We are very excited about the first harvest of radishes this year. Have you ever grown them yourselves? They’re what we recommend for beginners (or kids!) as they are so satisfying to grow and only take a few weeks to turn from tiny seed to plump, ruby bulbs. They are so refreshing and peppery, of course brilliant in a salad, but our favourite way to eat them is fermented in a kimchi along with their leaves. Zero waste! Kimchi is a really delicious fermented cabbage, Korean side/topping, like a spicy version of sauerkraut. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s like a pickle – tangy, salty and spicy. So good with rice or noodles, in sandwiches (you HAVE to try a kimcheese toastie!) …we love filling dumplings with tofu and kimchi and pilling it up on savoury cabbage pancakes. Here’s the very flexible recipe.
Ingredients (these are suggestions and amounts can be flexible)
1 cabbage (Chinese Napa cabbages are traditional but you can use any loose, leafy cabbage – Savoy or January King work really well here)
2 bunches of radishes (including their leaves)
1 leek or a bundle of scallions
Optional extra veg like a kohlrabi or a turnip…
6 cloves garlic, 1 large thumb of ginger and 3 red chillies to make a paste
salt (2% of the weight of all the above)
You will need clean equipment (large bowls, jars, chopping board, knife, blender, serving spoon and rolling pin) but it does not have to be sterilised. Apart from the superior taste and beneficial bacteria, fermenting rather than pickling is also easier in this way.
Rinse your vegetables and start chopping. Save a few outer leaves of the cabbage but cut the rest into bite sized pieces. Weigh it and add to a large bowl. Thinly slice the other vegetables, leave the radish leaves whole, weigh them and add to the bowl.
Weigh the garlic, ginger and chilli then blend into a paste. Add up the weights of all the different veg to find the total weight and work out what 2% is.
Measure the salt and mix it through the chopped vegetables. Give them a light massage to encourage brine to form. Then stir the spice paste through using a serving spoon.
Pack the mixture very tightly into jars. Use the spoon or a clean rolling pin to really pack the vegetables into the jar ensuring no air-pockets have formed. Leave a couple of inches of head room in the jar if you can. Then break a reserved cabbage leaf to size and press it down on top of the cut vegetables and tuck it in under the shoulders of the jar to keep the small bits of sliced vegetables submerged in brine. If they get exposed to air then they are likely to go mouldy. Your cabbage leaf may be enough to keep the kimchi submerged in brine, if not, use a weight. Something brine-proof like a glass, small jar or ramekin.
Place the lid on the jar loosely to allow gases to escape during fermentation (be aware your kitchen is going to smell a bit funky this week!) and put the jar on a plate in a room temperature place in your kitchen, not too exposed to light as the extreme changes in temperature are not ideal. Allow the kimchi to ferment at room temperature for one week then refrigerate.
TOP TIPS: – no double dipping! This could introduce new, unwanted bacteria from your mouth. – Remember the mantra, “Submerge in brine, all will be fine”. Check the jar every day whilst fermenting. Have the gases pushed the vegetables up above the brine? If so push them back under with a clean spoon.
Red cabbages are one of those festive vegetables that often get wasted. Food waste is a big environmental problem which is exacerbated over Christmas. Instead of braising the whole cabbage for your Christmas dinner, why not pickle some of it? It makes it last a lot longer and tangy, crunchy, pickled red cabbage is the perfect festive accompaniment to cheese boards, leftovers sandwiches, and to even top currys, chillis, tacos etc. It’s quick and easy to do. All you need is vinegar, salt and sugar, a clean jar or two and some optional spices.
optional flavourings of your choice eg juniper berries or pickling spices
Start by finding a big jar or a few small ones, enough to fit in the cabbage. Give the jars a really good clean and hot rinse. Or you can sterilise them to be extra safe. Put the washed and rinsed jars in a clean sink then fill them with freshly boiled water from the kettle. Wait a minute then carefully empty the jars (use oven gloves or a folded tea towel so you don’t burn your hands). Let them air dry while you get on with chopping the cabbage and heating up your vinegar solution.
Measure the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a small pan, add the optional juniper berries or pickling spices to the jars and slice the cabbage.
Then thinly slice the cabbage and stuff into the jars. Lightly press the cabbage down into the jars to pack them in neatly. You should leave a cm of room in the jar.
Heat up the vinegar solution and as soon as it comes to the boil, take it off the heat and pour it into the jars. The solution should cover the vegetables, if you need to make more vinegar solution, then do so. You can halve or quarter the recipe of course if you only need a little more. Give the jars a light tap on the work surface to remove any air bubbles that may be trapped between the layers of cabbage. Then screw on the lids whilst the jars are still hot.
Allow them to cool on your kitchen work surface, then refrigerate. The pickled cabbage will be ready to eat in two days and will last in the fridge for 2 months.
Here in Ireland we need to do much better on plastic, we are at the bottom of the European league tables when it comes to plastic waste per person. By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans.
On our farm and in our business, we have spent 3 years looking at our processes and removing plastic where we can. In contrast to the green washing of most of the larger retailers who have promised and yet have not delivered we are doing what we say.
We do not use plastic in any of our seasonal set boxes, we use paper, and we collect and reuse our boxes, this is a fundamental cornerstone of our business. We realise that paper too has its own carbon cost, and we are looking at ways of trying to reduce that further. It bothers me a bit though, when the idea of using a paper straw instead of a plastic one constitutes progress, it is a small step, but it diverts attention from the real issues, such as the large scale use of plastics in the food industry.
The strain that humankind’s excessive consumption is putting on our planet is eye watering and for the environment and biodiversity the price is too great. We all need to consume less, whether it be plastic or otherwise.
I recognise the irony of encouraging less consumption and at the same time trying to sell our organic veggies boxes. But I have no shame in this, we run a sustainable business, we employ a lot of people in a worthwhile industry we grow local organic food and support so many other small scale Irish organic producers too and in order to pay them we need to sell boxes.
Everybody needs to eat, and it is impossible to assess the environmental credentials of most food businesses. This Christmas and new year if you want to know your food has been sourced and grown sustainably then throwing your lot in with us for your food is the right thing to do.
Our Christmas boxes and many other lovely Christmassy things (gift vouchers, wine hampers, original art and many eco-hampers) are available on our website, and they will be delivered the week beginning the 20th of December. The boxes are brimming with organic local (where possible) freshly harvested sustainable food.
We can deliver by courier all over Ireland and if you can place your order by the 12th you will be entered into a draw for an amazing hamper, it also guarantees you a delivery slot on Christmas week and helps us out immeasurably with harvesting.
If you want the most amazing fresh ingredients and also keep Christmas plastic free, local and sustainable then get a delivery from us this year.
We haven’t grown them for quite a few years so we are delighted to let you know that our celeriac are back! Have you tried one? They’re a gorgeous winter root vegetable. Big and bulbous and full of flavour. Think a hybrid between a potato and a parsnip with a delicate celery flavour. These beasts are stunning in soups and stews, but they also lend themselves nicely to coleslaw, in fact raw, grated celeriac is really gorgeous tossed with a mustardy mayonnaise. I’ll tell you about that another day. But today I am eating celeriac in thick slices, fried like a steak in lots of butter. I LOVE a vegetable steak (cauliflower, portobello, butternut…), it’s a great way to really highlight a vegetable and focus on the flavour. Serve with mashed beans and roasted garlic for lip-smackingly delicious, filling, protein, some wintery greens like kale or cabbage and a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce. Quite a special dish, fit for a date night, but really not very complex to make as you’ll see below. Enjoy!
