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Granny Trude
Fermentation – happy bubbles for good health

Fermentation – happy bubbles for good health
Fermented vegetables of all kinds - a dream for Trude | © Illustration (detail): Celine Buldun

Food preservation is quite the thing these days. Just like so much from the old days. And if you fill up your store cupboards, you don’t have to visit the supermarket as often – Granny Trude’s pleased about that, and not just in corona times.

By Granny Trude

My dears,
We’re still going through the corona crisis. Who’d have thought it would assume such huge proportions? Fortunately the rules have been relaxed a little, and I can meet up with my friend Inge again – with social distancing and usually wearing masks she has sewn herself. We now go out for a long walk every day and talk about our new passion, fermentation. It’s such fun and there are so many benefits, I absolutely must tell you about it!

Chemistry – but it’s quite simple

The concept of fermentation describes a chemical process that occurs with the help of bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria cause changes to the vegetable, and this process is supported by salt and the removal of oxygen. That’s a very rough explanation, but you can read up on all the details online after all. Something else from the field of chemistry that’s good to know: the bacteria break down carbohydrates (sugar molecules) to form lactic acid, giving it the flavour and extended life.

Why the trend?

You might say the vegetables are “pre-digested” by this transformation process – which sounds somewhat unappetising but just means that it’s more digestible. It contains loads of vitamins because it hasn’t been cooked, and it’s incredibly beneficial for our gut flora and therefore our immune systems. But we also save packaging, don’t consume energy, generate less plastic waste, don’t leave anything to go off, live more mindfully – quite frankly, we’ve slowed things down. Time invested in our healthy diet is worthwhile in all respects – after all, isn’t slow food associated with savour and flavour?

Revival of the fittest

Although fermentation is a really old method, neither Inge nor I had ever tried it before. In the old days everything had to be done quickly, when the kids were still living at home. We were lazy as well, belonging to a generation that really enjoyed the luxury of a fridge and tinned goods. And then our mothers’ nifty preservation methods simply ended up being forgotten.
But a few months ago my daughter Silke and grand-daughter Emmi were raving about it so much that I wanted to give it a try too. You do know I’m always up for experimenting! Emiliana is 14, very interested in healthy nutrition and absolutely couldn’t bear an animal to die for her. So vegetables are right at the top of the menu for her, and lately they’ve often been fermented. In Hamburg, where Silke lives with her family, there are even courses on fermentation. In the cities they all call it “happy bubbles” – a reference to the foaming bubbles produced during the fermenting process.

Don’t over-season

So if you’ve picked up a bargain at the market, or harvested a lot of veg from your own garden, fermenting is a good alternative to making preserves or pickling. The vegetables stay crisp and end up with a slightly acidic taste. Whole new worlds of flavour open up, and you always know what’s in it! By the way, it’s essential that you use organic veg.
Of course you can introduce lots of variation by seasoning – but be careful not to use too much because fermentation intensifies the spicy flavour. After a few experiments that didn’t turn out so well I’ve found the rule of thumb: use about a teaspoon of herbs and spices per 500 grams of veg.

Everything’s orange to begin with

I did my first fermentation using carrots, very simple! I recommend that for you too. Add a little oil and it tastes lovely with fish or poultry. This is what you need:
  • 500 g organic carrots
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • small amount of chilli
  • a few sprigs of fresh dill
  • 20 g coarse sea salt
  • 1 litre water 
You also need a preserving jar (without the rubber seal) and a weight to hold the carrots below the surface of the liquid. You can buy special fermentation weights – or alternatively you could use something like marbles in a freezer bag. The internet will tell you what else you can use as a weight.
It’s important that you work under sterile conditions. And now you’re ready to start:
  • give the carrots a good scrub, remove the ends and cut into ½ cm slices
  • blot the dill sprigs dry, chop the garlic finely and add to the tightly packed carrots in the jar
  • dissolve the salt in the water and pour over the carrots; they need to be completely covered
  • put the weight on top, close the lid and label with the date
  • cover with a cloth to protect the vegetables from the light
  • leave to stand for 1 week at room temperature (20-22 degrees)
  • then put on a plate and leave to stand in a cool place (16-18 degrees), after that the carrots will keep in the fridge for at least 3 months. You need the plate in case liquid overflows from the jar. 
And that’s it. Easy and tasty.
My daughter Silke also recommended a recipe for salted lemons. I’m going to make those – my mouth’s watering already.
My dears, stay healthy and cheerful!
Yours, Trude