Not All Germs Are Bad

baby "french breakfast" radishes, just minutes old

How to ferment any vegetable…

It’s very simple really.  All vegetables that come out of a healthy, well cared for, organic garden contain on their surface all of the bacteria needed for proper fermentation.  Using pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or any other chemical  (not talking about organic ones here) will kill this bacteria.  And the use of chemical based fertilizer will lead to an imbalance of bacteria on the surface of the vegetable, so vegetables fertilized with a chemical fertilizer may not readily lend themselves to fermentation either…but you can try it.  I’ve only ever fermented homegrown veggies or those grown by local organic farmers, so if you are able to successfully ferment (non-organic) commercial veggies from the store, I’d like to hear about it! 🙂

a layer of salted baby "french breakfast" radishes

First, select your vegetable(s) (radish is the easiest) and wash off any visible dirt.  Then, all you do is take those vegetable, or mixture of vegetables, chop them into bite-sized pieces and put them in a mason jar sprinkling with a bit of salt (make sure you use REAL sea salt, NOT Morton Brand Industrial ByProduct Salt!) after every layer.  When the veggies get about 1 inch from the top of the jar, screw on the lid very loosely and put the jar in a cool dark place…I like to use the back corner of my kitchen cabinet under the sink.

after 4 days fermentation is well underway!

The bacteria responsible for fermentation are “anaerobic” which means they do not need oxygen to live.  That is why you screw the lid on, the combination of salt with an oxygen-less environment makes sure that all bacteria are killed except those that are responsible for fermentation.  The salt will also draw water out of the veggies, making it’s own “brine”.

After 2-3 days in a cool, dark place I then top it off with a hefty pinch of salt (REAL sea salt) and fill it to within 1 inch of the top with pure filtered water (do not use TAP WATER unless you filter out the chlorine and fluoride first…otherwise it WILL KILL the bacteria.)  Recap tightly and shake the jar really well.  Then recap loosely to allowing the gases of fermentation to escape.  At this point I just let the jar sit on the counter, tasting the veggies a couple times a day, when it reaches my desired degree of fermentation (and I’ve been fermenting things for 7 years now so I tend to  like things a bit on the “funky” side LOL!) I store the jar in the fridge to slow the fermentation down and keep it.

nice and bubbly...once you get a good crock of fermented veggies going you can then use the brine to inoculate other ferments...things that are harder to ferment, like hard-boiled eggs or balls of homemade "feta style" goat cheese...

When you are ready to experiment you can also add in all kinds of flavorings…garlic, mustard seeds, dill or dill seeds, caraway seeds, allspice berries, thyme, tarragon, rosemary…just to name a few of my favorites.  The varieties and combinations that you can create are endless! 😀

11 thoughts on “Not All Germs Are Bad

  1. Thank you Susan 🙂 I LOVE summer squash/zucchini…So, I’ll definitely be trying this recipe come summer!

    • Technically yes, so long as the whey contains live and active cultures, but the use of whey is really not necessary as radishes naturally ferment quite easily so long as your water source is pure …not containing fluoride or chlorine or other nasties, like what is in tap water, that will kill the bacteria responsible for fermentation that occur naturally on the surface of the radish. In my opinion the radish brine makes an excellent innoculant for other ferments and tastes better than using whey as an innoculant 🙂

    • Sorry this is so late! Somehow this comment slipped through the cracks and never got answered…but I will do so now. My favorite things to ferment are radishes, beets, and cucumbers, they are the ones that I grow and ferment most often. I also like to ferment my own salsa…salsa verde using green tomatillos and pineapple tomatillos and regular salsa using tomatoes. The only fruit I have ever done is a couple of years ago I made a batch of lacto-fermented salsa with the addition of chopped peaches from our peach trees and it was mighty tasty! As a matter of fact I may try that again this year, in August, when the peaches are done 🙂

  2. To clarify, you do not add water to the layered salted radishes, but add the water after a few days when they have released their own juices?

  3. Here’s something you might like to try (if you haven’t already):

    I made a jar with the 3tsp of salt and found the brew to be too salty for my palate. But I had a few limes I didn’t know what to do with and discovered that the juice and pulp of a lime mixed with a bit of beet kvass is not bad at all. I may end up using most of the kvass to pickle some eggs.


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