Like kefir, cultured veggies are another great way to get healthy bacteria into our digestive system. Cultured vegetables are similar to the Korean dish of Kimchi, but not as spicy. They tend to be “bitey”, like sauerkraut, and there is a little bit of a mental block to overcome when consuming them, considering how they’re made (there was for me anyway). Once you eat them, however, your tongue quickly acquires a taste for them, and you’ll find yourself being drawn to them regularly.
I made my cultured vegetables with whey from my kefir, but there are starters that you can buy for the process. Starters carry more of a guarantee that the vegetables won’t go bad, but they can be pricey as they need to be re-bought regularly.
To culture your own vegetables, begin by sterilizing your mason jars and lids in boiling water on the stove. For this particular recipe, you’ll need three 4-pint jars.
Take kefir that has sat long enough so that the whey is separating out.
Set a linen cloth in a strainer with a bowl underneath. Pour the kefir into the cloth and begin draining the whey by gently squeezing the kefir in the linen cloth and letting only the whey drip out. Set this aside.
Thoroughly wash your vegetables. For this particular batch we are using:
one medium head of regular cabbage
five medium sized beets
6 shallots (a vegetable that looks similar to garlic but tastes like onion)
Save the outer leaves of your cabbage, 5-10 of them, and set them aside.
Shred the cabbage and carrots with a food processor then chop the beets and shallots up together in the base of the processor.
Take 1-2 cups of this mixture and put into a blender. Add in whey so that a liquid forms.
Add purified water to the entire mixture so that your blender is 3/4 full.
Some people add salt as a preservative but others state that adding salt only adds sodium and actually prevents some of the good bacteria from growing. This is going to be according to personal preference.
Take your sterilized jars (after they have cooled) and pack your vegetable mixture in as tight as you can. Leave room for the brine and then the gas that fermentation will cause, approximately 1 inch.
Pour the brine in to the tightly packed jars, completely covering your vegetables. Vegetables that are not covered are subject to unhealthy bacteria and/or mold.
Finally, cover your entire mixture with the cabbage leaves you set aside previously. Tuck these leaves on top and around the sides.
Screw the lids on and then set aside for the next 7, 10, or 14 days. Again, this is according to preference.
Refrigerate at the end of this time period. I have found that unopened jars of these vegetables keep for several months in my fridge.
At first, I was really afraid I was going to get food poisoning or something like that when I ate these, but as of yet I have enjoyed only the healthy benefits of these cultured veggies. Everything I have read so far on the topic has stated that if the vegetables have gone bad, they will be gray in color and the smell will be unbearable. Cultured vegetables that are good will be bright in color, and though the smell will be strong and even a bit sour, it won’t be nauseating.