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 celeriac – peel with a small, sharp knife, then cut 4 thick slices out of the middle and save the ends for a soup
1 tin of butterbeans or cannellini beans, any white beans will work
1 whole bulb of garlic
kale or cabbage, as much as you like
1 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp corn starch or plain flour
oat milk – enough to loosen the pan juices into a thick sauce
butter, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Pop a whole bulb of garlic (that’s right, the whole bulb, not just a clove) into a small, oven-proof dish with a drizzle of olive oil. Put it in the oven to bake until soft – around 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the celeriac as above, chop and rinse some greens (kale or cabbage go well here) and put them in a pot with a lid, some seasoning and some butter/oil on the hob. Drain some of the liquid from your tin of butterbeans and pop them into another small pan.
Get your widest frying pan (or use two) on to a medium heat and melt a generous knob of butter with a couple of tbsp of olive oil. Add the celeriac steaks and season well with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally until they are softening and turning a gorgeous caramel colour. They should smell amazing!
When the celeriac are nearly cooked through, take the garlic out of the oven to cool slightly, turn the heat on under the pot of beans and the pot of greens. Cook both, stirring often, until piping hot. Then turn off the heat.
Put the celeriac steaks in a small dish in the oven to keep warm (turn the oven down to 150C so they don’t burn) whilst you make the mash and the sauce.
Pull apart the roasted garlic and squeeze the soft, fragrant flesh into the pan with the beans. Season well with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil or a knob of butter and mash the beans and garlic into a puree. Or use a stick blender if you’d like your mash extra smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
To the frying pan in which the celeriac steaks were cooked, add a tbsp of flour and a tbsp of wholegrain mustard. Whisk into the buttery, caramelised, celeriac juices that are left in the pan and add a splash of oat milk. Turn the heat up and keep whisking and adding milk until you have a silky, creamy sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper and now you are ready to serve.
Divide the greens and garlicky mash between two plates, add on the steaks then drizzle with the sauce. Have extra wholegrain mustard on the table and enjoy with a glass of wine or a cold beer.
Have we mentioned? Perhaps just once or twice? We have a LOT of cabbages coming out of our fields right now! Although we love cabbages – they are sweet and juicy, delicious raw or cooked, super-duper healthy (they are packed full of vitamins C and K and have loads of fibre and other amazing properties) – we know that it can be a bit hard to get inspired by them in the kitchen. I’ve done a ‘4 Ways With…Cabbages’ blog already which you can read here (it was written for January King cabbages but the same recipes can apply to pointed, savoy etc) and sauerkraut recipes here and here. But this recipe is the one I actually use the most at home. It’s so easy and so delicious! Who would have thought that cabbage would be the star of the plate?
Steam-frying involves caramelising a side or two of the cabbage first before adding stock and a lid to steam the cabbages until cooked through. The result? Sweet and smokey, juicy and tender, succulent wedges of cabbage with a stunning broth. I love it served over a simple grain/pulse – this time I went for some nutritious quinoa – and topped with something really ‘punchy’ like the capers used here. Some other ideas using the same steam-fry technique:
Serve it over rice (make the stock miso or soy-sauce infused) and top with a drizzle of sriracha and some toasted sesame seeds?
Serve over mashed potatoes and top with a dollop of mustard and a side of sausages?
Serve over warmed butterbeans or chickpeas (put chopped tomatoes and garlic in the stock) and top with smoked paprika, chilli flakes and toasted almonds?
Serve over pasta (put lemon juice and garlic in the stock) and top with cheese or pesto?
Serve alongside a Sunday roast?
Have you got any good ideas on how to serve steam-fried cabbage? Share them in the comments below or over on our community facebook group here.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 pointed cabbage
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 stock cube
quinoa and capers to serve (or see above for alternative serving suggestions)
Prepare your quinoa (or other base eg rice, potatoes, beans, chickpeas, pasta). For 4 people, I rinse a mug of quinoa through a fine sieve then pop it into a pot with a mug and 1/2 of water. Bring to the boil with the lid on, then turn to the lowest setting and simmer until the quinoa has absorbed all the water (about 10-15 minutes) and released it’s little tails. Take the pot off the heat but leave the lid on and let the quinoa rest.
