Fermentation is an ancient way of preserving food, allowing the naturally-present bacteria to feast on the sugar in vegetables, producing lactic acid, CO2 and a small amount of alcohol which stop the food from rotting.
While the squeamish may be horrified by the idea of leaving food to sit around for weeks, don’t be put off: fermented food is not only perfectly safe but it also brings some serious health benefits. Fermented goodies contain probiotic bacteria to help out your gut, they have a higher vitamin content than raw or cooked food, their minerals become more digestible, and any pesticide residue is reduced or destroyed in the process.
And let’s not forget about those funky fermented flavours which liven up your plate. For a seasonal winter ferment, try switching red radish for its winter counterpart, the bigger and tougher black radish. Blow your mind and your tastebuds (but not your fermenting jars!) by coming along to a masterclass with fermentation guru Maxime Willems from Proef foodlab.
1tbs salt per half kilogram
Mix of seeds, such as mustard, fennel, caraway, coriander, anis…
Chop up the radishes any way you want and place them in a bowl. The smaller you cut them, the faster they will ferment.
Tip them into a bowl and add one tablespoon of salt per half kilo of radish. Add the seeds then let it rest for a while.
Press the mix into a glass jar and fill with water until the radish is completely immersed in the liquid. Make sure there’s at least a 7.5 cm space between the lid and the pressed mix, and use a weight if necessary to keep the vegetables under the liquid line.
Store at room temperature (18-23 degrees). Release the pressure every few days by opening and resealing the lid, especially during the first days. (This is super important: if you forget to do this, the released gasses might cause your jar to explode.) If you use a rubber gasket you won’t need to do this because it will release the pressure automatically. If you notice that your ferment smells like sweat (yum...) it’s fine, but not if it smells like rotting.
When will your ferment be ready? This depends on a number of factors, such as the local bacterial population, the temperature of the environment, the amount of salt you use, and your own taste preferences. Check it weekly, and when you’re satisfied with the taste and texture, move it to a cooler location such as a basement or fridge to slow down the fermentation process.