If you’re thinking you maybe, but possibly not sure want to get into fermenting produce, here is a way to do it without buying any special equipment.
SPOILAGE vs. FERMENTING:
The most common failure for a ferment is mold growing on the surface. If this happens, throw it out. COMMON QUESTION: A bulging can is a sign of botulism. Why is a bulging ferment lid a good thing? SIMPLE ANSWER: Canning destroys all the biotics … pro and con. Botulinus happens to be more heat-tolerant than the other biotics and can be the only survivor in the can if the food doesn’t get hot enough for long enough. Fermenting allows all the biotics to grow. The pro vastly out-number and out-power the con, particularly botulinus, which may be heat tolerant, but otherwise is a weenie that can’t compete unless you kill off all the competition.
The most obvious sign that the ferment has succeeded is gas production. Once the pro-biotics in the food are making that gas, you are assured that the food in the jar will remain edible for months. Let it ferment on the counter until you like the flavor, then put it in the fridge to stall the ferment until you eat it all up. It does continue fermenting very slowly even in the fridge, but you’ll eat it before you notice any increase in tartness.
This salsa recipe is excellent fresh, but even better fermented. It’s my favorite to recommend for beginners. It makes about two quarts; feel free to halve it if you want. Use ORGANIC ingredients only. They come fully stocked with an abundance of natural, healthful pro-biotics and contain no growth-restricting toxins.
- 3 lbs tomatoes, firmer varieties (like for sauce, not salad) work best.
- 1-2 onions (or scallions or chives if you prefer, or mix them).
- Minced garlic … to taste. The original recipe suggested 4 cloves, which I think is too much.
- Fresh, chopped green stuff … cilantro, parsley, carrot greens … to taste.
- 1-2 lemon and/or lime, zested and juiced.
- 2 tsp uniodized salt … you can add more than 2 tsp if you prefer the taste, but do not reduce the salt below 1 tsp per 1 quart of produce. Salt suppresses mold growth until the fermenting process takes hold. It’s very important. Note: 1 tsp applies to salt that is fine enough to pour from a shaker.
- Spices to taste … remember that oil-based flavors (most everything but salt) take time to release fully.
- Peppers, sweet and/or spicy, if you like them.
- Some kefir whey or powdered culture starter … note: these culture starters get your ferment going faster, but you don’t need them. There’s plenty of natural pro-biotics in organic produce to get a ferment growing.
Chop everything and toss it all in a bowl to get the produce to release juices to form brine (salt water). If you add chili powder or some other oil-based spices, stir it up well and let it all sit for 20 minutes or longer before taste testing. Salt releases its flavor into the food immediately. Most other additives need time to reveal themselves.
When it tastes great in the bowl, stuff it into sterile glass canning jars, leaving 1″ headroom. Push down on the food to get the brine to come up as far as it’s going to. If the natural liquid does not cover the top of the food, add kefir whey or filtered water. (Do not use tap water! The chlorine and other additives some cities add will kill your pro-biotics.)
The produce likes to float, so the top bits almost always get themselves above the water. This is where mold can take hold. Some folks use a weight; I prefer to coat the produce with a little olive oil. Oil floats, so it stays on top, it works well to keep air away from the food, and when the ferment is ready to eat, I think the oil stirred into the food enhances the flavor.
Cap the jars as shown in the photo above and leave them out on the counter at room temperature to ferment for 2 days or so, avoiding direct sunlight. If your plastic bubble gets big, unscrew the lid to release the gas, then close it up. If your plastic bursts, replace it. You can switch to a solid lid when you refrigerate if you prefer.
Source for original salsa recipe: