A few months ago we started participating in a food share program called Feed My Sheep. Once a month I pack up the van with a bunch of laundry baskets and some dear friends and we drive about 45 minuets to a little country church to pick up a few shares of food, and lets be honest, a little mom sanity time!
This program works for our family for a number of reasons.
- The food we get is mostly fresh produce and with a family that can not eat a lot of processed, prepackaged and glutenous foods this works great.
- Mike is on board. We are a team on this one. It just wouldn’t work for me to cart the girls with and then have to come home and clean, chop and process all that food with out his help. Just one more example of how amazing my husband is!
- The processing…The food we receive from this program is usually past its prime or a bit unsightly, and it often needs to be eaten or processed relatively quickly. We have been able to make use of most of the food because I have learned how to preserve food in a variety of helpful ways.
This post on lacto-fermentation will be the fist of a series on food preservation focused around the items we receive from Feed my Sheep as well as from the abundance of our garden. If you keep a garden you know there comes a time when you are racking your brain for another way to use those zucchinis or, if you live in MN, the frost comes before all of your tomatoes have ripened….what on earth are you going to do with a gallon bucket of green tomatoes? Well, I have a few ideas that I am happy to share with you.
The last time we picked up a few shares of food we received a laundry basket full of organic carrots. They are beautiful! Amazing and crisp, but what do you do with 20+ bags of carrots? Some will be used for soups and broth as well as every day munchies, but that amounts to 1/3 at most, so fermenting it is. Carrots can also be blanched and frozen or fully canned, but my family LOVES ‘spicy carrots’ as the girls have named them and I am long over due for a batch (or 5).
If you are still reading I promise I’m getting to the actual work of fermenting the carrots, but I am sure some people are a bit curious about what lacto-fermentation is. Just about every time I talk about it someone asks a really good question, so let me direct you to This link for a bit more clarity. It is worth the read and Cultures for Health is a wonderful page to explore. There are more recipe ideas there as well. Now on to my carrot project!
Items you will need
- Jars with Lids
- Filtered Water
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Ginger root (if desired)
- Fresh Garlic
- Fresh Dill (if desired)
- Cabbage Leaves
- Choose your jars/ lids and make sure they are clean. I use mason Jars mostly quart sized and then pint sized for the extra carrot bits.
- Clean and prep your carrots. I just scrubbed mine well, but you may also peel them if you desire to. cut them into sticks and trim them so that there is about 1-2 inches of head room in your jar. (you are going to want that space later)
- 1-2 Tbs of sea salt in each jar.
- 1/2-1 clove of slightly crushed garlic per jar
- A few sprigs of dill and (or) a bit of peeled ginger root slightly crushed in each jar. This just totally depends on your personal taste. you can omit this step if you do not like (or have) ginger or dill.
- At this point you are ready to pack your jars. place the carrot sticks in the jars vertically as tightly as possible.
- Pour water into your jars covering the sticks while still leaving some head space.
- Place a cabbage leaf on top of your carrot sticks but below the water. The leaf helps to keep everything submerged so make sure it is snug. It is important to keep everything below the waterline. I have made these carrots without the cabbage, but it is helpful for peace of mind.
- The jars should sit at room temperature to culture for a few days until your carrots reach a flavor that you are happy with. **Burp your jars at least 1-2 times a day ** Gasses are expelled during this time so you don’t want an explosion. This is where you will be thankful for that head space. It is not uncommon to have an overflow while you burp your jars so watch them carefully.
- Move your jars to cold storage. we keep ours in the basement. With lacto-fermented foods you will KNOW if something has spoiled so there is little danger of harm from the food going bad. We typically keep our ferments for about 6 months.
That’s about it for the Lacto-fermented carrots that we make. I do just want to make a note that when it comes to food preservation make sure to do your research! I have come to the methods I use after lots of time on web pages and with book that I trust. There are years of trial and error that have gone into this process for me…don’t let this page be your only resource and don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work the first time. Try it again…and tweak ideas (where safety permits) to make them your own.
It is fall in Minnesota and when you live on a homestead and the hubster also works a full-time job….there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done! It is these moments when I breathe a little easier feeling the deep thankfulness that we haven’t taken on milk goats…..yet.
The harvest of our garden was wonderful, but it also took place all at once….thank you MN frost! The growing season here is just so short. However, what a great opportunity to learn about how to preserve and use items that are not fully ripe. I have boxes of tomatoes in the basement currently turning from green and yellow to shades of orange and red…if the mold doesn’t get them first…..one more argument for a rootseller in the basement! Yes please!
A few weeks ago I lacto-fermented carrots and cucumbers. I left a few of the carrots in the garden to continue growing and wowsa did they get big!! I also did a dry run on our apples. we have two mature apple trees and one ripens about a month before the other. I made apple sauce and thought about plans for applepolusa! I didn’t make enough plans….we Just got done with our Saturday of apple processing and although I am deeply thankful for all that we can store away it was a lot of work and next year we will plan to do it differently.
The men pressed over 60 gallons of cider. 20 gallons are being fermented! Oh I am looking forward to hard cider!
The ladies made and canned over 20 gallons of apple sauce. we made some apple chips in the dehydrator, canned more apple pie filling then I kept track of and this week I made some apple butter because we still have apples! How do we still have apples????
We only have 2 mature apple trees at this point….the men went nuts! I am so glad they did! Mike, Nate and one of the boys picked enough apples to fill the bed of our truck! wow! Nate went door to door asking people with trees if we could use their apples. It has always bothered me how many apples don’t get used around here. So thankful for the guys and all their hard work picking the apples ahead of time!
