Fermenting vegetables is a practice that has been done for thousands of years. In modern times, even with all the tools of the trade and experience with fermenting veggies, you can still end up with a soggy and mushy mess of a fermented vegetable, and no one likes a soggy veggie. So, how do you keep fermented veggies crisp?
There are many ways to keep fermented vegetables crisp; let’s dive in and go into more detail about each step and how it will aid you in making perfectly crisp fermented veggies. Here are the basic steps to learn about when it comes to keeping your fermented veggies crisp:
- Use fresh, firm veggies
- Use sea salt for brine
- Add tannins to the brine
- Remove blossom ends of veggies
- Soak veggies in ice water
- Pierce skin of thick veggies
- Ferment at cool temperatures
- If it’s hot, ferment for less time
- Taste the veggies often
Steps To Keep Fermented Veggies Crisp
Keeping your fermented veggies crisp can be a challenge as one day can mean the difference between a crisp fermented veggie and a soggy, mushy veggie that no one wants to eat.
Thankfully, there are some things we can add to the brine before we put the veggies in it, and a few things we can do to prepare the veggies before they go into the brine to help them stay crisp, crunchy, and good to eat.
We also need to ensure that we have full control over how fast our veggies ferment to help us get the crisp fermented veggies that we like.
Fermenting the vegetables too quickly can have undesirable results and turn your veggies into mush inside the jar. Here is what we can do to the brine and the veggies to ensure a better crisp that lasts longer.
#1: Use Fresh and Firm Veggies
To help ensure that you get the crispness you enjoy from your fermented vegetables, you should start with quality vegetables. The fresher the vegetables are, the better the ferment will turn out to be.
TIP: The ideal situation is to use fresh-grown garden vegetables that are harvested on the same day that you intend to ferment them. You can’t get vegetables any fresher than that!
Make sure that your vegetables do not have any soft spots and that they do not look too wrinkly. If any are bruised during the harvesting process, it’s best to use that particular vegetable in a meal rather than include it in the ferment.
Bruised vegetables tend to get mushy much quicker than unbruised vegetables, so take your time to select the best ones.
You want to use the best and most fresh veggies that you can get your hands on. Whether you have the opportunity to pick vegetables fresh from the garden or get some from a local farmer’s market, then those veggies would be the ideal candidates to use for fermenting.
REMEMBER: If your veggies have any soft spots, or bruises, or are on the slightly over-ripe soft side, then it is best not to use them for fermenting. If you want your fermented veggies to be crisp, these old veggies that are past their prime will go even softer during the fermentation process.
Essentially, the reason that they will go soft is that they have already started to decompose. The decomposing process creates additional sugars that become part of the ferment and can result in unintended textures and tastes for your ferment.
This could also add different bacteria into the fermentation, which can cause the ferment to react differently and affect the final outcome of the vegetables.
#2: Use Sea Salt When Making Brine
Once you have fresh veggies, you can begin to make the brine for fermentation which is a crucial ingredient that is imperative to get right. The salt in the brine helps to control and prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying in the fermentation.
The salt also helps to create a positive saline content around the vegetables, which draws excess water out of the vegetables and helps to keep them crisp and firm.
NOTE: The best and healthiest choice for the salt component is to use natural sea salt. The reason why sea salt is the best to use for fermentation is that sea salt contains minerals like magnesium and calcium. This sea salt from Amazon works great.
To make the best brine for crispy fermented veggies, it is best to have about a 4-5% salt concentration as this will help bring out the crispiness of the veggies.
To make a brine solution that has the right salt concentration for your ferment, use one of these ratios:
- For a 4% salt concentration, use two tablespoons of sea salt per 4 cups of pure water.
- For a 5% salt concentration, use two and a half (2.5) tablespoons of salt per 4 cups of water.
TIP: Try both salt concentrations to know which you like best, everybody’s tastes are different. Some people like the 5% but for others, it may be too salty.
A note on water:
Ordinary tap water is not the best medium for making brine. Most tap water contains fluoride and chlorine, which are both chemicals that are designed to reduce the quantities of microorganisms in the water.
These chemicals in tap water will hinder your ferment and could produce unsatisfactory results, such as slowing the ferment or reducing the effectiveness of the ferment.
It’s best to use filtered water or distilled water where the concentration of these chemicals has been reduced or eliminated completely. This water filter from Amazon is very good quality and perfect for filtering water for drinking and fermenting.
#3: Add Tannins to the Brine
Adding tannins to the brine is one of the best ways to keep your veggies from going soggy while fermenting. Once the brine is made and completely ready, add tannins before you add in your veggies.
Tannins will help prevent the cell walls of your veggies from breaking down, which is one of the causes of veggies going soggy. Tannins are the best thing to add to your brine to keep your fermented veggies crisp. We will go through tannins and tannin sources later on in this article.
#4: Remove the Blossom Ends of Veggies
The ends of the vegetables that connected them to their plants are known as the blossom end. This end of the veggies needs to be removed before they are soaked because it contains an enzyme that will soften and break down your veggies.
This is a natural reaction in the plants that causes the vegetable to continue to ripen, which encourages it to soften. However, this is the outcome we are trying to avoid and we do not want this to happen during fermentation.
