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, smells, and tastes 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.
Read more about fermenting vegetables