I’m excited to announce the launch of Twice as Tasty Live, a new segment of this blog project. Twice as Tasty Live incorporates the already popular workshops and expands to other events that put me in your kitchen, making and sharing delicious, homemade food.
Read more about Twice as Tasty Live events
I’ve loved pickles since I was a kid. My mom put dozens of jars of dill and “sweet” (bread-and-butter) pickles through a water bath every year, and I’d sneak them like they were potato chips. But the longer the pickles sat, the less chip-like crunch they gave. Over the years, I’ve played with ingredients and canning techniques that have helped. Then I discovered fermentation.
Think about it: Cucumbers are best fresh and raw. Putting them in hot water is bound to affect their texture. Fermentation replaces heat with time and vinegar with salt. No wonder the result is crisper and fresher. And the flavoring possibilities—from dill to tea—are endless.
If you’ve never run a fermentation, I suggest you check out my introductory post from earlier this month. But here are the basics: Start with everything clean and fresh. Monitor the batch daily so that you can see the process. If you have doubts, give it the toss and start again.
Learn to make Fermented Dill Pickles and Fermented Tea Pickles
If you’re new to vegetable fermentation, you likely look at recipes and think, “Can it be that easy?” This instantly leads to the terrifying thought, “It can’t; surely I’ll get it wrong.” So to kick off this month’s recipes for vegetable ferments, I offer my most foolproof recipe for your first foray into fermentation. Here, the carrots actually aren’t fully fermented; they sit barely long enough to kick off the process. Still, they use a lot of the techniques that apply to full fermentation of other vegetables: salting, weighting to encourage the carrots to release even liquid, and a rest period to pull even more water and sugars from the produce. Because these carrots are prepared as thin ribbons, it’s easy to open the jar and slide a few onto a sandwich, into a sourdough pita, or straight into your mouth. The recipe is so simple that while you’re at it, you might as well prepare your own horseradish to go in the jar—especially if you’re growing it.
Learn to make Barely Fermented Carrots and Horseradish Paste
Fermentation is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, but it’s a technique that has become unfamiliar for modern home cooks. We still consume a lot of fermented foods, including dairy and grains, and we may even be brave enough to try those at home. But somehow fermenting vegetables seems daunting, raising doubts about whether we’re preserving or spoiling food.
Essentially, fermenting is souring via microbes. Microorganisms break down the sugars and carbohydrates in food, causing a chemical change that increases acidity and ultimately preserves the food. The process leaves no room for microbes that spoil food to move in. Properly fermented food looks and smells bright, crisp, and tangy, and it tastes just as bright, crisp, and tangy. A fermentation that has problems will be discolored, soft, and rotten-smelling; you’ll turn up your nose before it even gets near your tongue.
Most people think of pickled cucumbers or brined cabbage when they think of fermented vegetables. But many other vegetables, and even some fruits, can be fermented. In most cases, the only ingredients needed are fresh produce, salt, and water.
If you grew up eating mushy cooked carrots from a school cafeteria or overworked mom, you’ll probably be tempted to skip over this recipe. I urge you to give it a chance. Carrots cooked in an open pan and glazed by a little butter and sugar remain bright and crisp-tender, like properly cooked pasta or Grilled Asparagus, with just a hint of bonus sweetness. Try it once, and you’ll never boil carrots again.
Although the recipe works with any carrots—store bought or homegrown, baby carrots in May or storage carrots in January—it shines in August. The carrots I pull in late summer are finger thick, crunchy, and naturally sweet. Best of all, they come with gorgeous green, feathery tops that can be mixed into a tasty, herb-heavy salsa. If you aren’t growing your own carrots, ask your farmer to leave the tops intact and use them the day you pick them up at the market or receive your CSA share.
Learn to make Glazed Carrots and Carrot-Top and Herb Salsa