Fermentation may seem scary or complicated to those who are new to the idea. I was always intrigued about the process, but felt overwhelmed by the mere thought of it, not to mention wary of the end result. Better off to leave it to the experts, I thought.
My wariness of fermentation finally took a backseat last year when I decided to just try it and see what happened. I prepared one jar of shredded cabbage seasoned with caraway seeds, to be fermented into (you guessed it) sauerkraut. And as it turns out, fermentation is one of those lost arts that is incredibly simple, delicious, and healthy. I have had many friends taste (and love) my pickles and sauerkraut, only to marvel at the fact that they’ve always disliked the store-bought versions.
Let’s get down to basics. The gist of fermenting any vegetable is this: Vegetables, fruits, and almost everything else for that matter, already have good bacteria called lactobacilli living on them. By submerging vegetables in a salt-water brine, you create an environment where these bacteria can grow and multiply, feeding on the sugars naturally present in the vegetables (in this recipe we’re not submerging the vegetables, but you get the idea). Byproducts of the bacteria’s metabolism of these sugars include enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and organic acids, all of which are beneficial to human health. The bacteria also break down the tough cell walls of the vegetable, making the nutrients inside of the cells more available to us when we eat them. Therefore fermented vegetables are even higher in nutritional value than they were before the fermentation process began. Another plus: When vegetables are fermented, the population of good bacteria protect the vegetables from the bad bacteria responsible for spoilage. Fermented vegetables can last months, if not longer, out of the fridge. In the fridge, they last even longer. Every traditional culture has had at least one fermented food that they relied on, for both health reasons and for the fact that the bacteria protects the food from going bad in times when refrigerators weren’t yet invented.
- 1 pound of mixed organic hot peppers, chopped (we used a mix of cayenne, jalapeño, and habanero)
- 4 small/medium organic bell peppers, chopped (we used 2 orange, 1 yellow, and 1 red)
- 1 large head of garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
- Roughly chop the peppers and garlic and place in a food processor. Process into a paste. Add the salt and process again until well combined.
- Pour the hot sauce into a 1L wide-mouth mason jar. Make sure you leave a few inches of space at the top, as the mixture will expand with air bubbles. Fit the jar with your desired fermenting lid (as described above).
- Let the jar sit at room temperature for 4-6 weeks. The bacteria will do all the work from this point on. We left ours for just over 4 weeks. If you are using the normal mason jar lid, don’t forget to burp the jar a few times a day. Do not let the peppers sit in direct sunlight, though they will be okay in either a light or dark space, like a kitchen counter or in a cupboard. The warmer your kitchen is, the faster they will ferment. Try tasting your hot sauce after 1 week to see how you like the flavour. The longer it ferments, the more the flavour will develop. Taste it regularly. When you are happy with the flavour, seal the jar with a normal lid and store in the fridge. The fermentation process does continue in the fridge, but very very slowly.