Fermenting

 by Marilyn McCray, Octane Press

Before the advent of modern-day canning, food was preserved by the process of fermentation. The simplest type of fermentation with naturally occurring yeasts or lactic acid was also called pickling. The Lactobacillus organisms convert lactose and other sugars present in the food into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that safely preserves the food and imparts classic tangy flavor. Sauerkraut, Korean kimchee and curtido from Latin America are produced with lactic acids. These traditionally fermented vegetables are salted, seasoned and placed in a container where they ferment. 

 

TWO WAYS TO PROMOTE FERMENTATION

• Soak vegetables in a brine that is salty enough to kill off harmful bacteria. 

• Add 1 tablespoon of whey to each pint of food. Whey is the liquid separated from cultured milk or yogurt. It rises to the top or can be strained from yogurt through several layers of cheesecloth.

 

FERMENTING BASICS

Select the freshest fruits, vegetables and meats. Wash food with cool, fresh water to remove any dirt and bacteria. Start in a large bowl. Trim off any spots or blemishes. Cut out the core or pit. It is important to the fermentation process to prepare food in uniformly sized pieces according to the recipe.

 

EQUIPMENT

  • Knives, mandoline, peelers, zesters, cutting board
  • De-bubbler or nonreactive spatula
  • Standard-size mason canning jars (Ball- or Kerr-brand)   
  • Wide-mouth mason jars for whole fruits and vegetables and jams and jellies
  • Regular mason jars for sliced fruits and vegetables and jams and jellies
  • Jelly jars for salsas, pesto, jams and jellies
  • Ceramic or stoneware pickling or fermenting crocks (lids optional)
  • Food-grade plastic and glass containers are excellent substitutes for stone crocks. Other 1- to 3-gallon nonfood-grade plastic containers may be used if lined with a clean food-grade plastic bag. Caution: Be certain that foods contact only food-grade plastics. Do not use garbage bags or trash liners.


FERMENTING STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Select nonmetallic containers or pickling crocks as described in the recipe. Clean jars, crocks and equipment to avoid harmful bacteria.
  2. Chop all ingredients to desired consistency by hand or with a food processor. 
  3. Place ingredients in container and cover with brine or cover with water or whey according to the recipe.
  4. Press down with a wooden spoon, lid or weight, adding more water to cover food. Fermentation causes bubbles, so leave 1–2 inches of headspace. 
  5. Select the correct lid or top for container. Cover tightly to eliminate all oxygen. Consult the recipe for the best fermenting time. Hold at room temperature between 65°F and 72°F for the specified number of days before transferring to cold storage. 
  6. Skim any harmless white spots or film from the top.
  7. Fill sterilized jar or container with fermented food and close. Wipe off the jar, and store in the refrigerator. Consult recipe for maximum storage time. Mark container with contents and date. 

 

 

Excerpt from “Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding,”