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
Amid summer’s bounty, as I haul bags and boxes of produce from garden to kitchen, I always want more. I clean and trim and slice and wonder whether each root tip and leafy top that lands in my compost bucket could find its way into a dish or jar instead. The nose-to-tail approach to cooking meats could be called tip to top for vegetables and fruits, and that remains my goal throughout the growing season. It’s a goal that aligns nicely with this week’s challenge for the Montana Local Food Challenge.
Some of your harvest lends itself easily to the idea: people eat beet greens as readily as beet roots. Others seem obvious when you think about it. Like peas? The shoots carry a similar flavor and can be turned into pesto or simply mixed into salads. Grow storage onions? The green tops can be used like scallions and even lightly trimmed while the bulbs are still growing. And the classic processed watermelon rind pickle can be ready to eat alongside the juicy pink melon.
Learn to make Quick-Pickled Watermelon Rind and Watermelon–Feta Salad
I spend much of my summer pickling produce; it’s my favorite way to preserve vegetables. As the harvest grows and I haul pounds of cucumbers, snap beans, summer squash, and more from the garden to the kitchen, my canning shelves fill with vinegar-preserved pickles and every other available surface holds fermenting ones. There they wait for weeks, if not months.
So for any given meal, you can also find me making pickles—refreshing, easy ones that take mere minutes to prepare and are gobbled up in as little time. Quick pickles are defined by their name. They won’t satisfy your pickle craving through winter or preserve the bulk of your garden, but they will extend shelf life a bit and give a new flavor spin when you tire of eating a particular fresh vegetable, like beets.
Learn to make Quick-Pickled Beet Snacks and Orange-Sweetened Marinated Beets
Offering to pour someone a shrub usually requires an explanation. Clearly the noun is not referring to the leafy bush. But just what is a shrub? Why would you want to drink one?
The answer to the first question has a surprisingly long history. Mixologist Warren Bobrow calls drinking shrubs “the original energy drinks” and dates them back to the 1800s. The combination of vinegar, water, and sweetener gave farmworkers a refreshing boost while in the field. Then farmers discovered they could expand the range of flavors using their harvest and the preserving properties of vinegar and sugar. Add carbonated water, and the first soft drinks were born. But these aren’t our contemporary, corn syrupy sodas: shrubs, aka drinking vinegars, capture the bright flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season.
Raw shrubs take little time to prepare but need a bit of foresight. The wait for cold processing means you don’t need to heat the shrub and lose some of its flavorful pop, a particular advantage with delicately flavored fruits like citrus and kiwi. They usually need 1–3 days to get to their final form but often taste best when left for at least a week. But shrubs last a long time too—I’m told up to a year, but I’ve never been able to keep one around that long.
This shrub recipe is a concentrate; you’ll want to dilute it to enjoy it. The simplest method is to pour 1/2 ounce of shrub into an 8-ounce or larger glass, top it with sparkling water or seltzer, and then add more shrub until you get a balance you like. Or upgrade your bar by using the shrub as the base for a cocktail.
Learn to make Raw-Fruit Shrub and Basic Shrub Cocktail