Wednesday, August 31, 2011
When you mix up vegetables and salt, put a weight on top to extrude the juices, and tuck the lot away in a coolish spot for a few days, you expect a fresh and tangy batch of fermented goodness to result. But other tranformations can occur, as well. Fishing around in my most excellent Dunn County Pottery crock recently for veg to top a rice bowl lunch, I extracted this exquisite little morsel: a quarter of a tiny eggplant that went into the brine with the first batch of vegetables. It started out as a typical midnight-dark eggplant (though tiny), and faded in the brine--though faded doesn't quite seem the right word for this gorgeous change--to the lovely bit of vegetal jewelry you see here. Almost too pretty to eat--and I must admit, it actually did look better than it tasted, a little on the tough side.
But I still feel that it contributed more than its share to a weekday lunch. The fermented carrots, long beans, chile, and cabbage provided plenty of crunch and zip to help the rice go down very nicely.
The basic formula is 2 teaspoons of salt to a pound of vegetables. You don't need a crock to make fermented vegetables, either. A gallon glass jar will do, or a wide-mouth quart if you want to start small. Just about any good, fresh vegetables can be fermented this way. Though I warn you: If you put red beets in the mix, you'll get a color transformation far less sublte than my blanched eggplants. Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation is my guide in most things fermented.
Text and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw