Pickled Ferments

For a while now I have experienced a real push back against the classic ideas around pickling. I think because I have such a deep passion for encouraging the growth of bacteria and yeast as a way of preserving food, the idea of submerging your lovely bacteria covered veggies into a jar of vinegar and sugar just does not feel right to me. However, I have recently been experimenting with a blend between pickling and fermenting veggies.

Now, I am not writing a blog about this pretending that this is some crazy out there idea BUT it is relatively new to my life and I am buzzing about it so felt drawn to share just in case you hadn’t come across it yet.

The motivation behind the experiments was that as much as I LOVE fermenting veggies, I also adore a strong vinegar taste. Depending on the vegetable, achieving a high acidic flavour can sometimes lead to a very soft vegetable in the end simply because you have to leave the bacteria to feast for long enough for them to proliferate and create the lactic acids that give us that vinegary taste. I have realised in the last year that I can be pretty picky about the texture of my ferments and this magical blend of fermenting and pickling has solved this issue for me!

Kale tops kale flowers kale in polytunnel

So, what’s the process?

It is important to remain mindful of the health of the bacteria that we are trying to support the growth of through this process. Even adding cold vinegar can pose a threat to their survival if added at the wrong time.

My experiments have landed me with the following. I use the same salt brine method that I would normally but once the vegetables are just slightly more crunchy than I want them to be in the end, I have removed ¼ of the brine and replaced it with apple cider vinegar. I then leave the jar for another 3 days before popping in the fridge.

Two factors are important here. Firstly, I have not (would not) heat the vinegar, simple. Exposing the veggies to too much heat causes real harm to the lactic acid bacteria we are hoping to support.

Secondly, the vinegar has been added as close to the end as possible. Essentially, the bacteria present during fermentation aim to create a high level of lactic acids to make the environment safe (preserved) enabling them to multiply. Adding the vinegar at the start causes such a highly acidic environment from the get go that the bacteria present on the vegetables are not able to work (and ferment) as we want them to. Allowing fermentation to be the largest time period of this process ensures a strong community of bacteria and an acidic environment that they have created for themselves. The final addition of apple cider vinegar then no longer poses such a threat to their survival.

This realisation really has opened some more doors for me in terms of preservation as there are certain vegetables, such as kale, that I simply would not ferment because I find the texture of the end product totally unpalatable. However, in this way I am able to achieve all of my missions – preservation, growth of beneficial bacteria, acidic taste AND vegetables that maintain a bit of crunch – plus apple cider vinegar carries with it a whole host of benefits just to add even more goodness to the jar!

I have just popped up my most recent recipe of Fermented/Pickled Kale Tops. Check it out and get experimenting!