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.
Barely Fermented Carrots
2 tablespoons Horseradish Paste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon dried chilies, crushed
1 tablespoon whole coriander, crushed
1-1/2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt
2 tablespoons ultrafine sugar
Scrub any dirt from the carrots. Using a vegetable peeler, peel them into wide ribbons until you can no longer hold on to the core; eat these nubs while you work or in a salad at your next meal.
In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the remaining ingredients, using your hands or a couple of large spoons to ensure the seasonings are distributed evenly. Place a small plate or other dish inside the bowl, making sure it fits snuggly on top of the carrots and weighs them down. Set a pint jar filled with water and topped with a used canning lid and ring on the plate. Let sit for about 30 minutes, until the carrots sweat off some of their liquid.
Put the carrots and their liquid in a quart jar, screw on a plastic storage lid, and store in the refrigerator. For the best flavor, let the carrots sit at least 24 hours before eating; they’ll keep at least 2 months. Makes about 3-1/2 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- I initially peeled my carrots for this recipe and then started to wonder why I bothered: my homegrown carrots are free of pesticides, and fermentation expert Sandor Katz argues that the bacteria found in the skins of organic vegetables help fermentation.
- In addition to preparing my own horseradish (see below), I’ve been smoking chilies until they are dry. The hint of smoky flavor is fabulous in these pickles. Homegrown cilantro readily bolts in my climate, giving me plenty of dried coriander (the seed that produces leafy cilantro) to use in this recipe.
- You can use anything that weighs about a pound as a weight: a can of coconut milk, a bag of dried beans, etc. Just be sure that it is fully sealed so that you don’t unintentionally add extra ingredients to the carrots.
- If you’re harvesting your own or buying locally grown carrots, be sure to set aside the green, feathery tops; the fermented carrots are delicious when combined with Carrot-Top and Herb Salsa and other vegetables or even Black Bean Veggie Burgers on a Sourdough Bun.
Twice as Tasty
Horseradish is like rhubarb or mint: throw it in the ground, ignore it until you need it, and then wonder how one small root managed to take over the entire bed. This perennial grows almost anywhere, in almost any soil and climate. Still, it’s surprisingly difficult to find fresh horseradish root in supermarkets. Perhaps that’s because most people only look for horseradish in a jar next to other commercially prepared condiments or buy it unknowingly in a tin or tube labeled “wasabi.”
That all will change once you start pickling and fermenting. Horseradish is another great tip-to-top treat: you’ll soon find the fresh root and the fresh leaves useful. The former can be used to flavor not just fermented carrots but also Bloody Marys and Definitely Dilly Beans; the latter can be used to help keep cucumbers crisp in the fermented dill pickle recipes I’ll share next week. After you taste homemade horseradish paste, you’ll never go back to a commercial brand. It’s intensely flavored with a potent bite, and a little goes a long way.
1/3 cup white wine vinegar (5% or higher acidity)
1/3 teaspoon pickling or kosher salt
Scrub the horseradish root clean in water, and then scrape away the skin with the edge of a spoon or peel it using a vegetable peeler. Grate the root into a bowl using a medium- or large-holed grater, taking care to keep your face away from the bowl as you work. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and then puree them with an immersion blender until a smooth paste forms; alternatively, use a food processor with a grating attachment and then standard blade to shred and then puree the root. Spoon the paste into a half-pint jar, screw on a plastic storage lid, and store the jar in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before using. Prepared horseradish is best used within a few weeks but will keep for several months. Makes about 1 half-pint jar.
Tips & Tricks
- This recipe uses vinegar, rather than fermentation, because it’s ready so quickly. You can ferment horseradish, but the process advocated by Katz essentially takes several weeks to convert honey and water to alcohol and then vinegar.
- Fresh horseradish is even more of a tearjerker than old onions. Keep an eye on your work, but not a close eye; be particularly careful when removing the lid if you’re using a food processor. However, prepared horseradish becomes less pungent the longer it sits in your refrigerator, so it’s best to make a little at a time.
- Horseradish can be surprisingly thin skinned. I often end up removing a lot of the peel as I scrub the root clean and grabbing a spoon to scrape off what little skin remains.
- Barely Fermented Carrots are just one of the many uses for your homemade horseradish paste. It’s great in all sorts of dips and spreads, and I always add a bit to a tuna salad mix. If you forgot to put a spear of fresh horseradish into your Grilled Tomato Bloody Mary Mix when you processed it, you can add a little horseradish paste to the jar; shake it well to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.
- If you’re growing horseradish, you’ll likely have far more root than you need for this recipe. Besides sticking spears of it in Asian-Style Pickled Beans and jars of fermented pickles, you can peel it and freeze it in a zip-close bag. If your winter climate is cold but the ground doesn’t freeze solid, just leave it in the garden until you need it.
Want to play with more variations? Twice as Tasty is teaching these techniques in a workshop held in your own kitchen, among friends—and with my personal help. Click here to learn more.
Tried & True
These books and tools may help you in your fermentation adventures:
- My fermented carrot recipe was adapted from a version in Karen Solomon’s Asian Pickles cookbook. I fell in love with them at the first batch and have been tweaking the flavors since. Her book is loaded with many other inspiring recipes.
- Sandor Katz has earned his nickname: Sandorkraut. His book Wild Fermentation, now in its second edition, helped to revive interest in home fermentation.
- Despite a growing collection of books dedicated to fermentation, my go-to remains Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling. She does an excellent job of explaining the basics of fermentation, presenting easy-to-follow recipes, and showing you how ferments and vinegar-based pickles differ.
- My small kitchen makes me a huge fan of space-saving immersion blenders; my heavy use of it, particularly during canning season, makes me a fan of this version in particular. You can find cheaper models if you’re using them less intensively, but I tend to burn through them in a couple of seasons.
- I used to cap all my jars with old canning lids and rings, but they tend to rust quickly when I’m storing vegetables in vinegar and salt brines for months in the fridge. I invested in sturdy, highly reusable plastic storage lids for these items and have been happily reusing them for years.
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