The Preservation of food Part 1: Lacto-fermented Carrot

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!

food

This program works for our family for a number of reasons.

  1. 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.
  2.  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!
  3. 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.

ferments

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!

Lacto Carrots

Items you will need

  • Jars with Lids
  • Filtered Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ginger root (if desired)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Dill (if desired)
  • Cabbage Leaves

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 1-2 Tbs of sea salt in each jar.
  4. 1/2-1 clove of slightly crushed garlic per jar
  5. 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.
  6. At this point you are ready to pack your jars. place the carrot sticks in the jars vertically as tightly as possible.
  7. Pour water into your jars covering the sticks while still leaving some head space.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 

Happy Preserving!

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My education in food continues…Lacto-fermented pickles!

I wonder how it is that I haven’t written more on the homesteading page…likely it is due to the fact that we just have so much going on! Sorry this post is so wordy, I’ll add photos when I am able to!

I’ve been making lacto-fermented carrots for some time now….I don’t even remember how I stumbled over them…but I got all excited and had to give them a try. In a word….AMAZING! So good for your gut! Mike loves to bring them to work as a snack, and the twins eat them up with joy!

A few months ago I also tried my hand at fermented feed for the hens. They loved it, but it was a bit of a mess and when we took on growing fodder it sort of got to be a lot. However, the health benefits were clear and I will return to it again when the weather cools and they do not have the chance to free range as much.

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I’ve also tried lacto-fermenting garlic, and it was good, but just not what we wanted. Now I peel our bulk garlic and store it in a mason jar filled with olive oil. Yummy! The garlic keeps and we have wonderful flavored oil to use in cooking…..you can also add herbs to the jar. I have plans to add a few stocks of rosemary……just hasn’t happened yet.

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As the bounty from the garden increases I know it will be time to start ‘putting up’ canned goods soon! This was our test run! Lacto-fermented pickles! The process is easy and only takes a short time. There is no heating so your home stays cool and no fussing with pulling out the canning pot!

I have a tendency to look up a bunch of ideas and combine them and tweak them to work with what we have on hand….and then sort of cross my fingers! Please keep in mind that we have not tasted these yet….so update to come.

Here is what you will need:
*please read ALL directions before you start*
Cucumbers
Quart jar or larger
Fine sea salt
Sprigs of fresh Dill
Garlic
Whole peppercorns
Grape leaf….we didn’t have that….

So after you have cleaned your jars and cut your cucumbers (either in spears or rounds or if you have a larger jar you could try to keep them whole. I have a friend who makes her pickles whole with great success.) you will want to add all the goodies to the jar…

About 2-3 garlic wedges, a few sprigs of dill and peppercorn. Our directions called for 1 Tablespoon….I thought that was a lot and cut that in half. Next, pack your jars with the cucumbers. We found that wedges packed nicer then the rounds. The idea in packing your jars is to keep everything tight so that you don’t end up with cucumbers that float up to the top. That will ruin your yummy pickles. They need to stay below the water line.

After you have packed your jars and left about 1-1 1/2″ head space (you may need to cut down the wedges a bit) you will be adding the brine. To make the brine we added 2 Tablespoons salt to about 3 cups of water. Here is were some of the substitution took place for us. We did not have whey. A lot of directions call for whey, however, I know that if you add more salt and no whey the process still works! Fingers crossed! We upped the amount of salt from 1 Tablespoon to 2.

Then just pour the brine over the packed jars, ensuring that all cucumbers are submerged (you may get a few other items that float…not a problem). The directions we were following called for a grape leaf to be packed over the top. This helps in a number of ways. The leaf holds down the cucumbers and keeps them submerged. There is also something in the grape leaf that helps to keep the pickles crunchy. We didn’t have grape leaves….we used kale! ha! We will see if that is an adequate substitute. We only used them on the jars with rounds to help keep everything submerged.

Final step…place the lid on the jar and place it on the counter. Be sure to ‘burp’ your jar every 6-12 hours or so. At the end of 3-5 days you can move the jars to cold storage (below 65 degrees) or keep them refrigerated (no longer need to ‘burp’ at that point) You will want to date them…we don’t keep out lacto-fermented items around for longer then about 6 months. Heck, they don’t typically last that long in house anyway! Enjoy!

I will update this post at some point with more photos and a review of how things turned out and what I will change for the future! Enjoy and have fun!