What’s orange and tasted like a pickle? Dilly carrots! …Also known as lacto-fermented carrots. It’s a strange name for a delicious food, but one that I’m very excited about and happy to share with you. Even though I have known for years that people used to make pickles in a crock instead of a canner, my understanding of lacto-fermentation is fairly new. Normally when food sits on my counter for a long time, it gets pretty nasty, so it took some research and convincing before I would do this on purpose and then eat the product of my intentional neglect.
If you are in the same boat, let me briefly explain what lacto-fermentation is and why it’s so good. It’s a simple process of putting fresh vegetables in a salty brine and letting the flavors meld while “good bacteria” grow and the health benefits of the fresh veggie stay intact. Good bacteria (AKA probiotics) can grow in the salty environment, but bad bacteria (you know, fuzzy-slimy-moldy-gunk) can not survive in it. As long as the veggie stays below the surface of the brine, and the salt ratio is right, the food will not spoil. It will instead be delicious.
The recipe I’m going to share with you is very basic. All you will need is 2-3 pounds of fresh carrots, 1 quart of water, and a rounded tablespoon of canning/pickling salt. (Fresh dill and garlic are optional, but highly recommended) 🙂 Here’s what you do:
- Wash your carrots (don’t peel them), and cut them up into sticks or slices. Tightly pack them into a jar (I use a half gallon jar, but you could use a couple quarts). Add cloves of garlic and sprigs of dill for extra flavor.
- In a separate bowl, dissolve the salt in a quart of room temperature water to make the brine. Pour the brine into the jar of carrots up to a half inch from the rim of the jar. Jiggle the jar to work bubbles out, and add more brine if necessary.
- Place a stopper in the top. Forgive me for not knowing the correct term for this device, but please watch the video to see what it is and how to make one for almost nothing.
- Put a loose-fitting lid on the jar, and place the jar in a tray or dish to catch any possible spill-over as fermentation happens. Label the lid with the food that’s inside and the date you started the ferment.
- Let the veggies ferment for a week or two before tasting. Once they reach the flavor you like, you can stall the fermentation by putting the jar in the fridge. When I made fermented jalapenos, I never put them in the fridge. They stayed on a shelf for a year and were still delicious when we ate them!
Additional tid-bits for you:
- The optimal temperature range for fermentation is 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temps will cause slower fermentation, and warmer temps cause faster fermentation (and sometimes a change in food texture).
- The reason I don’t peel the carrots is because there is good bacteria already on it. If I peel it, I’d be getting rid of a lot of that good stuff. So instead I just lightly scrub with water (no soap).
- When you open your jar and smell the contents, it should smell good. If it smells like rotting garbage, don’t eat it. If you see fuzzy, furry mold growing on it, don’t eat it. Get rid of it. Like my high school algebra teach used to say, “When in doubt, flunk ’em out!”
- To prevent mold, make sure the veggies stay beneath the surface of the brine. Use a “stopper” like mentioned above (and in the video). Also make sure you carefully measure your salt and water. Click HERE for a helpful brine calculator.
- If you see a light colored, dry, powdery film that covers the surface of the brine, that is most likely a naturally occurring yeast, which is harmless. If you get it on the food when getting some out of the jar, you can just wipe or rinse it off.
- Using an airlock is optional, in my opinion. It *might* help prevent bad molds and yeast from entering your jar, but is not required for good results. I’ve never owned an airlock, but our fermented foods have turned out very good.
If you have any questions about fermenting vegetables, leave a comment below or send me an email. I am not an expert, but I will answer them as best as I can or at least help you find sources of helpful information. If you are an expert and have some tips for the rest of us, leave your comments below, too.