A Quick Lesson in Radish Fermentation
Fermented foods are so great for you, improving gut health, inflammation, digestion, overall immunity, and more! Fresh, truly “living” fermented foods can cost quite a lot at the grocery store, but they very easy to make at home.
Follow along to make one of the most simple ferment recipes out there. You can use any radishes you have on hand. This week at the Farm, we harvested French Breakfast and Easter Egg varieties (pictured below). You do not need to be a fan of radishes to enjoy this recipe! Seriously.
-A Fermenting Vessel
Some folks use ceramic crocks, but many homesteaders and herbalists these days just use mason jars of varying sizes. For small batches of fermented radishes like this one, you could use a pint or quart jar.
-Fermenting Lid or Air-Lock Device The use of a lid made for the fermentation process is ideal, which makes the job much easier and pretty foolproof, though a regular jar lid can be used with a few tweaks. Examples of fermenting lids include an all-in-one device like a Kraut Source lid, or the use of a combination of items like a glass or ceramic weight along with another type of air lock lid.
-Fresh Radishes – approximately 1 bunch for a quart jar batch
-Salt -non-iodized, sea salt preferred
-Garlic – 2 to 4 cloves
-Optional: dill, peppercorns, chili peppers, or red chili flakes
1) Clean Your Supplies
You want to make sure all of your supplies are clean. No, they don’t need to be insanely clean or “sterile” – you actually never want to use bleach, or even soap on your fermenting tools! The residual could stick around and really make things “off”.
2) Prep Radishes
Remove the greens, and wash the radishes well. You can eat those greens you know! Sautéing them takes care of the prickle. Or at least compost them, or give them to the chickens. Then, cut the radishes into bite sizes. For smaller radishes, some could be left in whole round slices. For larger radishes, cut them into halves or even quarter slices. They’ll ferment well all the same! 3) Add Seasoning
In the bottom of your chosen fermenting vessel, add some freshly washed herbs, spices, and a clove or two of garlic. If you don’t like herbs or garlic, you can totally skip either and keep it super simple. Or if you love garlic, you can add more.
You can also get creative here and go beyond what this basic recipe is calling for. For example, add a chunk of fresh ginger or turmeric, a dash of red chili flakes, or even a whole hot chili pepper – if you want some heat! That’s the beauty of fermenting. The options for creativity are endless. Keep in mind that flavors usually mellow out when fermented too, like how hot chilis will become much less spicy than when eaten raw or even cooked once they’re fermented.
4) Pack the Vessel
Start adding your cut up radishes to the jar. When fermenting, it’s best to try to fit as many radishes in the jar as possible. If you’re going through this process, you might as well maximize the amount of cultured food you get out of it in the end. This will also reduce the amount of brine needed, and the amount of air that can get trapped inside. So, when you’re putting the radishes into the jar, don’t just throw handfuls in there all haphazardly. Try to layer them in little by little, so that they’re all lying down flat against one another, reducing air pockets.
5) Make A Brine
The standard brine ratio for fermented vegetables is 1 tablespoon of sea salt or kosher salt per 2 cups filtered water. Do not use regular table salt or salt that has been otherwise iodized. It will say it on the package if it has been. This messes up the fermentation process.
The goal is to stir and dissolve the salt in the filtered water, so it will need to be room temperature or slightly warmer. You don’t want to add hot brine to your ferment, but warm is okay. With a fully-packed jar of veggies, 2 cups of brine should be plenty for a quart size jar. 6) Pour It In Slowly pour the brine into the jar, until the radishes are completely covered. Pockets of air are likely trapped in there, so give the jar a little tap to try to get them to come up.
7) Add a Weight
Some of the radishes will try to float on the surface, but they do need to stay submerged below the brine level. If they’re allowed to float and be in contact with air, mold can develop. There are several lids and weights on the market made just for this purpose. Some people get resourceful and use other clean items that fit inside their vessel, like a boiled rock or smaller glass jar. 8) Cover
Next, the jar or container you’re fermenting in needs to be covered with a tight fitting lid. The use of an air-lock lid made for fermenting is preferable. These allow for the release of any excess air and carbon dioxide that is produced during fermentation, without allowing new air or anything else to come in. There are a lot of other mason jar fermentation lids out there. Here are some Kraut Source lids, and here are some silicone nipple type- these would need to be used in conjunction with a weight of some sort, like these glass ones. If you’re not using an air lock, you can tightly screw on a regular lid, but then make sure to quickly “burp” your jars every few days to release the built up carbon dioxide.
9) Ferment the Radishes
Once it’s all put together, let your fermented radishes sit out at room temperature for 7-14 days to do its thang. The time depends on your personal flavor preference, and the temperature of your house. Warmer conditions will ferment things more quickly, and cooler does just the opposite. The ideal fermentation temperature is around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Notes during fermentation:
During fermentation, you will notice the fermented radishes start to undergo change. The lactobacillus is working away to convert the starches in the food into lactic acid, which preserves it. In the process, carbon dioxide is formed, so you’ll probably see some bubbling activity in there. The fermented radishes will also start to change color. If you used traditional red and white radishes, the color from their skins will start to bleed and dye everything a beautiful pink tone. The brine itself gets cloudy, and this is totally normal!
If you are using a Kraut Source lid, or similar lid, keep an eye on its little water-filled moat, making sure it always has some clean water in there. It doesn’t dry out easily though. On the other hand, vessels may overflow from the lid for the first several days of fermentation. Once that initial burst of activity subsides (about 5 days later), the moat can dry up and you’ll want to add more water into it. Another thing you may notice during fermentation may be a slightly odd odor. This is totally normal. They will taste better than they smell.
When the time is up, remove the lid, replace it with a regular lid, and move your finished ferment to the fridge. Most fermented foods are good for several months in the fridge, if not longer.
11) Enjoy! Now it is time to feed your belly with probiotic-rich home-fermented food! You might want to use these fermented radishes as a salad topping, or on top of sauteed veggies with lentils. They could also be used in egg salad, like a pickle on an hor d’oeuvre plate with cheese and crackers, or just snacked on plain.
Photo credit: Radish Harvest, taken by our wonderful volunteer Robin Rendon. Recipe and advice adapted from the wonderful DeannaCat over at Homestead and Chill