Our garden has become a real and true wonder to me. Mike and I try to walk it together in the mornings before he goes to work and I am always amazed by what we find.
I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing my phone with me simple because I never know what there will be to find…and I just don’t want to miss it!
Mayhem discovered my comfrey plants and returns to them regularly when she is in the garden with me….they must have some nutrient in them that her little body needs! I don’t know how she gets past those leaves! They are the kind of fuzzy that wouldn’t be real pleasant in your mouth!
We have a nesting pair of some sort of finches that have made their home in an old bird house. I was convinced it was empty but when Mike went over to it one of them dive bombed him. They are small, but man they make a racket every time we head into the garden. I like having them there, and in the years to come we hope to add a few more bird houses and comfortable shaded places for them to hang out.
It is always a treasure to find our honey bees hard at work!
Well, just incase you might have missed it…we don’t have it all together around here. In fact it’s the total opposite. We are visiting family out of town and I realized just what a mess we look like!
It is a major accomplishment that ALL of the rabbits have been moved outdoors! Outdoors means out of the basement. It is the middle of summer….it should not have taken this long, but it did and we are rejoicing that the basement is animal free, bleached and on its way back to some sort of ‘normal’
We have 14 chickens! Yep 13 hens of laying age and 1 rooster. We are currently getting 1 egg a day! Do the math….something is wrong! I have researched, we have treated for all kinds of fun mites and bugs….I have scrubbed that coop….my brother and I have wrangled bird, soaked and lathered each leg in hopes of killing leg mites and easing a little pain. All with no change to the egg count. So they are all being treated for worms. YUCK! Just YUCK! If there continues to be no change we will butcher them all and start over next spring….
Back to the rabbits……we lost 5 last week. They up and died! One at a time, all from the same litter. What on earth? After much research I have come to the conclusion that their diet was a bit out of whack. They were getting too many greens and not enough roughage. Their little tummies need that roughage to keep them happy and healthy.
We have been growing barley fodder for the animals….my one success….or so I thought! We thought we were feeding our animals a GMO free barley. However, the label was never really all that clear and then I opened the last bag a few weeks ago to find all kinds of junk in with the seed. Let’s just say that brought the fodder to a screeching halt…..and that was two weeks ago. I tossed my hands in the air at that point and put the bunnies back on pellets….because they have likely been getting GMOs this whole time anyway!
The garden just makes me sad….there isn’t a whole lot that we could change there….that one is all nature! And then there are the bees. Mike checked the hive before we left to visit family. Out of three hives only one still has it’s queen. So a friend is checking on ordering two more queens….but man! Just Man o man…
And yet none of it is wasted. There are lessons to learn. We are new at this whole thing and I think for two kids who grew up in the suburbs that we are doing relatively well. Yesterday Pearl had 9 kits! Today I am praising The Lord for small joys and every new life. Oh, and that mom and babies are all outside!!
I seriously wondered if summer would come this year. Months and months of winter bled into a cold almost spring and then one day I stepped outside and it was beautiful, sunny and warm….for a few days.
This apparently has been one of the rainiest Junes on record. Not great for the farmers….man those guys just need a break sometimes! Due to the cold spring many of my flowers have had a late start….I was beginning to wonder if my hydrangeas had made it…but there are green leaves showing themselves!
The irises, that the chickens didn’t plow down, are in full bloom and just lovely next to the house. The lilacs had a poor showing this year but I believe that had more to do with the great need for them to be pruned then with with the weather. They have now been pruned and trimmed back and they as starting their preparations for next spring.
The peonies and hydrangea should bloom along with the clematis in the next month….fingers crossed….I’m looking forward to the continued bursts of color!
Well, we got the garden in a few weeks ago, and I just haven’t posted about it yet. Last year we fenced a 60×120 area and put 10 fruit trees in on one end. Sadly, Mike thinks we lost 3-4 trees due to the harsh winter we just had. You can see the posts behind Mike, the fence is about 8 feet tall in an attempt to keep the deer out. This year we put in a 23×23 garden plot on the other end! So we didn’t just plant we had all the soil prep and border building to do.
Have I stated how amazing my husband is? This man never grew up keeping a large garden, but this was a project that he jumped into. I knew my hands were full with rabbits and chicken and children so when he mentioned adding a garden I sort of sighed and told him that it would be his project.
See the chickens in the background? They were even helping by digging at the compost! Stuff went flinging….they are amazing to watch. I can’t believe how quickly they can tun a pile of compost.
The deal is that Mike did the research and is largely in charge of getting things growing while I will help weed from time to time and when harvest comes I’m the one who will ‘put up’ all the food. So I’ve already been gearing up for the falls canning extravaganza with a group of other gals in the same boat. Many hands make light work!
Did you notice the watering system? Yep, he is amazing! This guy’s skills I’m telling you I’m a blessed woman!
Just a little side note….Mike built me a garden bed for some of the beautiful flowers I came home with from the Friends School Sale in May. (The sale runs every Mother’s Day weekend on the Minnesota state fair grounds it’s crazy amazing) I was able to get all of my plants in one weekend…and then the chickens came by…..
Yep, CooCoo Cachoo….our resident crazy Maran took over one corner of the flower bed with an intense dirt bath! She must have needed it! Sad to say the poppies my mom sent home with me didn’t make it.