Wild Fermentation of Veggies

Fermented Bread & Butter Pickles

by Catherine Haug, April 16, 2012

(photo of Cat’s Pickles, by Catherine)

Dr. Mercola features a Video Interview of Carolyn Barringer on the topic of culturing veggies – how to, and the health benefits thereof. It’s a long video (1:48 hr), but for those of us who attended our gatherings on Lacto-Fermentation with Don Bates, & Jeanette Cheney Aug 17, 2011, or Homemade Sauerkraut, and introduction to Lacto-Fermentation, with Melanie Hoerner (pdf from October 2008), we’ve seen live demonstrations.

Carolyn uses a slightly different technique than we’ve presented, in that she does the fermentation in the quart glass jars that are also the storage jars (so no need to transfer from crock to jar), and uses the sodium-rich juice of celery instead of salt. Note that the fermented product is NOT canned (heat-treated) as that would decimate the probiotics and enzymes in the ferment.

Six Simple Steps to Veggie Culturing

Mercola’s article, The Hidden Cause of OCD Almost No One Considers, leads off with new research about the role played by strep bacteria in the development of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Introducing a small amount of fermented foods each day can have an incredible effect on the health of our bodies, and keep these troublesome bad microbes at bay.

Fermented foods also have an amazing detoxification ability; if you are new to them, introduce them slowly – starting with just one bite a day – to minimize the detox symptoms (headache, tiredness, etc.) – then slowly increase to a 1/4 cup serving size once or twice a day.

From this same article, Carolyn outlines the veggie-culturing process in “six simple steps”:

“Most people are intimidated by the thought of fermenting their own foods, and worry that the culturing process might lead to some horrific pathogenic infection. But such fears are undeserved. Getting it right is actually easier than you might think.”

“Wild fermentation allows whatever is on the vegetable or fruit that you’re culturing to naturally take hold and culture the food. The drawback of this method is that it’s very time consuming. Most people prefer inoculating the food with some type of starter culture, which will significantly speed up the fermentation process. Also, while you can use a crock pot, Caroline recommends culturing your veggies directly in the glass Mason jars, which eliminates the need for a crock pot and eliminates a transfer step in the process.

This also allows you to make smaller batches, and it eliminates the presence of wild yeasts that can occur when using a crock. These yeasts tend to give the food a cheesy flavor, which many find unpalatable. Here’s a quick summary of Caroline’s recipe for how to make your own fermented veggies. For more information, please listen to the interview, or read through the transcript:

  1. Shred and cut your chosen veggies
  2. Juice some celery. This is used as the brine, as it contains natural sodium [nitrate] and keeps the vegetables anaerobic. This eliminates the need for sea salt, [to prevent] growth of pathogenic bacteria
  3. Pack the veggies and celery juice along with the inoculants (starter culture, such as kefir grains, whey, or commercial starter powder all of which can be used for vegetables) into a 32 ounce wide-mouthed canning jar. A kraut pounder tool can be helpful to pack the jar and eliminate any air pockets
  4. Top with a cabbage leaf, tucking it down the sides. Make sure the veggies are completely covered with celery juice and that the juice is all the way to the top of the jar to eliminate trapped air
  5. Seal the jar and store in a warm, slightly moist place for 24 to 96 hours, depending on the food being cultured. Ideal temperature range is 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit; 85 degrees max, as heat will kill the microbes
  6. When done, store in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process

Last but not least, resist the temptation to eat out of the jar, as organisms from your mouth can be introduced into the jar this way. Instead, always use a clean spoon to take out what you’re going to eat, then, making sure the remaining veggies are covered with the brine solution, recap the jar.”

For More Information

ESP articles:

ESP Recipe files:

2 Responses to “Wild Fermentation of Veggies”

  1. Ellen says:

    Thank you for this information; I too saw the article and listened to the interview but I still have a couple of questions.

    1) How much whey should I use for a 1 qt. jar?

    2) Is it ok to use ‘pulverized’ celery OR must it be only the juice? I use a Blend-Tec which processes the ‘whole’ piece of produce.

    Thanks again for your article and time.


  2. Catherine says:

    Thanks for your query, Ellen.
    The whey is not mandatory if you add salt, but it is important if you ferment without salt, or with low salt. Alternately you can use the juice from another fermented product, such as sauerkraut (not canned).

    The instructions in the article are not mine, and I cannot speak for the author. However, I have a recipe that makes 2 quarts of bread and butter pickles, which calls for 1/3 cup whey and 3 Tbsp sea salt. You can view my recipe (originally from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon) at Lacto-condiments (several recipes).

    I make my whey by letting yogurt drip through a cheesecloth, or you can use whey from cheesemaking. Note that it may cause a bit of white powder at the top of the fermentation jar – this is normal and is not bad for you. (You won’t get that white powder if you use sauerkraut or other fermentation juice)

    I’m not sure about the celery question (since this is not my recipe), but I’d give the pulverized celery a try as long as you keep it in the fridge, or add salt. I’m currently experimenting with ground celery seed (or celery salt) as a natural preservative along with kosher salt for cured meat (bacon, ham, dried beef, etc.). All parts of the celery plant are useful for fermentation, as it provides sodium nitrate which is antibiotic against botulism and other pathogens. See Nitrates: Facts about Sodium Nitrate for more on this topic.

    Also, you may want to check out another of my articles, a summary of an event on vegetable fermentation. Scroll down to “For More Information” for books and links. The second group are links to the recipe handouts for that event.