Meanwhile grab your largest pan that has a lid. A wide, shallow casserole dish is perfect. In fact, if you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend investing in an oven and hob safe one as they are so useful!
Rinse the cabbage, remove any unwanted outer leaves and pop them in the compost bin. Use a large knife to carefully cut the cabbage into quarters, lengthways. You need to keep the core intact.
Drizzle the quarters with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Then place, cut side own, into the pan. Put the pan onto a medium high heat.
Fry the cut sides of the cabbage wedges until they are beautifully coloured and caramelised. Meanwhile crumble the stock cube into 500ml of just-boiled water.
Once you are happy that all the wedges are nicely caramelise, add the stock to the pan and pop the lid on. Keep an eye on the cabbage now, you may need to turn the heat down a bit to stop the stock boiling over. After around 8-10 minutes, the cabbages should be tender. Test with a sharp knife. If your cabbage is very large it may take longer of course.
Serve over the quinoa (or other chosen base) and spoon over the stock. Top with capers (or other chosen topping) and eat whilst still warm.
It’s that time of year when we have cabbages coming out of our ears. Sauerkraut is a really simple and safe way to not only preserve, but to also enhance the nutritional value of these humble vegetables. It just so happens that we have a bumper crop of fennel too so we’ve been making my favourite fennel and cabbage kraut on repeat, and you can too! All you need is a big glass jar, a smaller jar or glass that fits inside it, salt, cabbage and fennel.
Don’t be intimidated by the science behind fermentation. It can feel a little counter-intuitive to encourage microbes to thrive and multiply, but microbes are an essential part of us and part of a healthy world. We would not be here without them, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to grow our organic vegetables without them making our soil healthy and teaming with life. Eating fermented vegetables like this sauerkraut is scientifically proven to boost your gut health, which has a positive knock on effect to your overall health and wellbeing.
Sauerkraut is very simple. Just mix shredded cabbage (and fennel too in this recipe) with enough salt to make it pleasantly salty, pack it tightly into a clean jar and weigh it down so that the vegetables stay safely submerged in brine. Allow fermentation to happen at room temperature for about a week, then remove the weight and pop your jar of tangy, pickley goodness into the fridge to have as a side or sandwich filler to many meals over the coming months.
Find some large jars and give them a really good clean and a hot rinse. You can sterilise if you like but it is not strictly necessary.
Give your vegetables a rinse to remove any dirt. Carefully peel off and reserve a couple of outer leaves of your cabbage.
Finely shred your remaining cabbage and the fennel bulbs using a sharp knife, a mandolin or a food processor. Place the shredded vegetables into a large, clean mixing bowl.
Sprinkle over the salt then use your hands to tumble the salt through the shredded vegetables. Once it is evenly dispersed, start squeezing and massaging the salt with the shredded vegetables.
You will soon notice that the salt is drawing liquid out of the vegetables and the vegetables are decreasing in volume. Taste a spoon of the mixture and decide if you would like to add more salt or not. It should just taste pleasantly salty.
The mixture is ready to pack into the jar when it is very wet. You can test this by picking up a large handful and squeezing. There should be loads of lovely brine dripping from your hands into the bowl.
Pack the mixture very firmly into the jar. It’s best to do this a couple of handfuls at a time so that you can push down each layer nice and tight. You want to ensure that no air pockets are in the jar. Use your fist if it fits in the jar, otherwise a clean rolling pin is perfect for poking and packing down the mixture.
Keep going until you have used all the mixture or until you have at least an inch of headroom left in the jar. You don’t want to overfill it! But do include the brine that the salt has drawn from the vegetables. The more brine the better!
