04 November 2010

Culturing Vegetables

When we started out Nourishing Traditions (NT) journey, we also started culturing some vegetables. The benefits to our digestion and our bodies of cultured vegetable eating are amazing, wide and varied. Amongst the many health promoting properties, cultured vegetables assist in resorting our inner ecosystem as they are packed with friendly gut bacteria - cheap and a much more natural probiotic option! The other wonderful thing is that if you are passionate about raw food, but conscious of the macrobiotic suggestion to not consume raw brassica’s due to the fact that they can inhibit thyroid hormone production, then this is a great option as the culturing of the brassica's removes this risk of raw brassica eating.

We found the NT way of culturing a little hit and miss and quite involved. We felt very blessed to attend a workshop with Khannah of Inana, where it was shared with us the very simple and effective method of PRESSING vegetables to culture them. This method uses, instead of trying to remove, the surrounding air. The technique used here is quite explanatory in the name of the method, it literally uses a weight to PRESS the vegetables and in turn culture them through their own juices that they are immersed in. Here’s the very simple method;

::Ingredients and utensils needed::
    •    Lots of fresh organic vegetables and herbs, you can use any vegetable and herbs but salad greens such as lettuce and rocket that wilt easily are not recommended as they do not have the most desirable effect)
    •    Himalayan salt
    •    chopping board and knife
    •    Two big buckets (We get ours from the local chicken shop which sells old coleslaw buckets for $5 with the lid! Of course we give them a good wash out before culturing in them! These buckets do have ink on the outside though, so it is best to have a bucket with no ink around on the outside as the bucket that will be pressed down inside the vegetable holding bucket. Obviously the juices of the culturing process come up around the outside of the internal bucket, so one with ink is not best. Bunnings sells food grade white buckets with lids for around $12 and these have no ink on the outside (they have a sticker which easily peels off)
    •    A weight to go inside the pressing bucket which will be put inside the other bucket containing the vegetables. (We have our pressing bucket holding our grain that we grind as our flour. But you can just as easily find some old weight bench weights to put in this bucket. You need around 20kg in the pressing bucket)

::Gather your produce and herbs. You can use a mix of many different vegetables or just some specific one’s. Cabbage is always a good ingredient to include no matter what else you are including. We have done mixed vegetable batches and at the moment have a batch of the NT Latin American Sauerkraut in pressing::

::Chop your vegetables into the size pieces you would like to eat them. You can have a variation in amongst your vegetables as well. Culturing is a fun community activity. If you have a kitchen bench that is large enough, grab a few friends together and stand around chopping and chatting. It’s a wonderful social activity!::

::Slide the chopped veggies into the bucket from the board::

::The salt is the most important ingredient as this is what draws the moisture from the vegetables and cultures the vegetables. The rule of thumb is that for every layer of vegetables, you put about 1 large/generous teaspoon sprinkled over the top. Then at the end, add 1-2t just for luck!::

::Once all the vegetables and salt are in, mix it all around. Children love to help with putting the vegetables in, the salt and then mixing all around. It’s a great kitchen handwork task for them to be involved in::

::As you mix, you should notice alot of water coming out of the vegetables - if not, there is not enough salt - add more. The vegetables need to be quite wet::

::Press the vegetables down the sides so as to ensure they are all together. Culturing vegetables are like a big happy family, they like to be all snuggled in together. Leave your mix for an hour or so and then check it. When you lightly press on top of the veggies with the back of your hand, liquid should come out and cover your hand. If not, add more salt and mix around and let stand, or if you have added alot of salt and are concerned they will be too salty for taste in the end, then you can add a small amount of water - but this is not normally necessary. Remember, cultured vegetables do have a rather salty flavour in the end, but also that alot of the salt flavour will disperse with the culturing. If you would like to test - then taste a few pieces of the vegetables::

::Add your weighted bucket on top of the vegetables. Be sure that the bottom of the weighted bucket reaches and presses the vegetables in the holding bucket - this is very important as the pressing causes the liquid to rise and it is the liquid that cultures and prevents spoiling. Leave your vegetables for three weeks, but feel free to check them a few times in this space if you want to be sure the top bucket is pressing/the liquid is covering the vegetables for correct culturing. After a week or so, you will notice a very strong fermenting smell. It is not at all pleasant, but does not indicate spoilage - this is a normal part of the process. For this reason, you may choose to put the buckets somewhere not in a main living space - but where it is still safe from bugs, insects and rodents::

::After three weeks you can see if your vegetables are ready to bottle. Do not be concerned if you do not get to them in three weeks, they are fine in the bucket - but after three weeks you can generally bottle and start to enjoy your cultured vegetables. When bottling, spoon vegetables into clean glass jars that have sealable lids. Pour liquid into each jar after you have finished spooning out the vegetables. The jars should not be more than 3/4 filled once vegetables and liquid are in. Again, you need to ensure that the vegetables are all covered with liquid, so if there is not enough culturing liquid, you can fill the jars with a little water. It is also important that once you are using your vegetables, that you ensure the little family of veggies all stay snuggled together under that blanket of liquid. If you have excess liquid, you can add this to the next batch of culturing vegetables that you ferment, as an inoculant - but it is not necessary::

No comments: