(Fermentation Seminar 2 of 3 in the Sister Love Series)
In my family, any celebration would be incomplete without an antipasto platter. Chunks of Parmesan, sharp provolone, olives, lupini beans, artichokes, salami rolled w/creme cheese and prosciutto are the building blocks of this decadent platter.
This year, I am going to let you in on a little secret. Over the holidays, I subbed out the usual pickled veggies with these little fermented beasts packed with all kinds of good probiotics..and the family was none the wiser…until I broke it to them with my bubbling enthusiasm. I had them at garlic. 😉
Celebrations, however, aren’t the only time for antipasto. Need a quick dinner? Antipasto. Looking for salt fix? Antipasto. Looking for an excuse to eat cheese? Antipasto. Fermented foods are perfect to add to any antipasto platter as they will assist in digestion (eg. cheese) and are so delicious, nutritious and addictive.
Fermented foods are known the world round, but until recently, have been absent from most Americans’ vocabulary. They are often served in small portions to assist in the digestion of the meal. They are not only used as a condiment, however. Fermented grains are fed to children as an early meal. According to the UNFA,
“Lactic acid fermented weaning foods are traditionally produced in developing countries, both to improve the safety of the food and to improve its digestibility. Starchy porridges are commonly fed to weaning infants in developing countries. The consistency of these gruels, combined with the small capacity of the infants stomach, means that it is physically impossible for the child to consume adequate energy to meet its high demands. By acidifying the porridge through lactic acid fermentation, starch is hydrolysed into shorter chains of glucose and dextrose, which reduce the viscosity of the porridge and increase its energy density. Thus the child is more able to meet its energy requirements” (UNFA, 1998).
As referenced above, in addition to digestive properties, fermentation IMPROVES food safety. Yep, improves, contrary to what one might think what with the bacteria and all.
How does this work, you ask? The lowering of the PH during fermentation acts in “reducing the microbial contamination of porridges in Kenya (Watson, Ngesa, Onyang, Alnwick and Tomkins, 1996) A study in Tanzania has shown that children fed with fermented gruels had a 33% lower incidence of diarrhea than those fed unfermented gruels, owing to the inhibition of pathogenic bacteria by lactic acid forming bacteria (Svanberg, 1992)” (UNFA, 1998). In addition, fermentation has the potential to remove anti-nutrients such as cyanide . Nice.
In terms of food safety, what is often seen as “gross” by American standards, is actually a highly desired benefit by many families around the world.
Furthermore, fermenting foods is a way to increase and concentrate vital nutrients and acts as a powerful preservation method where canning is expensive or unfeasible. Traditionally, such foods as saurkraut and the ubiquitious pickle were fermented until industrialization found a quicker and more efficient way to package these foods.
Now I will be honest here, fermented foods such as kimchi took awhile to appeal to me with their uber-strong flavors and scent. It was not until two weeks of eating kimchi for three meals a day in Korea that I came around to seeing this tradition in a new way. Maybe it was the chili sauce or perhaps the happy tummy? Nonetheless, it grew on me. Give it a chance and it will grow on you.
Any vegetable or fruit can be fermented! Curious as to what the world has been doing all these years? Saurkraut is just the beginning of a world of fermentation. Kombucha, kimchi, ayran, dosa, skyr, the list goes on.
In the future I will be continuing to hone my fermentation craft and share some more radical attempts. This recipe, however, should appeal to the newbies. It is incredibly addictive and complements many a cheese. Hope you enjoyed learning and these spicy Italian antipasto vegetables!
Homemade Spicy Italian Antipasto Vegetables
- enough chopped cauliflower and/or carrots to fill up a quart mason jar about 1/2 way
- about 1/4th of a large sweet onion, cut in large pieces
- 1 or more sliced jalapeno peppers depending on strength of said pepper
- 3-5 garlic cloves (they will lose their potency, making them edible and spread their garlicky goodness to surrounding veg)
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp dill seed or fresh dill to fill jar
- quart wide-mouth mason jar
- 1 Tbsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp whey (Eg. The liquid drained off yogurt. Yes, the yogurt matters as this is the bacteria that will innoculate your ferment. You may leave out the whey and use one more Tbsp of salt if you wish.)
- filtered water
1. Fill jar with the veggies.
2. Add the sea salt and/or whey
3. Fill water to the top of the jar right below where the cap lines begin.
4. Place a cap (I used the Ball wide-mouth plastic jar lids) on and shake a bit to dissolve salt.
5. Choose your cover. I turn a Ball plastic cap lid over to keep any vegetables from reaching the air and then place a napkin on top, held tightly with a hair elastic. The idea is to keep the veggies submerged to prevent mold and covered to prevent buggies/unwanted bacteria. Next time I will use the Pickle-It mechanism I got for Christmas.
6. Let ferment! Let sit anywhere from a few days to a week. This REALLY depends on the warmth in your home. This last one took a seven days but in the summer took 3.
Tips and Tricks
***To read more about the benefits of fermented foods, see my previous post, Fermentation 101.
***The standard percentage of salt used is typically 1% in commercial applications. I have played around with the ratio and have found that under a Tbsp increases that chances of blue mold in a quart jar under average conditions. Wheras white scum is fine and can be skimmed off, blue mold is not desired. It is recommended not to use much less if not using a starter culture or whey.
***Always start eating fermented foods a bit at a time. I began with a TBSP a day. Start slow to get your body used to the new bacteria taking over and helping heal!
1. (1998). Fermented Fruits and Vegetables: A Global Perspective. United Nations Food and Agriculture Services. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e00.htm#con