Now grab those outer leaves you reserved earlier. Break them to size, they should be just bigger than the surface area of the packed cabbage and fennel mixture. Tuck a leaf carefully into a jar and push it neatly over the shredded veg mixture but under the brine. The aim is to prevent any little bits of shredded veg from floating up to the surface of the brine and catching mould. The brine should rise above the cabbage leaf and all the shredded bits should be safely tucked underneath it. You may be able to push the edges of the cabbage leaf down against the sides of the jar to really tuck the mixture in. Try use a spoon or your fingers.
Pick off any floating bits of shredded vegetables and clean up your jar with a piece of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Then add a weight to weigh down the cabbage leaf which will keep everything safely submerged in brine. You can use anything that will be food safe and not be affected by the salt. So a smaller glass jar filled with water is good – just ensure the metal side does not touch the salty brine or it can corrode. Another good option is to use a small water glass or glass ramekin. If it fits right, putting the lid on the jar should pin the glass down and keep everything submerged.
Put the lid on the jar. If you are using a clip-top jar, remove the rubber seal first, this will allow gases to escape during fermentation and there will be non need to ‘burp’ your jars. If you are using a screw top jar you will need to ‘burp’ your jar twice a day by carefully loosening then tightening the lid. You should hear the gases escape and see bubbles rising to the top of the ferment.
Keep the jar on a plate or tray to catch any spills, at room temperature for 1 week. Not in direct sunlight. It’s best to ‘burp’ over the sink in case you have a very active ferment. It should be very active and bubbly between days 2 and 4/5 then it will calm down. If the action of the bubbles causes your ferment to rise above the brine, just use a clean hand or utensil to push everything back down under brine and carry on.
After a week your sauerkraut should be tangy and delicious. Remove the weight and the cabbage leaf. Replace the rubber seal if using a clip top jar, put the lid back on and place the jar in the fridge.
Your sauerkraut should stay fresh in the fridge for at least 3 months but often up to 1 year! To make it last well, do not double dip and move into smaller, clean jars as you work your way down the big jar. This means less air in the jar and less chance of it drying out and getting susceptible to mould.
Turn your oven to 200C. Find your biggest roasting dish and put it in the oven to heat up too.
Peel the potatoes and carrot, cut them into large chunks and just cover them with water in a big pot. Put the lid on the pot and get them on the stove to boil.
Meanwhile make the beetroot and butterbean loaf:
Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan and add them to a blender with the linseeds and oats. Pulse until coarsely combined, but still with some texture.
Grate the beetroots into a mixing bowl on the fine side of the grater. Add the drained tin of butterbeans to the bowl too.
Add the oat, sunflower seed and linseed mixture to the bowl, season well with salt and pepper (you could also add additional flavourings here like lemon zest, crushed garlic, herbs).
Using one hand, squish the mixture together into a stuffing-like mixture. You may need to add more oats as you go if your mixture is too wet. When you are at stuffing texture taste the mix for seasoning ad adjust as needed.
Then put the mixture into a baking dish or loaf tin lined with baking paper. Top with slices of mushroom a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Then pop the dish in the oven to bake.
By now the potatoes and carrots will be par boiled so move them off the heat. Finely chop a generous couple of handfuls of herbs and put them into a bowl with the zest of a lemon, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper and enough sunflower oil to bring it into a loose sauce.
Remove the hot, large roasting dish from the oven and drizzle it with sunflower oil. Use a slotted spoon to move the potatoes and carrots onto the hot tray and keep all the water in the pot (you’ll need this to cook the cabbage and make gravy with later).
Add the garlic/lemon/herb oil to the roasting dish of potatoes and carrots and stir to coat the veg in the mixture. Cut the zested lemon in half and add it to the roasting tray. Return the dish to the oven and get on with the greens and gravy.
Add a stock cube to the water that the carrots and potatoes were cooked in. Then rinse and chop the cabbage and add it to the pot to poach in the stocky water. When it is still slightly undercooked, use the slotted spoon to pull out the cabbage and keep it in the pan you used earlier to toast the sunflower seeds (you’ll use this to re-heat and finish cooking the cabbage when the beetroot loaf and roast veg are nearly done).
