I generally ferment vegetables with one of two goals in mind:
- Creating a tasty and healthy dose of probiotics and enzymes without the cost of supplements.
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Eventually the formation of carbon dioxide will slow down and you won’t have to burp the jar any longer.
- 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.