Ferment Food at Home: Mason Jar Lacto Fermented Shredded Carrots
These delicious carrots are a great introduction to making your own lacto-fermented foods at home. The basic process for fermenting food at home is to create an anaerobic, salty environment for your healthy lactobacillus bacteria to grow while discouraging mold and bad bacteria.
The good news is that this is super easy and extremely safe, even for a beginner. Lacto fermentation converts plant sugars into lactic acid, probiotics, and other beneficial nutrients, so your raw carrots will be even healthier after fermentation.
You can mix these into soups, stews or salads. You could also serve them on top of stir-fries and meat dishes. Another option is to use them somewhere between a condiment and a side dish.
- 1 quart (4 cups) grated carrots – about a pound – Leave at least some of the skin on because that is where the good bacteria live.
- 1 tablespoon finely grated or minced ginger or 2 tablespoons if you love ginger
- 1 or more finely minced garlic cloves – Fully fermented garlic is mild, but if you only ferment for a few days, it will retain some bite.
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 quart or 2 pint Mason jars, preferably wide mouth
- A food processor, box grater, or knife to shred / grate / mince the ingredients
- A fermentation weight to hold the carrots under the brine
- An airlock lid for your jar
- Shred the carrots. Any texture you like will work just fine, from finely minced to roughly chopped. A food processor with a shredding disc is the fastest and easiest way.
- Mince the ginger, garlic, and any other ingredients you want to add.
- Put everything in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over it.
- Either massage everything together for a while with your hands or pound it with a mallet or wooden pounder. You want to release as much liquid as possible from the carrots to create a salty brine. The more you work it, the more liquid will come out. You want to add as little water as possible to avoid diluting the flavor. The salt will also help slowly draw moisture out of the vegetables.
- Pack it all into your jars as tightly as possible. Use your hands or a utensil to get any air bubbles out and get the liquid to come to the top.
- Pour a little water on top if necessary. Put just enough to cover the shredded veggies with half an inch.
- Put something heavy on top to keep the vegetable matter submerged under the water / brine and help push out air bubbles. This is not strictly necessary, as you can always scrape mold off the top and still eat what is under it. Nonetheless, this can help prevent the mold from developing. The best choice is a specially made glass fermentation weight, but a 4-ounce jelly jar, a small plate or bowl, or a plastic bag filled with saltwater will work. Any vegetable matter that sticks up above the brine is likely to mold, so try to scoop any stray bits off and discard them.
- Now cover the jar. You can purchase an airlock lid for Mason jars that will allow CO2 to escape while keeping oxygen out. But you can also just use a loose fitting lid, plastic wrap, or even cheesecloth. The better job you can do of keeping oxygen out of the jar, the less likely you are to have mold. However, a little mold isn’t a deal killer. Humans have been eating fermented foods for thousands of years, and traditionally, we always just scraped the mold off the top. With modern technology this is no longer necessary, but it isn’t likely to harm you (I am not a doctor). Lacto-fermented vegetables are considered safer than raw vegetables, and there have been no known cases of food poisoning from properly fermented raw vegetables.
- Leave the jar out at room temperature. Sometimes the jar will overflow with a vigorous fermentation, so keep that in mind when choosing a spot. Within a day or two you will start to see bubbles of CO2 from the fermentation. After three to five days, you can taste it to see how it is coming along. It will be good to eat from that point on, and as fermentation proceeds, it will get less sweet and more tart. If you wish, you can ferment for 7 to 10 days. Warmer room temperatures will cause faster fermentation. Whenever you decide it tastes good, put it in the fridge to pause the ferment. I have had fermented carrots in my fridge for months and they are still tasty; I would guess they would last for at least a year.
Make it yours:
Lacto fermentation is incredibly versatile, so there are a million ways to change this recipe. You can add any other vegetables, herbs, or spices you want to make it your way. Here are a few variations I like:
- Add black pepper, Asian spices, or a combination of cumin and chili powder.
- Add grated beets.
- Add minced jalapeño peppers or any other chilies.
- Add horseradish, turmeric root, or wasabi root instead of or in addition to the ginger.
When making your own version, just keep tasting and adding until it is as spicy / flavorful as you want it. After fermentation, it will taste less salty but more tangy or tart. Garlic and chili flavors will mellow.
Tips for new fermenters:
- Monitor the brine and if it looks low, add a little more water.
- White stuff in the brine or floating on top is probably kahm yeast. Mold that attacks ferments will be fuzzy and only on the top. Always scrape visible mold off, and optionally scrape layers of yeast off.
- If your jar bubbles, foams, or overflows, those are all signs of a healthy fermentation. You will probably notice some of this, but even if you don’t, it is probably fermenting.
- I have never had raw vegetables fail to ferment, but if it doesn’t taste at all sour after a week you may need to put your jar somewhere warmer.
This recipe is courtesy of Ryan Helseth, co-owner of Mason Jar Lifestyle, an online company that produces and sells fermentation products.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.