Then make the gravy. Put a tsp of dried mushrooms into the stock and bring it to the boil. You can also dip the bowl that you mixed the lemon/garlic/herb oil for the roast veg in and get all those flavours added to the gravy.
Mix the cornflour with a little cold water into a smooth paste in a cup. Then add that to the stock and simmer and stir until it has thickened into a gravy. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. I like to add a couple of tbsp of soy sauce to add a punchy umami flavour. You may wish to add a splash of wine or a spoon of recurrent jelly to your gravy. When you are happy with the flavour and texture of your gravy you can pour it into a jug through a sieve and keep it warm.
The beetroot and butterbean loaf and roast veg should be ready after about 40-60 minutes in the oven. Just keep an eye on them. Then re-heat the cabbage and gravy and serve!
The Perfect Place to Start your Fermentation Journey
Once you have mastered the basics of sauerkraut, and it really is basic, you can apply these principles and techniques to many other ferments and play around with the ingredients. You can use a variety of cabbages, you can add other vegetables like grated carrot or beetroot, you can use different herbs or spices to create different styles of sauerkraut, you can even suspend whole apples into your crock/jar to ferment along with you sauerkraut as a German friend of mine taught me to do.
My kimchi recipe, which I will share with you soon, uses the same technique as sauerkraut. The difference being the cut of the vegetables and the all important spice paste. My fermented hot sauce uses the same technique too! Brine fermentation also works through the same simple process of lacto-fermentation to acidify the vegetables. Salt + vegetables + a jar is all you need to produce incredible delicious and nutritious ferments.
I first got hooked on fermenting many years ago when I had a surplus of cabbages delivered to my old cafe from our local farm. There’s only so much cabbage soup and coleslaw you can sell so we decided to try making sauerkraut as a means to preserve them, stop them from going off and being wasted. It was a revelation! We had no idea then about the health benefits, we were just blown away by the taste. Since that day, I bought lots of books on the subject, incorporated ferments into much of our menu and even started a stall in a farmers market called ‘Fermental’ selling fresh, unpasteurised ferments made with local, organic ingredients.
The science and nutritional benefits behind vegetable fermentation are really interesting to read about. There are so many perks to including ferments into your everyday diet. The importance of encouraging and introducing beneficial bacteria into our digestive system is becoming more well known and rather than taking a pill, this is a delicious way to do that. Fermenting vegetables also makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients in them more readily available, and the organisms that enable fermentation are themselves beneficial too! All of this is good news for your body and your immune system, but its also great news for your taste buds. Fermented food is delicious! Complex, tangy, crunchy, sour and salty.
Is it Safe?
Lacto fermenation is a very safe way of preserving vegetables and it’s very easy too – no need for fancy equipment, all you need is a knife, board, jars, vegetables and salt. It can sound scary dealing with microbes. We have been trained to try to disinfect all surfaces and food from bacteria, moulds and yeasts so perhaps encouraging bacteria to thrive will feel strange at first. But the importance of our microbiome and the diversity of microbes that we need in our guts to be healthy is now becoming common knowledge. For me, as a chef, the main reason I ferment is for flavour, not medicine. The health benefits are just a bonus. And yes, it is perfectly safe as long as you follow some basic principles.
Submerging vegetables in brine protects them from harmful bacteria and allows ‘good’ bacteria to thrive. Lactobacilli, the good guys, are anaerobic, meaning they don’t need oxygen. So by keeping the vegetables neatly submerged in brine we are protecting them from the ‘bad’ bacteria that need oxygen to thrive, thereby taking out the competition for the ‘good’ lactobacilli. Salt in the brine also inhibits yeasts which would break the sugars down in the fruits/veg into alcohol instead of lactic acid. Salt is the perfect preservative for vegetables, but it’s important to get the right amount. Too much will inhibit fermentation and too little will result in a rotting crock/jar. Thankfully its quite simple, your best guide is your tastebuds! Your salted vegetables should just taste pleasantly salty.
optional herbs/spices like fennel seeds, dill, juniper, caraway, turmeric, pepper…
Prepare a large jar to hold your ferment. Just give it a good wash and a rinse, no need to sterilise. Find and wash a smaller jar which fits neatly into your large jar. This will act as a weight.
