Do This!: Learn Lacto-Fermentation {Kimchi! Chutney!} with Leda Meredith

Leda Meredith's Lacto Fermentation Sidetour Experience

Leda Meredith's Lacto Fermentation Sidetour Experience

2012 is the year of #scratchcooking. Getting back to the ingredients and making things that you can hold in your own two hands and be proud of. Last weekend I took my new-found pickling love to the next level with a lacto-fermentation class {not to be confused with a lactation class}. Woah. Spicy Carrot Kimchi and Apple Chutney that I would eat straight out of the jar was the end prize. The Sidetour event took place in Brooklyn and was hosted by Leda Meredith, author of The Locavore’s Handbook and food preservationist-extrodinaire.

We spent two hours learning the difference between several food preservation techniques and rules to live by to safely avoid the dreaded botulism {good news, botulism can’t happen when you ferment so keep reading}. Leda showed us a quick hot water bath pickle to distinguish between that jarring method and the lacto-fermentation approach which was going to be our main focus. I’ll skip over the details of the pickle since I covered it in my Happy Girl Pickle Post {read more here}. Jumping to fermentation, just know one thing: this is a quick and easy project that can be done in under 30 minutes, so don’t be scared off by big long words or the idea that jarring is a day-long commitment. Get involved!

Learn to Make Kimchi with Leda {here}

Leda Meredith Makes Hot Water Bath Pickled Carrots

Leda Meredith Makes Hot Water Bath Pickled Carrots

Lacto-Fermentation defined: the biological process by which bacteria converts starches to lactic acid.

Why Lacto-Fermentation is GOOD, not scary: loaded with probiotics that help with digestion and have anti-inflammatory properties. May even fight cancer — hooray!

Stage one of lacto-fermentation: vegetables are submerged in a brine that is salty enough to kill off harmful bacteria. The Lactobacillus good guys survive this stage and begin stage two.

Stage two of lacto-fermentation: the Lactobacillus organisms begin converting lactose and other sugars present in the food into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that safely preserves the vegetables – and gives lacto-fermented foods their classic tangy flavor.

Key Fermentation Tips to Live By:

  • Botulism CAN’T happen with fermentation. phew!
  • Fermented foods don’t need to be canned via hot water bath or pressure canning, so can easily be made with an empty mayo jar, salt, vegetables and water. No fancy sealing jars. No sterilization. No equipment needed. But they do need to be stored in the fridge.
  • More specifically, fermented foods should not be canned in a hot water bath, as the heat will kill off all bacteria needed for the lacto-fermentation process.
  • The salt brine is the safety factor in fermentation. As long as you maintain the proper ratio of 1 pint H2O to 2 teaspoons salt, you can play around with any seasonings and veg to let your creativity safely run wild.
  • Adding a splash of whey {from strained yogurt or cheese} will help jumpstart the fermentation process {finally, something to do with all the whey from my homemade ricotta!}
  • Must use filtered water. Chlorine and flouride found in our tap water could kill the bacteria {brita is fine, bottled water may not be since many brands are just bottled tap water}.
  • Must fill the jar all the way to the top with veg and brine so everything is 100% submerged {unlike hot water bath pickling where air space is needed}.
  • Product keeps forever, but flavors will continue to develop to the point of being too pungent and mushy. Peak flavor: 3 months.
Fermented Apple Chutney and Spicy Carrot Kimchi

Fermented Apple Chutney and Spicy Carrot Kimchi

Spicy Carrot Kimchi

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Unrefrigerated Fermentation Time: 48 hours
Minimum Wait Until Eat: 1 week | Peak: 2-3 months

Yield: 1 quart or 1 liter

3 cups filtered water {brita or spring bottled}

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other non-iodized salt
1/2 teaspoon nam pla (fish sauce) OR soy sauce
3/4 pound carrots, peeled
1/4 pound daikon radish, peeled
1 scallion, white parts and some of the green, chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

  1. Dissolve the salt in the filtered water. It’s important to use filtered water because the chlorine and other chemicals in most municipal tap water can interfere with the fermentation process.
  2. Stir in the fish or soy sauce.
  3. Finely julienne the carrots and daikon radish into matchstick sized pieces. A mandoline or thin slicing blade of a food processor will make this step easier.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the carrots, daikon radish, grated ginger, chopped scallion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Pack them into a clean quart or liter glass jar.
  5. Pour the brine over the other ingredients. Press gently on the vegetables and spices to release any air bubbles. The brine should completely cover the other ingredients. If the food floats out of the brine, weight it with a smaller glass jar filled with water. If the vegetables are staying immersed in the brine, just cover the jar they are in loosely with a lid.
  6. Place the jar of kimchi on a small plate to catch the overflow that may happen as it starts to ferment. Leave it at room temperature for 24 – 48 hours until you start to see bubbles and it smells slightly sour when you remove the lid.
  7. Once you see and smell signs that the kimchi is actively fermenting, transfer the jar to the door of your refrigerator. This is the warmest part of your refrigerator but still cooler than room temperature – perfect for your kimchi to keep slowly fermenting.
  8. If you plan to store it for longer than a month, move it to a cooler part of your refrigerator (one of the central shelves rather than the inside of the refrigerator door).

Spicy Apple Chutney

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Unrefrigerated Fermentation Time : 48 hours
Minimum Wait Until Eat: 2 weeks | Peak: 2 months 

Yield: 1 quart

1/2 cup filtered water {brita or spring bottled}

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons whey* (see note below)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 cups cored and finely chopped apples
1/2 cup raisins
2 tsp. kosher or other non-iodized salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. slightly crushed coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more, if you like your chutney spicy)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

  1. Combine the water, vinegar, honey and whey. Mix the combined liquids with the other ingredients and pack firmly into a quart-size glass jar, leaving at least an inch of head space. The liquid should come up to the top of the fruit. If it doesn’t, add a little filtered water.
  2. Cover and leave at room temperature for 2 days. You should see some bubbles on top by then, which is a sign of active fermentation.
  3. Refrigerate and leave for another week before eating. Will keep in the refrigerator for 2 months. Delicious as a side, on top of meat {pork chop!}, with cheese or on its own!
  4. *The whey in this recipe is already alive with healthy, probiotic bacteria and jumpstarts the fermentation process. To make whey drain plain whole yogurt or homemade ricotta through cloth or paper filters over a bowl. The liquid that separates out is whey.

Scratch Projects {Get Back to your Roots}:
CHEESE | Homemade Ricotta
BREAD | 101: How to Make Bakery Quality Bread @Home
PICKLES | Homemade Spicy Pickled Carrots 

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