Bubbles, bacteria, probiotics, enzymes & minerals ……
Natural fermentation is quite a fascinating process, relying on just salt and water to make things literally come alive, turning your favorite fruits and vegetables into even healthier and delicious bites. One of the ways it’s different than what we think of as “pickling” is that hot brine or acid (like vinegar) is never used because that kills all of the powerhouse nutrients, and halts any type of good bacteria (like those in yogurt) from growing.
Fermentation extends the life of foods, as beneficial bacteria consume the natural sugars and produce lactic and acetic acid for preservation. And they keep your tummy happy, producing vitamins, that help to populate the gut with microbes and boost the immune system.
I tried fermenting years ago, starting with kimchi, and then kombucha, figuring it was just like a science experiment and relying on the resources I could find. Thankfully I stumbled upon Amanda’s inspiring and helpful blog, Phickle, basically an encyclopedia on everything you ever wanted to know about these crazy microbial adventures. I felt so comfortable following her recipes and tutorials, seriously demystifying the world of fermentation for me.
And now she’s written a beautiful book, Ferment Your Vegetables! I got lost in it the days after it landed on my doorstep, between the stunning photos and her practical advice on how to get your own little kitchen bubbling with jars of condiments, kraut, pickles, and even different appetizers (like fermented winter squash hummus!) you can make with the results.
I couldn’t help but make these Fermented Beets with Cumin and Basil first, imagining how beautiful they would shine in the jars, and a flavor combination that just spoke to me. I was dying to try this tangy, earthy, version of one of my favorite vegetables.
They turned out incredible. Delicately spiced and a bit sour like a good pickle should be. These colorful babes made me fall in love with beets all over again.
With natural fermentation, the earthiness of the beets turns sweeter and brighter – a true testament of how food can naturally transform into something so different. Another great example is how the fermentation of wild yeast in a sourdough starter naturally leavens sourdough bread.
Not only are they great as snack, but they make a beautiful pickle plate, with goat cheese and a heavy drizzle of olive oil.
I’ve also been eating them on salads, diced and stirred into scrambled eggs, and as a topping for juicy cuban pork bowls.