So, use a knife to cut off a very thin slice from the blossom end of your veggies; this will help the veggies to keep their firm texture throughout the fermentation process. If you do not do this, then there is a chance that your veggies may go soggy while fermenting.
#5: Soak the Veggies in Ice Water Before Fermenting
Once the veggies have been trimmed and the brine has been made, soak the vegetables in ice water for about one to two hours before you place them in the brine.
Soaking vegetables in ice water will help them get nice and firm. This process cools down the water in the cells of the vegetables and also allows them to absorb any water that they are lacking.
REMEMBER: Vegetables can be a bit dehydrated without looking wilted, but you want them nice and hydrated for fermenting so they can stay crisp. Soaking them is a helpful task for hydration!
#6: Puncture the Skin of Thick Veggies
Some vegetables have harder skin compared to others, so for these hard-skinned veggies, you should pierce the skin a few times around the vegetable before you place them in the brine.
Use a paring knife or a skewer to puncture the skin of the vegetable. The vegetables can get a bit slippery during this process, so be sure to have a firm grip on the vegetable and the tool you are using to puncture it with.
Piercing vegetables that have hard skin helps the brine to penetrate into the vegetable faster, allowing it to culture more evenly. Faster brine penetration and faster culture time will help your veggies to stay crisp as it will take less time for them to ferment.
Once this is done, then it is finally time to place the veggies into the brine and get the fermentation process started!
#7: Ferment at a Colder Temperature
Once the veggies are in the brine and you have sealed the container properly, place the container in a cool place in your house. If your house is too warm, it can cause problems with the fermentation process. A hot fermentation can speed up the process too much and lead to your veggies losing their crispiness.
To keep your fermenting veggies cool throughout fermentation, you can place them in a cool and dark kitchen cabinet that does not get direct sunlight at any point in the day, or you can place your fermenting veggies in the fridge to keep them cool.
NOTE: Cooler temperatures do make the fermentation process take a bit longer, but give you more control over the process, and will keep your veggies at the crispiness you prefer.
#8: If It’s Hot, Ferment the Veggies For Less Time
If you do not have a cool place to keep your fermenting veggies, you can still ferment your veggies in a warmer environment and yet keep the veggies crisp. This will be a bit more difficult and require a bit more work as you will need to monitor your fermentation much more closely.
If the temperature in your house is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius), then you should ferment your veggie for a shorter amount of time.
In these conditions, you should check your fermenting veggies after about three days to see if they are ready yet or not. If they are not ready, then leave them for another two days and then check them again.
Hot temperatures will make your veggies ferment quicker, which could make them lose their crispiness and turn soggy if you do not watch them and stop the fermentation when it needs to be stopped.
#9: Taste the Veggies Frequently
Once the veggies have been fermenting for a bit, open them up and cut a small piece of the vegetable, and taste it. This will help you know if your fermented veggies are ready or not.
Check your ferment on a regular basis. Fermenting can be a finicky process and it can only take one day without checking your vegetables for them to change and go soggy.
TIP: If your fermented veggies start to show signs of going soggy, you need to place them in the fridge immediately to stop the sogginess from going any further.
Natural Sources of Tannin for Fermentation
Tannin is a great help to people who want to make crisp and delicious fermented vegetables. Tannin is one of the best things you can add to your fermenting veggies to keep them crisp. Almost all fermenters will highly recommend putting tannin in your brine when fermenting veggies.
If you do just one of the steps mentioned above to keep your veggies crisp, add tannin to your ferments. This is one of the best and simplest ways of keeping fermenting veggies crisp; it may even be called a trade secret for fermenters.
DID YOU KNOW? Most people who ferment veggies will use grape leaves when fermenting to add tannin to their ferments. Grape leaves have some of the highest concentrations of tannin in them that you can get.
However, it can sometimes be hard to get a hold of some grape leaves, thankfully, and to the delight of fermenters everywhere, there are many sources of tannin that you can use apart from grape leaves, and they are quite easy to acquire.
Good Sources for Tannin to Use in Fermenting
- Bay leaves (these ones from Amazon are great)
- Cherry leaves
- Black currant leaves
- Indian almond leaves
- Raspberry leaves
- Horseradish root, chopped or grated (order it here from Amazon)
- Horseradish leaves
- Sour cherry leaves
- Mesquite leaves
- Oak leaves (these contain the highest amount of tannins, so be careful, you only need a little)
- Green banana leaf
- Loose tea leaves
- A tea bag
These are all great sources of tannin, but bay leaves are by far the easiest one from the list to get your hands on. Only need about two to four bay leaves per quart when fermenting to achieve the best crisp for your veggies.
There are methods we can use to help our fermented veggies to stay crisp while fermenting: changing the type of salt used and the salt concentration in the brine, fermenting in a cool environment, adding some tannin, and more. All of these methods help the structure of the vegetables and keep them firm.
These fixes for soggy fermented veggies are easy to implement and will allow you to control the amount of crisp you want your veggies to be. Follow them and enjoy your crisp fermented veggies!
You might also be interested in:
- How to Ferment Cabbage in 10 Easy Steps
- How Long to Ferment Kombucha?
- Do Light and Heat Help Fermentation?
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