Have you eaten something fermented today?
The answer is almost definitely yes.
If I learned anything from putting together today’s A to Z guide to fermentation, it’s that fermentation is all around us, all the time.
Beer or sauerkraut might be the first things that come to mind when you think about fermentation, but I bet most of us could find half a dozen fermented foods in our fridge or pantry right now, from bread and cheese to yogurt and vinegar.
Ahead of Austin’s first fermentation festival on Saturday, we put together this package, including a photo gallery full of both common and rare fermented foods (zha cai, anyone?). (PS, if you can’t make the fermentation festival on Saturday, Métier Cook’s Supply, 1805 S. First St., will host a book signing with keynote speaker Sandor Katz from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday to highlight his book, “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.”)
Consciously or not, I’ve been on a fermentation kick for years, writing about the probiotics craze, kimchi, bacon, kombucha, pickles, hot sauce, bread and probably another few dozen smaller items on kefir, aged vinegars, charcuterie and sourdough.
But what’s crazy about fermentation is that I’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible.
Last week, I told you about those fermented bananas, but you could also see a world of potential in these curried golden beets from Kirsten and Christopher Shockey’s excellent new book, “Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes” (Storey, $24.95).
These beets are lacto-fermented similar to sauerkraut, but with only five ingredients, they take on a completely different flavor profile than the condiment we associate with bratwursts. (Not that this sweet tangy relish would be excellent on a bratwurst.)
Curried Golden Beets
Shred the beets for this recipe at the last minute, as golden beets will start to oxidize as soon as you cut into them. Work quickly once the beets are shredded; they’ll retain more of their golden color the sooner you can get this ferment tucked under the brine. The optional dried currants in the recipe make this ferment thicker and sweeter.
1 head cabbage
2 golden beets
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. unrefined sea salt, divided
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 cup dried currants (optional)
Remove the coarse outer leaves of the cabbage. Rinse a few unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water. With a stainless steel knife, quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice (or shred) with the same knife or a mandoline, then transfer the cabbage to a large bowl. Grate the beets and add to the cabbage.
Massage 1 tablespoon of the salt and the curry powder into the cabbage and beets, then taste. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming; add more salt if necessary. When the brine has developed, add the currants, if using.
Transfer the cabbage-beet mixture to a crock or 2-quart jar, a handful at a time, pressing down with your fist or a tamper to remove the air pockets. You should see some brine on top when you press. When the vessel is packed, leave 4 inches of headspace for a crock, or 2 to 3 inches for a jar. Top the vegetables with one or two of the reserved outer leaves. For a crock, top the leaves with a plate that fits the opening of the container and covers as much of the vegetables as possible; weight it down with a sealed, water-filled jar. For a jar, use a sealed water-filled jar or ziplock bag as a follower-weight combination.
Set aside on a baking sheet to ferment, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 4 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged, pressing down as needed. This beet kraut foam may look a little brackish after a few days, which is normal. Just skim off the foam; underneath it, the kraut will be perfect.
You can test the kraut after 4 to 5 days. This kraut has a rich, deep flavor, and the sweet curry and currants add complexity. You’ll know it’s ready when these flavors are developed with an acidic or pickle-like undertone.
Store in jars, with lids tightened, in the fridge for up to 6 months. Makes 2 quarts.
— From “Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes” by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey (Storey, $24.95)