When I prep sauerkraut, I add salt to a bowl of chopped cabbage and other vegetables, crush the vegetables, let them sit while they release water and then pack everything into clean jars.
When I prep kimchi, I add a lot of salt to a bowl of chopped vegetables, pour in water to make a brine, let the vegetables sit for a while, strain them, add my spices to them and then pack everything into clean jars.
Both methods ferment vegetables.
But the kimchi leaves me with a large amount of salt water (a brine) that I’d prefer not to waste. This past weekend, after I prepped the Napa cabbage, daikon radish and baby leeks pictured below from a recent farmers’ market haul, I reserved the salt water.
I decided I’d ferment carrots sticks in some of the brine. Fermented vegetables have a delicious, natural pickle flavor without adding any vinegar. (If you wonder how fermentation differs from canning, click here.)
After making my kimchi, I also made ginger beer for a workshop this weekend. That meant I had a few tablespoons of minced ginger, strained from my ginger bug, with no place to go. I made hibiscus soda with about half of it and threw the other half in with the carrots. The ginger, covered in yeast and bacteria from my lively ginger bug, kickstarted the ferment.
I still had lots of brine. What other vegetables were lying around? Oooh, red onions. Those would taste good…
You can see the bubbles in the gurgling jar of carrots below. The onions—I added no starter to that jar—have fewer bubbles. But they have some, indicating that fermentation is under way.
I still have more brine. What else could I ferment? And do I need an intervention?
I put the rest of the brine in the refrigerator. It’s just salt water with some vegetable bits in it, which will be well preserved in there. When I have a few vegetables I don’t know what to do with and need to use up, I’ll prep them and put them in a jar with some of this brine—depending on the vegetable. I wouldn’t recommend fermenting winter squash, for example. (Trust me. I learned the hard way.)
Brine Fermented Vegetables
- Vegetables: carrot sticks, red onion slices, cauliflower florets, or green beans
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 4 cups water
1. Add salt to water and stir. It will dissolve after several minutes.
2. Prep vegetables and stuff into a clean jar.
3. Pour enough brine over the vegetables to completely cover.
4. If necessary, place a weight on the vegetables to submerge them under liquid. A small jar within the jar works well for this.
5. Close the jar with the lid and set the jar on a plate at room temperature for three to five days or until you like the flavor. Open the jar every day to release carbon dioxide and to make sure the vegetables are submerged. You’ll notice the water become cloudy as the fermentation progresses.
6. Transfer vegetables to the refrigerator. They will keep for a few months up to a year or longer, depending on the type of vegetable (carrots keep longer than cucumbers, for example).
1. Chlorine can kill the microbes necessary to ferment food. If your water contains high amounts of it, pour some into an open vessel the night before you make this. The chlorine will dissipate.