This post picks up exactly where Part 1 of the cultured veggie tutorial left off, so if you haven’t read the first post yet, start there.
10. Make your “brine.”
You have two options for this step. First, you can use handfuls of your shredded/sliced/chopped veggie mix. Alternatively, you can use a completely different vegetable. Either works well. I decided to experiment with this batch by using celery to make the brine.
Begin by filling your blender about 2/3 full of vegetables and add distilled water up to an inch or two below the top of your vegetables. Like this:
You can see it up close here:
Now secure the lid and let the machine do its job.
Pour the brine into a separate bowl from the veggies and process 2 more batches (assuming you’re planning to have 10 to 12 quarts of vegetables when you’re done). It’s better to have too much brine than too little, so be generous. Empty these batches into the same bowl as the first.
11. Inoculate your brine with good bacteria and pour it over the vegetables.
Remember that little bowl you set aside earlier with the packet of culture starter and honey or sugar? Pour it into the bowl of brine and mix thoroughly. If you’re using whey or InnergyBiotic instead, now is the time to add it. Since I wanted to make half of my batch with InnergyBiotic as an experiment, I divided the brine into 2 bowls and added the culture starter to the first and the InnergyBiotic to the second. Easy.
Now pour the whole mixture over your prepared vegetables and mix thoroughly.
12. Pack the vegetables into mason jars.
Although not required, a funnel like this can help reduce the mess during this step:
Scoop the soupy veggies into your jars and pack them down tightly. Use your fist to help.
I like to do 5 or 6 jars at a time. You’ll end up with something like this:
But see how the veggies look a little dry? They need to be covered in liquid, so use a dipper to scoop some out of your large bowl and add a bit to the jars. Here’s another picture of a jar of veggies that’s too dry (this is a photo from a different batch, which is why the veggies are a different color):
See how there is only liquid in the bottom of the jar? This is what you want instead:
13. Wedge rolled cabbage leaves into the tops of the jars.
To ensure that the vegetables stay underwater, grab one of those cabbage leaves you set aside back in step #7. Dip it in some of the vegetable juice left in the large bowl. Then, roll the leaf and wedge it into the top of the jar, so that it hold the veggies underneath the surface of the brine. Here’s how it will look:
That particular cabbage leaf had a very wide, large rib in it, so I folded the whole piece rather flat, and shoved it into the jar. I lodged it just under the lip of the mouth. This is how it looks from the side:
See? Everything’s submerged. Here’s a close-up shot:
In the case of this batch, my cabbage leaves were a little smaller, so I had to use two rolled up in each jar:
But it all works the same way. Just for kicks, here’s another — much prettier — example:
Aren’t those colors gorgeous? The jar shown above is part of a batch of marinara-style cultured vegetables. For that recipe, go here.
In case you’re wondering why it’s so important for the vegetables to be completely submerged, let me explain. The kind of bacteria you want in your veggies is the anaerobic variety. If your veggies are exposed to too much oxygen, other kinds of bacteria and mold can form. If you follow these steps correctly, however, you should never have a problem with this. Your vegetables will look almost exactly the same when you open them up a week from now as they do today — no mold in sight.
[Edited: When you use a brightly colored vegetables like beets or red cabbage, the final product can look a little different because these veggies stain the other ones pink. That's okay. Just watch out for gray and icky.]
14. Add the lids.
You’ll want to screw them on very tightly because, as the bacteria multiply, they will produce gas and, thus, pressure, inside the jars. If you’re a bit of a weakling, get your husband to help out with this step. Take a look at what you’ll have when you’re done:
Or, if you make the pretty ones, you can enjoy this sight:
15. Set the jars aside at room temperature for at least 5 days and as many as 14 days.
Since I’ve had a few problems with leaks before, I put this batch in my bathtub on a folded towl. Protect the jars from sunlight.
I usually ferment the veggies for 7 days, but I left the last batch out for 9 days. The longer you leave them, the more the bacteria will grow (which is good for you) and the more sour the veggies will become.
16. Place the jars on the top shelf of your refrigerator.
Be sure to keep them in a spot in your fridge where they won’t freeze or frost. The vegetables improve with age, so if you like, you can let them rest for a week or two before you break into them. Cultured vegetables will last for months and months and months, although you will hopefully chow through them so fast you’ll need another batch in couple of weeks.
17. Enjoy your good health!
If you’re interested in the recipe I used for this batch of vegetables, check back tomorrow. I sampled them for the first time today, and they turned out very, very well!