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    Fermenting at Home: Tips-from an Expert

    Authored by Stephanie Thurow

    Nothing compares to the flavor of a fermented pickle, spicy fermented kimchi, or homemade sauerkraut (just like my Great Grandma used to make in the huge crock, kept in the cellar). Fermented fruits and vegetables have distinct sour, savory flavors. And those flavors can’t be created through any other method of food preservation.

    Fermenting is the process of breaking down an organic substance into smaller substances to preserve it.

    Not only do fermented foods taste delicious, they’re also healthy. Through fermentation, the vitamins and nutrients in produce become easier for your body to absorb. And since produce gets partially broken down through the process, it’s easier to digest. Plus, fermented foods are packed with probiotics—healthy gut bacteria—which are produced through the process of lactic-acid fermentation (lacto-fermentation).

    Getting started with fermenting

    If you’ve never fermented anything before, I recommend starting with a small-batch, short-duration ferment. That way, if something goes wrong or if you don’t like the outcome, you didn’t spend too much time or money on it, and you aren’t stuck with a bunch of unwanted leftovers.

    What you need to ferment at home

    • Standard canning jar with lid and ring
    • Kosher salt

    Canning in January is a great time to get started. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, as well as root veggies, like beets, carrots, parsnips, and radishes, are all great contenders for fermenting. And with resolution season in full swing, fermented foods are a great way to meet healthy eating goals.

    Ingredients for Beet Kvass:

    •  ¾ pounds (2 to 3 small) beets, skin on
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Yields: One 1-quart jar of kvass
    • Prep Time: 25 minutes
    • Fermenting Time: 3-5 days

    Beets have many health benefits: They’re rich in antioxidants, they help lower cholesterol levels, and they act as a natural detoxifier.

    Here is a quick and simple recipe for beet kvass, a Russian fermented drink that’s traditionally made with rye bread. With only two ingredients, my version keeps things extra simple and healthy. Beet kvass can help boost the immune system, and it’s commonly sipped after a meal to aid digestion. I recommend drinking 4 ounces of this drink one to two times per day.

    Steps for beet kvass:

    1. Sterilize a 1-quart canning jar and lid.
    2. Scrub the beets, trim away the ends, and cut them into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
    3. Place the beet pieces in the jar. Add salt and fill the jar with water, leaving 1 to 2 inches of headspace (headspace is the amount of room from the top of the liquid to the rim of the jar). Stir ingredients together until the salt has dissolved.
    4. Place the lid on the jar and screw the ring on tightly. Store the jar at room temperature, ideally between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and out of direct sunlight.
    5. Let the jar sit at room temperature for three to four days. Once or twice each day, remove the lid, stir the mixture and allow the built-up carbon dioxide gases to release.
    6. On day three, taste the kvass. If it tastes earthy, salty, and tangy, it’s done. If it tastes like water, allow the kvass to ferment one or two more days.
    7. Once fermentation is complete, transfer the jar of kvass to the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation. In addition to drinking the kvass, you can eat the beet chunks. If the pieces are too tough, blend them up them in a smoothie.

    Consume the kvass and beets within three weeks.

    Recipe lightly edited and published with permission from “Can It & Ferment It: More than 75 Satisfying Small-Batch Canning and Fermentation Recipes for the Whole Year” (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2017) by Stephanie Thurow.

    You can read more recipes in Stephanie’s books, “Can It & Ferment It: More than 75 Satisfying Small-Batch Canning and Fermentation Recipes for the Whole Year” and “WECK Small-Batch Preserving: Year-Round Recipes for Canning, Fermenting, Pickling, and More.” Both are available at Tractor Supply locations nationwide. Stephanie Thurow is a cookbook author and certified master food preserver who lives in Minnesota.