Rinse your vegetables and pull off some of the outer leaves of the cabbage and put to one side. These will act as ‘followers’. A ‘follower’ is like a cartouche which neatly holds down any bits of chopped veg under the brine which may float up and become exposed to air.
Shred the cabbage (and any other veg if using) into a large bowl or your biggest pot.
Add extra flavourings to your tase if you like. A few juniper berries, some chopped dill, fennel/caraway seeds, turmeric and black pepper etc… just choose one or two flavours at most.
Massage in about 1 tbsp of natural, fine/flakey sea salt per regular sized cabbage volume. If you are unsure about doing this instinctively, you can weigh the shredded vegetables then work out what 2% of that weight is and add that amount of salt. Once the salt is fully incorporated, taste it and see if it is salty enough. It should just taste pleasantly salty. If its too salty add more vegetables, if it’s not salty enough add more salt. Easy!
Cover the bowl and allow the salt to do some of the work for you for about half an hour. Then give the mixture another good massage and you should see a lot of brine forming. There should be no need to add extra brine or water, the salt draws the water from the vegetables and creates its own delicious brine.
Once your veg is nice and briney, when you squeeze a handful lots of brine comes out, you can start packing it into your jar. Do this carefully and thoroughly. Take one or two large handfuls of the mixture at a time and firmly press them into the bottom of your jar ensuring there are no air pockets.
Keep going until you have used up all the mixture or until you have a good couple of inches left of head room in the jar. If you made a large amount or only have smallish jars then you may need to use a few jars.
Now its time to add your ‘follower’ or cartouche. Get the cabbage leaves you saved earlier, break them to size if you need to, then wedge them into the jar, neatly covering the whole surface area of the ferment. Take your time to carefully tuck the leaf down around the edges of the ferment. Ideally the level of brine will rise above the ‘follower’.
Then you need to add a weight to ensure the shredded vegetables stay submerged. The cheapest and easiest weight is simply a smaller jar filled with water. Make sure its nice and clean, no lables left on the outside. And make sure the lid does not come into contact with the brine. Salt and metal react and you don’t want a rusty metal lid sitting in your ferment! So just make sure the smaller jar can’t fall over inside the bigger jar and it should be fine.
Other weights you can use are scrubbed and boiled beach pebbles (make sure they are not chalk/limestone), you could even use a ziplock freezer bag filled with water/stones. You can also buy specially designed fermentation weights of course. made from glass or ceramics – if you really get into fermenting then these are a worthwhile investment.
Then loosely cover the jar to allow the gases produced during fermentation to escape. Use the lid, or if the lid doesn’t fit over your weight then you can cover the jar with a tea towel and secure it with an elastic band or string.
Place the jar on a plate or tray to catch any potential overspill. Then ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for a week or two.
Check on your ferment daily. Push down on the weight to expel any air pockets/bubbles that form during fermentation. Taste it after one week and if it has soured to your liking you can remove the weight and follower and refrigerate it. Otherwise keep fermenting it at room temp for another week or so for a funkier, tangier taste.
Once refrigerated it will keep well for a very long time up to and over a year even, if you look after it. That means no double dipping – you don’t want to introduce new bacteria from your mouth into the jar, scrape down the sides to keep all the veg together – bits that dry out and are exposed to air are more likely to catch mould. Consider transferring your finished ferment into a few smaller jars before refrigerating. This will mean that the ferment is exposed to less air and last longer.
Let me know in the comments or over on our friendly Facebook page if you have any questions or need me to troubleshoot. More fermenting blogs and videos coming soon. Happy fermenting! Liz x