I have recently discovered a fantastic food shop a few junctions down the motorway into Cheshire called The Real Food Company, run by husband and wife Nick and Carol and their daughter Silvie. They are knowledge and friendly and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them, and spending hours chatting whenever I pop down to stock up on great food.
Through them I have got interested in fermented vegetables, the one that I could most easily identify with when I approached this unknown new world was sauerkraut, not because I’d ever tried it before, but because I’ve heard of it. Followed by kimchi, primarily because it’s mentioned quite a lot on US street food programmes on the Food Network channel.
So I was delighted when they decided to hold an evening workshop on fermented vegetables – we would get to learn about the benefits of eating them, how to make them, and even have a go ourselves, going home with a jar of our own fermented veggies that we’d made.
We were able to select from a variety of vegetables what we wanted to include in our mixture. To choose from, there was white cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, red onion, chilli, ginger, garlic, and broccoli.
We sliced everything up as finely as we could, or in the case of broccoli and cauliflower chopped it up into small pieces. I choose to use cabbage, onion, carrots, and garlic – a bit on the safe side, but that’s me when starting out on something new.
Other people were more adventurous, with the lady next to me adding copious amounts of chilli and ginger to hers.
Nick added a certain amount of salt (this gorgeous, damp, grey Celtic sea salt they sell in the shop) to each of our bowls, then began the squishing.
Using our, hands, we had to squeeze and squish up our vegetables – what a workout for your hands! You keep doing this, over and over, until liquid starts to be released from the vegetables.
We carried on like this until Nick and Carol said we’d done it enough. My bowl of veggies greatly reduced in size and I had this fantastic amount of liquid in the bottom. Next we poured our vegetables and liquid into our kilner jars and made sure we had pushed it all down firmly – you want to make sure that the veggies are covered by the liquid.
Using a few of the discarded cabbage leaves to cover the vegetables, we then popped chunks of the cabbage on top in order to hold down the mixture beneath the liquid. We sealed up our jars and that was it. It’s just a matter of waiting at least 2 weeks for the fermentation to take place, and then they are ready for eating.
I couldn’t resist taking a picture of some of the other jars because they were all so different – the combination of colours and the textures with each persons vegetables cut into different sizes.
After we’d made our jar of fermented vegetables, we got to hear about some fermented drinks and try them. I’ve already written about making kefir, which is a fermented dairy drink, but I’d not tried any of the others I’d heard about, such as kombucha and water kefir.
Carol and Nick had bought some of their homemade drinks – a traditional fermented ginger ale, some different flavours of water kefir, and the kombucha they sell in the shop. I’ve never been a huge ginger fan so the taste of the ginger ale wasn’t for me, and I found the kombucha taste a little too unusual for my taste buds at the moment.
What I did love, however, was Carol’s homemade raspberry and pomegranate water kefir – naturally sweet, fragrant, and delicately fizzy (all natural bubbles). I’m hoping to get this recipe from Carol and try it out myself.
The raspberry and pomegranate water kefir is third from the left…
We also tried beet kvass, another taste I’d have to get used to.
There was also a jar of homemade fermented ketchup, that we didn’t try, but this is something I’m really keen to have a go at making having read a bit about it. What I’ve found fascinating about fermentation, is that it’s how we traditionally made loads of products that are now made in a more industrial and less health-ful way, such as ketchup and pickles and fizzy drinks.
If you’re interested, do have a search and read online, especially if you are interested in cooking and making your own foods ‘from scratch’, about fermented foods.
P.S. This is what my jar of fermented vegetables looks like a month on – I’ve not yet opened it because we are still finishing up a large jar of Latino Kraut that I bought from The Real Food Company, but when I do I’ll try and remember to take some pictures and let you know how it tastes.