Fermented food and microbiome are nowadays a hot topic not only in the science community: it has become quite popular in the media too. While some supplement selling companies are making money with it, promising to get you shredded by eating the proper microbiota they sell, scientist are aware that the picture is far more complex. The microbiome definitely plays a role in a lot of physiologic and pathologic processes and you have positive effects from eating probiotica and prebiotica like resistent starches but we still do not know exactly all of the players responsible for the effects.
My first contact with fermented food was with kombucha, a sweetened tea which is fermented by a community of yeast and bacteria, called SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast) or kombucha mother. The drink is quite nice: it’s sweet-sour and fizzy but its probiotic effects are scarse. Through Barbara, who passionately runs her German website Wilde Fermente (check it, it’s the best German source about wild fermentation you can find in the web), I started to ferment vegetables. After getting warm with her recipes and mastering the basics, Stefan and I started experimenting a bit with flavours. That’s how the recipe for fermented carrots with star anise was born.
The recipe is incredibly easy as most vegetable-fermentation recipes are, nevertheless there are some keypoints which increase the probability that you will get a tasty, fizzy ferment:
- use clean but not hot flip-top jars with rubber ring of the proper volume. Screw top jars are not adequate, since they can not release pressure properly or they are not thight enough to create the anaerobic enviroment for fermentation. Crocs are quite difficult for beginner and often too big but work in theory.
- either pack your jars very thight or use appropriate weights which should have food grade quality as they get in contact with the acid produced by the microorganism and the veggies you are a going to eat. Stones collected from outside are a very bad idea, even if you think you have cleaned them, they can release disgusting stuff during the fermentation process.
- use salt without iodine and anti-caking agent as they inhibit growth of the fermenting microorganisms.
For a 1 liter flip-top jar
- 500 g carrots
- 1-2 star anise
- 20 g salt
- 1 liter tap water
Clean the carrot with cold/luke warm tap water: do not use hot water as it will kill your fermenting microorganism on the shell. This is also the reason why you should not peel the carrots. If they are very dirty use a brush to clean them.
Cut the carrots into chunky sticks, pack them thightly in the glas and add the star anise: try to fit it on the side in order that it won’t float on the top during fermentation (risk of molds!). Dissolve the salt in 1 liter of water (=2 % salt solution) and pour it over the packed carrots. If you have one, put the weight on the top and close the jar. Write the date on it, put a plate under the jar to catch any liquids that might spill over and store it in a dark place.
After a couple of days (can be more or less depending on temperature and carrots) you may notice bubbles popping up. Often there is also a sediment developping and the solution gets cloudy: do not worry! This are the fermenting microorganism doing their work. After some time the fermentation is not that “agressive” anymore because of a shift in microorganism population but there is still fermentation going on.
I would leave the ferment at least two weeks but it could be more or less depending on your taste, the outside temperature, the carrots themself… Just taste them but do not open the jar too often as it disturbs fermentation. As soon as you like the taste of the carrots store them in the fridge, they are best served chilled.
For the ones interested in knowing more about fermentation and trying more recipes, I strongly advice either Barbara’s homepage or Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation book. If you have some questions regarding the recipe or have new recipe ideas, just tell me in the comment section below. I am looking forward to it!