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Bits & Pieces: Becoming a fermentista

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This new book I have assures me that, “fermenting vegetables is a simple, inexpensive process that was used reliably for a few thousand years.” 

Okay, so if it’s so simple why am I so scared to venture into the world of lacto-fermentation? I assure you I know my way around a kitchen. I slice, dice, simmer and saute every day of my life. I’ve made my own pasta and my own cheese, but the idea of fermenting sounds more like a high school science experiment that can go way wrong. 

Maybe it’s because my whole life I’ve been told bacteria make you sick, and the idea of mold and scum on my food makes me shudder. I am the girl who throws out the entire block of cheese if it’s sprouted any amount of hairy mold.

It makes my husband crazy sometimes. “Just cut it off!” he protests. I think he’s crazy. He thinks I’m a delicate flower. After a twenty-year relationship, it’s just one of those things you put up with then roll your eyes at because you both know neither one of you will ever change.

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But I also have a love affair with sour, pickled things. Having an Asian dad, I grew up with large amounts of that spicy, funky Korean pickled cabbage better known as kimchi in my fridge. Later, I was introduced to good sauerkraut when I started sharing a life with this husband of mine who has strong Swiss German roots. But, for years now, I’ve been buying eight-dollar Whole Foods brand pickled things that come in jars that are entirely too small. It’s time I buck up and become a fermentista. Ooh, I like the ring of that!

I’ve ordered this new fermentation crock. It looks like a giant ceramic cookie jar. According to Amazon it’s the Cadillac of pickling vessels. I’ve got boxes of vegetables from my mother-in-law’s garden. And I’ve read most of the instructions:

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Wash your hands (not with antibacterial soap)

Massage your vegetables (Think deep tissue not a gentle back rub)

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Use the right kind of salt, but not too much!

Don’t disturb the ferment too much or it will invite yeast spores (Ick!)

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Keep veggies submerged in brine

Remove surface molds (Um..What!?)

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Foam on the surface is okay (It is? Are you sure?)

My head is spinning. No doubt fermented foods are loaded with little organisms that are super beneficial to our whole being. They aid in digestion, they help our immune system, and recently I learned some studies show they are helping people with memory issues and anxiety. The science is saying we are the sum of all our good bacteria and not enough in our system can make us sicker.

So, in the name of better health, I’m going in. Wish me luck.

In a few weeks I’ll either have beautiful kraut, kimchi, and pickles or I’ll have a giant new cookie jar taking up room next to the bread maker, and the juicer, and that other kitchen appliance that I’m not sure what it is used for that and you’ll see me back at  Whole Foods Market most likely buying over-priced pickled things.

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