If you haven’t tried fermenting yet, it’s time to give it a try. It is so much healthier, and definitely cheaper than buying the ready-made versions. And setting up fermenting jars takes only minutes compared to traditional canning.
Initially, I was a little put off by the fermenting process. I mean there was no processing in a hot water bath. And I have a lot of stomach issues. Is fermented food really safe to eat? Yes. Yes it is. In fact, when I consume fermented food regularly, I don’t have the near the problems with my stomach.
Fermenting is an age old method of preserving food, used long before refrigeration and canning were an option. These foods are so full of GOOD bacteria that are wonderful for your health and digestive system.
Katie, over at the “Wellness Mama”, who has some great information on the benefits of fermenting, says….
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. https://wellnessmama.com/2245/fermented-food-benefits/
Unlike pickled vegetables, fermented vegetables do not use a vinegar brine. They are so much simpler to preserve. No standing over a hot stove doing the whole canning thing, usually during the heat of the summer. I am not an expert, but I have fermented over a dozen jars of various vegetables so far and they are all super easy . . . and quite tasty, if I say so myself!
During my research on fermenting, I read that you have to keep the vegetables submerged or you risk having mold develop. That you have to open the jars once a day to let gasses escape, or you risk having a jar leak, or even possibly explode. After fermenting the first few jars according to directions for a week, I changed things up a bit and did things just a little different that made me much more comfortable with the whole process.
The ideal temperature range for fermenting is 60-70°F. I monitor the temperature by keeping a refrigerator thermometer next to my jars. Any warmer and the food will ferment too fast, not allowing for the full range of flavors. Foods will ferment at temperatures as low as 50ºF, but can take months instead of weeks.
A special note here – I need to point out that since these use a salt water brine, fermented vegetables may not be approved or recommended for someone on a low-sodium diet. Check with your health-care professional.
For the supplies, you need a quart jar with an airtight lid. These can be bought ready made, but my dear sweet Hubby made mine. I used one of my wide mouth canning jars with a plastic canning lid. The airlock unit and the stopper were purchased from an area brewing supply company.
Place the smaller bottom side of the stopper on the center of the plastic jar lid and draw a circle around it on the center of the plastic lid. Carefully drill a whole in the plastic lid, so that the stopper fits tightly. Hubby used one of those cone-shaped drill bits that starts small and continues drilling to a larger size, and a Dremel and sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges of the hole. Wash the lid to remove any dust or debris.
To use, put the stopper on the bottom of the airlock with the larger size of the stopper up. The airlocks prevent air from entering the jars and helps prevent mold, but lets the gas escape.
You can buy special weights to keep the peppers submerged, but I used a 4 oz jelly jar. I read of others using other types of little glass objects for weights, but there is a concern for lead content. Not an issue with real canning jars.
The “recipe” is really simple;
Easy Lacto-Fermented Jalapeno Peppers
- Wash and sterilize your jar, airlock, knife, measuring spoon, etc.
- Dissolve 3 Tbsp of sea salt in 3 cups of warm water to make a brine.
- Cut the stem ends off of 18 to 24 jalapenos (depending on the size), slice 1/4″ thick. No need to remove the seeds!
- Optional: 1/2 large chopped onion and/or 3 or 4 garlic cloves
- Pack the slices tightly into your jar, leaving a couple of inches head space.
- Pour enough of the salt water brine into the jar to cover the peppers.
- Place the small jar on top of the peppers and fill it with the salt water. Leave a 1/2″ of head space. This will give added weight to hold the peppers below the brine surface, plus a little extra brine if you need to add more brine to cover the peppers. The top of the inside jar needs to be 1/4″ or so below the top of the larger jar to allow gasses from the fermenting peppers to escape through the airlock.
- Put the lid with the airlock assembly on the jar. Add water to the airlock to the fill line. Set in a dark area out of sunlight.
- Check daily to make sure the peppers are submerged and that there is enough water in the airlock. Just a quick turn of the jar to observe is all that’s needed. If any slices float up, use a knife to carefully push them back below the inner jar.
- The peppers will gradually change from bright green to almost an olive green color over a 2 – 4 weeks period. At two weeks, you can start tasting the peppers. When they have a flavor you like, put a plain plastic canning lid on the jar and put it in the fridge for up to one year. They will continue to ferment slowly.
To easily keep track of the details, I add a label made of masking tape around the fermenting jars with the following info:
“Jalapenos, Ferment 7/10 – 7/24 to 8/7, Keeps 1 year”
This shows the initial fermenting stage of 2 weeks, up to 4 weeks, if needed. Also, that these will keep up to 1 year in the fridge. I am able to tell at a glance the fermenting stage, without having to dig out the recipe.
I set my fermenting jars in the corner of my kitchen counter on a tray or cake pan in case of leaking. It’s easy to slide out the whole tray to do a quick check. I have yet to have one leak since I started using the airlock lids.