Get started with simple fermentation at home

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Before refrigeration, people didn’t have to worry about gut health. Fermented foods were a commonplace addition to the dinner table. The markets were filled with barrels of naturally fermented vegetables. Probiotics and microbiome had not yet become part of the scientific lexicon. Thanks to Sandor Katz, this ancient way of preserving food has made a comeback.

About 10 years ago, I hopped on the fermenting bandwagon.. Each year I hauled home 15 pounds of cabbage from the market, then sliced, stomped and loaded it into my 10-liter German crock. If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right.

Fifteen pounds of cabbage produces a lot of sauerkraut. We had no problem finishing it over a year, but storage was a problem. Although I still got a small thrill hearing the periodic little burps from the crock, the process became more of a chore than a pleasure.

The process of lacto fermentation itself is simple. Just submerge fresh vegetables in a brine solution and wait. It becomes even simpler if you use a jar with an special cap to prevent air from going in and allow carbon dioxide to escape. If you’ve done any type of home brewing, you will be familiar with the process.

Looking to scale down my operation, I found the EasyFermenter Kit on Amazon. It comes with three wide-mouth lids and three glass weights. The lids fit any size wide-mouth canning jar from a pint to a gallon. My fermenting projects shrank from all afternoon to under an hour.

Below is a recipe for sauerkraut and one for beets. Fall is the best time to make sauerkraut, as the cabbage has a higher sugar content that will speed up fermentation. In addition to a healthy dose of probiotics, the beets are a great garnish for salads or any dish that needs a pop of color.

Lacto fermented foods contain living organisms, so avoid any type of heating to enjoy their full health benefits.

Boost gut health by making fermented foods at home, including beets and sauerkraut.

Sauerkraut

  • 2-quart wide mouth jar
  • 2½ pounds thinly sliced cabbage (please weigh)
  • 1½ tablespoons pickling salt (see note below)

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the sliced cabbage with the salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Pack the cabbage along with the juices into the jar. Press down the cabbage until there is about an inch of brine on top. Place a weight on top, and screw on the lid. The ideal temperature for fermentation is 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so place the jar in an appropriate spot. The sauerkraut will be ready in about 2 weeks.

Fermented Beets

  • Quart jar
  • 1 pound beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • Small bunch of dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 tablespoon pickling salt dissolved in 2 cups water

Put a layer of dill and a couple of pieces of garlic on the bottom of the jar. Add about half the beets. Add another layer of dill and garlic, and then the rest of the beets. Pour in the brine until it is about an inch above the beets. Place a weight on the top, and screw on the lid.

Note: Table salt contains iodine and other chemicals, so should be avoided for fermentation. If you can’t find pickling salt, Diamond Crystal kosher salt or sea salt can also be used.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.