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Fermenting Culture: How to Get Started

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By: Elizabeth Winslow
Fermenting Culture: How to Get Started

Some of the world's most delicious recipes were invented to keep food from going bad—think wine, cheese, beer and pickles. Fermentation, a process that is part of the creation of all things alcoholic, pickled and cheesy, is also involved in the making of bread, coffee and chocolate. It is a sort of controlled culinary decomposition in which beneficial bacteria consumes sugars and starches in food and turns them into either alcohol or acids.

While the process might sound questionable, the results are divine, and there's no denying the health benefits, either. Fermented foods are full of probiotics with more available nutrients than the original ingredients.

 

Intrigued? You can turn your own kitchen into a science lab and start fermenting right away. While yogurt, cheese, alcohol and kombucha might require some special equipment and starter cultures, lacto-fermented vegetables require nothing more than a few Mason jars, salt, spices and a little time. Start with sauerkraut, the gateway pickle, and move on to tangy, delicious fermented carrot sticks. Next thing you know, you'll have a sourdough bread starter going on the counter and home brew bubbling away in the basement!

 

Sauerkraut

 

Shred one head of cabbage very fine and place in a large bowl. Massage well with 1 ½ Tbsp salt and 1 tsp caraway seeds. Pack tightly into a wide-mouth Mason jar, including any liquid produced during mixing. Place a smaller jar in the mouth of the jar to keep the cabbage submerged in its liquid. Cover with a loose-weave piece of muslin or cheesecloth and set in a dim corner (the pantry or kitchen counter corner are fine). After three days, begin tasting the kraut. When it mellows and is sour enough for your liking (probably in 3-5 days), seal with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for 2-3 months.

Gingered Carrot Sticks

 

Peel and cut 1 ½ pounds of carrots into matchsticks. Pack into quart-size jars with a piece of crystallized ginger and a bay leaf in each jar. Combine 3 Tbsp salt with 6 cups of warm water in a large bowl and stir until salt dissolves. Pour brine over carrots and cover each jar with a piece of loose-weave muslin or cheesecloth and place out of direct light on the kitchen counter. Let sit for five days and skim off any white mold that forms on the surface. (Not to worry: The carrots are protected by the probiotics that are developing!) Once the carrots are tangy and flavorful (in about 5 days), seal with lids and move to refrigerator. Carrot sticks will keep for 2-3 months.

Elizabeth Winslow is a writer, food blogger, culinary instructor and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Edible Austin and creates compelling content for brands both large and small. She has an M.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio and teaches cooking classes with Kitchen Underground. Winslow + co.

 

Spice Islands® spices deliver high-quality, authentic flavors from all over the world so you can put the most delicious meals on your table.

 

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