them or don’t want to add them, no problem)
- Fresh horseradish root (this is mainly for taste and for its preserving properties, and only use in small quantities, more like an add-on)
Spices for fermented mixed vegetables
The spices I used are a mix of (in the order of proportion):
- mustard seeds
- fennel seeds
- black peppercorns
- coriander seeds
- juniper berries
- bay leaves
- allspice berries
You don’t need to use them all, anything you have will work. The minimum, in my opinion, is: mustard seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves. Chili, although not lectin-free, will go through the fermentation process, which will remove the most harmful lectins. Also, it’s used in a very small quantity. You can totally skip it.
The quantities for 1L of brine
These are the quantities to make 1L of brine:
1L spring water
40 grams non-iodized salt
2-3 teaspoons of spice mix (use whatever spices you have from the list above, and consider the order they are listed in: the top is the higher proportion, the bottom is the lowest).
Mix of vegetables: I can’t give you an exact quantity, as it depends on how you cut them, what exactly you use from the list above, what you like most. My favorite vegetables to eat from a mixed jar are cabbage and cauliflower, so I always add more of those. Just as a rough estimate, for 1L brine, you will need about 1/2 small cauliflower, 1/4 to 1/2 cabbage head, 2 carrots, 1 small beetroot, 1 small celeriac, a few celery leaves, 2, 3 small green tomatoes. But you can fill your jar as you desire.
Note: if you want the brine to remain clear (like in the first picture) and the vegetables to retain their colors, don’t use beetroot or red cabbage. They will turn everything red, like in the below picture, taken 7 days after the fermentation started.
I use 1 quart / 36oz / 1L jars. 1L brine will fill x2 1L jars.
The method for making fermented mixed vegetables
Start with preparing your jars, as mentioned above.
Make the spice mix.
Prepare your vegetables: peel, clean, wash, drain in a colander and cut into smaller pieces (you can get creative with shapes if you want).
Fill each jar with a mix of vegetables, making sure you cover as many gaps as possible, and the vegetables are well stuffed in the jar.
Make the brine: Mix the water, salt, and spices and stir until the salt is completely dissolved.
Add the brine on top of the vegetables and fill the jars, making sure the brine covers the vegetables.
Cover without closing the lid and let the jars on the counter. Every now and then, take the lid off, and gently push the vegetables down with a clean fork.
Place a plate or a bowl under the jar, as the brine might overspill during fermentation.
After 5-7 days try them and see if they reached your desired taste. The smell will also guide you. To me, after 7 days on the counter, they were perfect. I covered the jar and stored it in the fridge.
How to serve fermented mixed vegetables
Fermented vegetables are great for your gut, and they add a little kick to a lot of meals. Have some with your eggs in the morning, with meat or vegetable stews.
How to make red cabbage sauerkraut (with carrots)
This is another staple and one of my favorite ways to ferment cabbage, and great for exploring another type of basic fermentation, without using water. Check the guide below: