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Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks

lacto fermented carrot sticks 1

I generally ferment vegetables with one of two goals in mind:

  1. Creating a tasty and healthy dose of probiotics and enzymes without the cost of supplements.
  2. Preserving the harvest in a way that actually enhances the nutritional value of the food while not requiring much in the way of energy resources for this off-grid homesteader.

Sometimes these two goals overlap in the form of sauerkraut, cortido, and dill pickles. But since carrots keep well in a root cellar situation without the need for the small bit of extra processing required in fermenting, I don’t ferment them to preserve them.

But if I put a jar of this crunchy, tangy, garlicy lovelies on the table I can be sure everyone’s eating a couple at today’s meals and that jar will be gone in no time. So I make them for our health and for our tastebuds.

Because they’re just delicious.

lacto-fermented-carrot-sticks-2
You might notice that I don’t stick with some of the oft-given advice on how to ferment vegetables. After quite a few years of dabbling, many, many hours of research, and a general cynicism for the newer ways of performing this very old method of preservation; I don’t recommend refrigeration, don’t use a culture starter like whey, use a longer fermentation period, and don’t think you need any fancy equipment to achieve a tasty, healthy fermented vegetable.

Mostly because this is how the old-timers have done it, but also because the actual science behind the process of lactic acid fermentation backs them up.

Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks

Note: Using a narrow-mouth quart jar is helpful for a ferment like this because it helps to keep the carrot sticks submerged. A wide-mouth jar also works, but isn’t quite as helpful in this regard.

The Players

  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds of fresh carrots, trimmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cups of water, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt (where to buy real American sea salt)
  • one hefty outer cabbage leaf

The How-To

  1. Make brine by dissolving the sea salt in water. If your water is cool you may have to heat part of the water in order to dissolve the salt. Then stir in the cool water and let brine cool to room temperature before using.
  2. Place peeled garlic cloves in the bottom of a quart jar. Cut carrots into quarters lengthwise to the height of the narrowing of the narrow-mouthed jar. If using a wide-mouth jar, cut them so that they are about 1 – 1 1/2 inches below the bottom of the ring of the jar.
  3. Place carrot sticks vertically in jar on top of the garlic cloves. Pack them in so they are snug, but not over-packed so that the brine can still penetrate the carrots.
  4. Pour the 2 cups of brine over the carrot sticks so that they are completely covered by as much brine as possible, leaving a 1″ or so headspace between the brine and the lip of the jar. Add more water, if needed.
  5. Place the hefty outer cabbage leaf over the carrot sticks and tuck it in to the sides as tightly between the carrots and the jar as you can. Keeping your carrots submerged with this cabbage leaf is one of the most critical part of the process.
  6. Place the lid on the jar and close tightly. If using an airlock system place that on the lid according to the directions on the package.
  7. Place at a cool room temperature, 65-80 being ideal, and allow to culture for 7-10 days or longer, as desired. You can also leave it at room temperature for a few days and then move to a cooler temperature (not refrigeration) of 45-60 degrees to complete the fermentation process over the course of several weeks for better flavor and a more thorough fermentation process.
  8. During the earliest stages of fermentation you will have to “burp” your jar if not using an airlock. For best results do this only very slightly – just barely unscrew the lid until you hear a small amount of the gas escaping and then screw it back on quickly. You want to let just enough of the carbon dioxide out so that the jar won’t explode, but leave enough in so that you achieve as much of an anaerobic environment as possible.
  9. Eventually the formation of carbon dioxide will slow down and you won’t have to burp the jar any longer.
  10. You can eat the carrot sticks right away at this point or move them to cold storage like a cellar, a cool basement, a hole in the ground, or, if you must, a refrigerator.
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Shannon lives on a two acre off-grid homestead in Central Texas with her husband and four small children. Their family is attempting to create a simple, sustainable way of life from scratch. They like to call it agrarianism. Chickens, gardens, managing life in a small home, lots of food fermentation, homeschooling, and writing about it all make up the full and wonderful days of this life that she writes about at Nourishing Days.
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64 Responses to Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks
  1. Julie
    September 23, 2013 | 11:13 pm

    Love this simple recipe – thank you! Will be making these very soon. With fermented veggies, I’ve always wondered how you can tell when they’re no longer good, as I know they don’t last indefinitely. Any helpful tips?

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 1:53 pm

      I only ever throw out a ferment if one of two things occurs:
      1. Mold that goes so deep as to make the rest of the ferment irretrievable.
      2. It smells like something I simply would not want to eat.

      Other than that, if they smell good and look good then they can keep for literally months or even a year or two.

  2. Julie
    September 23, 2013 | 11:15 pm

    Also, do you remove the cabbage leaf or leave it in after its fermented? I usually leave it in, but not sure if that’s correct.

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 1:55 pm

      Julie – I usually leave it in, unless it starts to look a little funny as in a change in color or mold.

  3. Donna
    September 24, 2013 | 7:54 am

    Since they are “lacto-fermented”, shouldn’t there be whey in the jar to aid fermentation?

    • Kristen
      September 24, 2013 | 9:37 am

      No. “Lacto” refers to the presence of lactic-acid producing bacteria, and you don’t *need* a starter culture for those. They are naturally present as wild cultures on your hands, on the vegetables you’re fermenting, etc.

      You could use a starter culture if you wanted to, but I find that whey makes veggie cultures mushy. Veggie cultures do better, in my opinion, with wild cultures from the environment.

  4. Julie
    September 24, 2013 | 8:16 am

    Hi Shannon, thank you for sharing all the things that you do on this website! My question is about the lack of whey. Isn’t that what makes it “lacto”-fermented? And aren’t there nutritional benefits to including it? And finally, if you include the whey, is refrigeration then necessary, or could you store it like this one?
    Thanks,
    Julie

    • Kristen
      September 24, 2013 | 9:39 am

      Julie, please see my comment to Donna above. There’s no added nutritional benefit from using a whey starter culture. And if you included whey, you would still proceed the same way.

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 1:58 pm

      Julie – I second what Kristen says and would also add that using whey can actually hinder the natural lactic acid fermentation process as the bacteria in a dairy culture are not exactly alike to those that naturally occur in a vegetable fermentation process.

      I go into greater depth on this and other topics of vegetable fermentation in an upcoming book I’m working on.

  5. Allison
    September 24, 2013 | 8:25 am

    I can’t wait to make these! There’s a stand at my farmer’s market that sells spicy fermented carrots, I think he adds some chopped jalapeno to the ferment. How much of a jalapeno do you think would be good to add some kick to this recipe?

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 2:01 pm

      Allison – I’d say one that is seeded, 1/2 that is left with seeds intact… depending on how spicy you want to go of course. :)

  6. AppyHorsey
    September 24, 2013 | 10:34 am

    Hi.
    Sounds neat. But what’s an “Air Lock System”?? (I’m afraid I’ll forget to ‘burp’ it, so I guess I’m gonna’ need the Air Lock System, as it sounds like I won’t need to burp it then?
    Thanks.

  7. Carla
    September 24, 2013 | 10:49 am

    So excited to try these, thanks for the recipe. How often should I “burp” the jar to avoid the “explosion”?

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 1:51 pm

      Carla – During the first 3-5 days, when carbon dioxide is put off in the largest amounts, I would check it about twice a day, starting after the first 24 hours.

  8. Stephen Greenfield
    September 24, 2013 | 11:19 am

    Instead of a cabbage leaf, I use food-grade sandwich bags filled partially with water for all my fermentation projects. They conform to the shape of the container and keep air out while allowing the produce to remain submerged.

    When making kraut in a large crock, I use gallon-size.

    Cotton string is used to tie the bags closed.

  9. Yossif
    September 24, 2013 | 11:41 am

    Would using kefir whey kickstart the process and make them ready to eat faster? At what point can you reasonably say it’s done fermenting?

    • Shannon
      September 24, 2013 | 1:50 pm

      Yossif – You can use kefir whey as a starter culture, it’s just not necessary. When you use a culture starter, the bacteria in the final ferment will be very much influenced by those in the starter culture. If you are looking for a variety of bacteria, then you may want to skip the culture.

      It also may or may not make the process go faster. This depends on a lot of factors, including temperature. You can eat them as soon as you’d like after just a few days, though the actual fermentative stages of bacterial fermentation take a bit longer than that.

  10. Meg
    September 24, 2013 | 2:27 pm

    Should I use the plastic mason jar lids for this technique or is traditional lid with ring ok? Excited to try…will be my first veggie ferment attempt!

    • Shannon Stonger
      September 24, 2013 | 2:40 pm

      Meg – I would use a traditional lid with ring. The plastic lids are not necessarily air-tight and while that would help release the carbon dioxide, it isn’t as helpful in creating an anaerobic environment.

      • David
        November 5, 2013 | 3:48 am

        I would use a traditional lid with ring. The plastic lids are not necessarily air-tight and while that would help release the carbon dioxide, it isn’t as helpful in creating an anaerobic environment.

        Hello, Shannon.

        I do not think that carbon dioxide is an obstacle to anaerobic fermentation: carbon dioxide – is not oxygen, is not “aerobic”.

        We have to prevent the explosion, but not for the presence of carbon dioxide. Or am I wrong?

        • Shannon
          November 5, 2013 | 11:43 am

          Hi David,

          Carbon dioxide is most certainly not an obstacle to anaerobic fermentation, but it is the gas released during the process of fermentation. This gas can build up enough pressure to burst a tightly sealed glass jar, which has happened in our house on at least one occasion. :)

          The carbon dioxide is actually helpful in creating the anaerobic environment, but it has to be controlled to prevent explosion, which is a real concern.

    • Marie
      September 25, 2013 | 1:36 am

      Hi Shannon, piggy-backing on Meg’s question. If I use a traditional jar with lid & ring – do I just pull on the ring to make it burp (I seem to have vague recollections of seeing my grand-mother do that when I was a small kid)?
      Also, any advice on fermenting in a Tropical climate? I am considering buying a wine cooler to set the temperature to 62F and limiting the fluctuations. Is that at all necessary?
      Thanks!

      • Shannon Stonger
        October 18, 2013 | 2:41 pm

        Marie – Yes, just twist it slightly to barely unscrew and let a little gas escape, and then tighten it back up.

        You are right to be concerned about fermenting in a tropical climate. Temperatures over 90 degrees impair the fermentative bacteria and can increase the likelihood of molds and spoilage.

        Because of that, I don’t generally ferment vegetables in the heat of summer. Instead, we grow a garden that would make fermentable vegetables available more towards fall. I’m not sure if that’s an option for you, though.

  11. Vanessa - Natural Family Today
    September 26, 2013 | 3:39 pm

    Thanks for this! I’ve been experimenting with various fermented vegetables and carrots is one I have in my fridge right now!

  12. Sheindal
    September 30, 2013 | 3:12 pm

    I don’t use garlic and onion as I have an intolerance to them, is the garlic necessary to the fermentation process, or just to add extra flavour? Also, could you explain why you use sea salt in this recipe, is it because only that specifically works and anything added to the table salt would hinder fermentation, or because sea salt has trace minerals unlike the processed table salt hence just because sea salt is better for you? (Would table salt work in this instance?)
    Thanks!

    • Shannon Stonger
      October 18, 2013 | 2:43 pm

      Sheindal – No, the garlic is purely flavorful. That being said, we have a neighbor who is allergic to raw onions. So long as the vegetable has been properly fermented for a long enough period, he has eaten my cortido, kimchi, and salsa with no reaction.

      We always use sea salt, simply because table salt is full of chemicals and reacts completely differently in your body than a whole food salt would.

      That being said, the salt is used for its sodium content and effect on spoilage and texture, so folks do use table salt all the time. :)

    • peterg
      July 22, 2014 | 4:47 pm

      The iodine and the anti-caking agents in sea salt will throw off the fermentation. You always want to use a natural un-processed sea salt.

  13. Marina
    September 30, 2013 | 9:04 pm

    Hi! Thanks for this recipe! I am getting ready to attempt my first canning, and the recipes that I was reading included whey, so I am excited to hear that it’s not necessary. You said that the cultures/bacteria already present on the carrots is enough, does that mean you shouldn’t wash the carrots beforehand??

    • Shannon Stonger
      October 18, 2013 | 2:44 pm

      Marina – A simple rinsing shouldn’t do away with the bacteria, so long as you’re not flooding, scrubbing, or boiling them. :)

  14. kathirne
    October 2, 2013 | 1:50 pm

    Is it bad if the veggies float? I can’t get my kraut to stay submerged.

    • Shannon Stonger
      October 18, 2013 | 2:45 pm

      Kathirne – Keeping the vegetables under the brine is the most important, and possible most difficult, part of the process.

      A bit of the vegetables often will come up, but if the whole jar is floating, something needs to be done.

      You can use anything non-reactive to weight them down. I also find that packing the kraut in tightly, allowing it to form its own brine, and then adding more salt brine as needed 24 hours after the initial salting and chopping, helps it stay packed down in the jar.

  15. megan
    October 8, 2013 | 9:17 am

    I used a jar with a screw top lid and only burped it once….because I totally forgot to be honest…nothing exploded though…so either my carrots are not fermenting or maybe it’s not entirely necessary to burp?

    • Shannon Stonger
      October 18, 2013 | 2:47 pm

      Megan – Sometimes you won’t get as much carbon dioxide. A lower temperature slows down the fermentation process. The bacteria present in the carrots and water can change the rate of the process. Some vegetables produce less carbon dioxide, and some jars are stronger than others. I’m glad to hear everything went well. :)

  16. Kat
    October 12, 2013 | 12:53 pm

    This is my first attempt… My garlic turned green and it doesn’t smell like something I would want to eat. Something must have gone wrong. Any tips?

    • Shannon Stonger
      October 18, 2013 | 2:48 pm

      Kat – The garlic turning green is actually quite common and normal and healthy. The sulfur compounds in garlic react with the acid in the lactic acid fermentation process which produces a compound that turns them blue.

      Does it smell putrid or sour/tangy/sauerkrauty? if it’s the former you might not want to eat it. If it’s the latter then it’s just something to adjust to. :)

  17. Rebecca
    October 22, 2013 | 7:19 pm

    I found your bio very intriguing! My sister, brother and I talk about retiring to a “compound” in central Texas to do just what you are already doing. We figure with the 3 of us we all have talents to make it successful. I am the one who will be doing the cooking, but my sister is better at the gardening thing.

    I have been wanting to ferment some vegetables so I can’t wait to try this.

  18. MommaTarr
    November 5, 2013 | 10:31 pm

    Hi I have started these carrots. It’s my first ever fermenting. It’s been 24 hrs so I checked it but I think I got crazy with releasing the gas and let air into the jar. Did I ruin it?

  19. Sarah
    November 6, 2013 | 10:05 pm

    Hello! I started my carrots yesterday – can’t wait to try them! I do have one question though. Once I get the carrots to the level of fermentation that I think is delicious, and I keep them in the refridgerator – how long will they keep? I ask because it would be nice to make several batches and grab them off the shelf when needed. Thank you for this post! :)

  20. Günes
    December 19, 2013 | 12:56 am

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I have never fermented or pickled anything before and I’m excited to try it tomorrow. Could you tell me the difference between using apple cider vinegar and water? I don’t know why but I always thought fermentation and pickles involved vinegar. Thanks in advance!

  21. Courtney
    December 21, 2013 | 5:18 pm

    I tried a batch of shredded carrots, with garlic cloves, and dill weed. I mixed in sea salt – no whey. I checked it the first couple of days and there was nothing to burp. Came back today (5 days after starting batch), and it had been oozing out a gooey, sticky fluid – a lot of it too. When I took the lid off, the carrots mushroomed out of the top. I scooped those off and re-packed it, cleaned off the jar. Any idea if they are still okay?

    • Courtney
      February 3, 2014 | 6:47 pm

      Well, I am trying the said batch. And they look and taste just like they should. So I think we’re okay. I hope.

  22. Andrea
    January 2, 2014 | 7:22 pm

    I love pickled carrots. They are one of the vegetables I eat at lunch. I do play around with the spices mix from time to time to keep it from getting boring. I currently have curry carrots fermenting.

    My fermentations are done in weck jars. They have a glass lid and a gasket. I dont have to worry about pressure build up with these jars. They release the pressure when it gets to be too high. Fido jars also work well for lacto fermentation. I just used wecks because they are what I have on hand.

  23. Tracy
    January 14, 2014 | 11:00 am

    Not sure if this has already been asked… but by ‘fresh’ carrots do you mean organic, in a plastic bag at the grocery store, or the ones just pulled out of the ground? Are bagged ok? Or the ones with greens still attached from grocery?

  24. Tinna
    January 24, 2014 | 8:15 pm

    I was so excited about making this recipe that I did it BEFORE reading all the comments. Duh! Unfortunately, I did scrub them quite well. Will this be a problem? Also they are organic bagged carrots…

    Looking forward to your wisdom on my mistakes!

    BTW I love your blog and am a frequent reader. Thank you for all your great info!

  25. gayla
    February 9, 2014 | 9:05 am

    I started a jar of fermented garlic and forgot to do a couple of things: first weigh the garlic down, second I forgot to put it in the dark. The jar now needs burping, can I fix my floating garlic then?

  26. erin
    February 26, 2014 | 12:20 pm

    It is SO refreshing to hear that you support “old-fashioned” rather than all the current (VERY expensive!!) ways being touted.
    Thank you, thank you for reaffirming that it’s okay and still very healthy to do it just the way I have been!
    I appreciate it.

    Now, I have to go and search all your other pages/recipes, etc. for the other wonderful goodies you might have!

  27. Sharee
    February 26, 2014 | 8:15 pm

    If I can keep the veggies submerged, is the screwed on cap and burping really necessary? I read recipes that say both and have made kraut without a tightly screwed on cover and the need for burping, so I just kind of want to understand why the different recommendations… ?

  28. Tom
    March 1, 2014 | 11:23 pm

    I just sampled my carrots from this recipe and they turned out great. The only problem that I have is that the carrot sticks are a little too hard/crisp (for me anyway, as I have a number of crowns on my teeth to worry about). I fermented them for three weeks. I know that the process depends on natural bacteria for fermentation to occur, but would steaming the carrot sticks (to make them softer) for a few minutes before fermentation cause problems (as in killing too much of the beneficial bacteria)? I know that this is done for fermented beets. Your thoughts?

  29. Traci Eaton
    March 11, 2014 | 11:51 am

    These sound great, love carrots and pickles. I am familiar with simple lacto fermentation because I have been making Kimchee for decades and now am wondering about using kefir ( I also make my own from grains) as a starter for other fermentations. Any suggestions or advice?

  30. Anne
    March 24, 2014 | 2:49 pm

    Hi,

    Do you know what the reasoning behind adding the cabbage leaf is? A way to keep the carrots submerged, or for any additional bacteria that might be on the cabbage leaf to join in on the party?

  31. Dee
    March 27, 2014 | 7:36 am

    Hi. I have been fermenting my carrots for nearly 2 weeks now. They look ok and there is no bad smell but white mouldy looking stuff keeps growing on the top of the water. I scrape it off every couple of days but it keeps coming back. Is this normal or should I toss them out and start again?

    • peterg
      July 22, 2014 | 4:50 pm

      The mold is normal. just skim it off and enjoy. sometimes i transfer my ferments to a fresh vessel before storing or refrigerating.

  32. Janette Pedatella via Facebook
    April 6, 2014 | 11:11 am

    These are so easy and delicious. I love them but mine got mushy… Any tips?
    My other favorite is fermented garlic pickles… Yum yum!!

  33. Angela Davis via Facebook
    April 6, 2014 | 11:56 am

    Thanks for this recipe. I will be trying this one soon.

  34. Anonymous
    April 23, 2014 | 10:45 am

    Hi,

    I tried fermenting carrots just last week. I added some whey in addition to salt. On the 4th day, there was mold in the jar, so I threw out the whole batch. My question is how do I avoid the mold while fermenting veggies. I should add the carrots were not completely submerged in the brine. The carrots were floating and sticking out of water a little bit at the top. Is that the reason for the mold? Thanks for any tips.

    • Kristen Michaelis
      April 23, 2014 | 12:04 pm

      Yes. The carrots need to be fully submerged. Try weighing them down for your next batch.

  35. mary
    June 14, 2014 | 8:23 am

    My garlic has gone green. Is I molded?

  36. mary
    June 14, 2014 | 8:25 am

    If is molded, why? and what do I do about it? Thank you

  37. mary
    June 16, 2014 | 12:28 pm

    hello I asked about the garlic looking green. Is that mold? does it mean the carrots are no good? Please reply asap. thank you

    • peterg
      July 22, 2014 | 4:51 pm

      No thats just a natural chemical change that happens to some types of garlic, but its usually more of a bluegreen….

  38. Tammy Trayer
    June 29, 2014 | 9:52 am

    Great post! We too live off-grid, but in the northern Idaho wilderness. I would love to have you join my Simple Life Sunday blog hop or my Mountain Woman Rendezvous on Wednesdays at our website http://trayerwilderness.com. You have great material to share and we are obviously very like minded. Look forward to getting to know you.
    Blessings to you and yours,
    Tam

  39. alexis farmer
    July 7, 2014 | 3:41 am

    Hi!

    I made these and tasted after one week. They were a bit salty, perhaps the sweetness will be balanced by sourness if I leave for longer? I’ve never tried lacto-fermentation before, so I really liked your simple recipe, but is it possible to reduce the salt do you think?

    Thanks!

    • peterg
      July 22, 2014 | 4:53 pm

      You can definitely reduce the amount of salt you use. The ratio i use is 2 Tbls to 1 quart of water.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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