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
When I think of fresh pickles, I immediately envision a platter of sushi, accompanied by pickled ginger (gari) and preceded by a quickly pickled cucumber salad (kyuri asazuke). The Japanese know a thing or two about pickling. They find a range of uses for pickled foods, including condiment, relish, garnish, palate cleanser, and digestive aid. Small portions of these foods can appear at any meal, even breakfast. Traditional Japanese pickles feature ingredients ranging from vegetables to eggs to fish to even cherry blossoms.
In America, the primary exposure to Japanese pickles comes as an appetizer before a meal and as a palate cleanser during it. A favorite local sushi restaurant serves sunomono, small portions of freshly pickled cucumber salad, before every meal—so of course I needed to come up with a version for our home-rolled, and more importantly boat-rolled, sushi nights. This salad is best made fresh when cucumbers are in season. Learn to make Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad and Pickled Ginger
I grew up in a rhubarb family: large patches growing in my dad’s and grandpa’s gardens, rhubarb pie at Thanksgiving (never diluted with strawberries), and a stash of rhubarb sauce in my mom’s fridge that I put on everything from ice cream to Cheerios. Among the first things I planted when I moved to Montana were rhubarb eyes taken from my dad’s plants; they’ve since spread out into a garden patch that produces all summer long and never bolts—one of the few perks of gardening in the shady woods.
After a winter of playing with various combinations of produce-influenced cocktails that put a splash of summer into the grayest day, I instantly saw “beverage” when I cut my first stalks of rhubarb in spring. The straight rhubarb needed another flavor to balance the bright pink syrup, and I knew from making sorbet that rosemary would add just the right touch in a summer cocktail. Learn to make Rhubarb–Rosemary Syrup and Rhubarb–Orange–Ginger Marmalade