Fermented Daikon Radish Pickles
Have you heard of probiotics? Maybe your Naturopathic Doctor or Nutritionist recommended them to you at some point or you’ve heard the buzz about how probiotics are good for your digestive and mental health, but did you know that you can also get probiotics from eating fermented food?
Eating probiotic rich fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir has become a bit of a trend and you can now find these foods at an increasing number of grocery stores. (If you are purchasing fermented foods from the grocery store, make sure they are coming from the refrigerated section, if not it means they’ve been pasteurized and will not contain any probiotics.) Eating fermented foods is not actually a new trend at all, and has been used by people for centuries as a way to preserve food. These civilizations may not have understood the mechanism behind the process of fermentation but they surely recognized the health benefits.
In the process of fermentation good bacteria convert the sugar molecules in the food into lactic acid, which allows the good bacteria to multiply and also protects the food from being invaded by pathogenic bacteria and essentially preserves the food. (So don’t be scared of leaving your jar of veggies on the counter, they will not spoil as long as the veggies remain under the liquid)
Taking a probiotic supplement is a great way to support the health of your digestive and immune system but there is no better way to consume probiotic bacteria than through whole food sources. The benefits of consuming naturally fermented foods are too many to list here but include maintaining the integrity of the gut lining, regulating the immune system, they are antibiotic and antiviral, balancing the body’s pH, and reducing inflammation in the gut. Additionally you will be getting a wider variety and much larger quantity of probiotic strains when you consume them through a naturally fermented food source. What’s more is that during fermentation as the bacteria begin to digest the food they free up a number of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, K, and some of the B complex vitamins, making them more absorbable to us.
So, if you’re ready to try to make your own probiotic food at home read on….and while it may seem intimidating or strange at first, I assure you once you try yourself you will see how easy and simple this process is and you can apply the same method to any number of other vegetables.
Here are some things to note before you get started:
- Make sure you use filtered water for the salt water brine, chlorinated water will kill the probiotic bacteria
- You do not need to sterilize all of the utensils and jars like you do when canning-the probiotic bacteria and lactic acid will take care of any pathogenic bugs. Do make sure the jars, utensils, and your hands are clean but just regular washing with soap and water is fine
- Do not peel the vegetables you’re using, there is a huge amount of probiotic bacteria on the outside of vegetables that will only add to your ferment. You can rinse off any visible sand or dirt on the outside of the veggies but fresh veggies should need minimal washing and you will only be removing the probiotic bacteria with excessive washing
- Check on your ferment every couple of days to make sure it stays under the water, you can add more salt water if needed. You might see some foam and mold start to foam on the top, simply scrape it off with a clean spoon-it is not harmful, just unappetizing.
- Don’t forget the bay leaves, they contain tannins that will keep the veggies crunchy.
- Make sure to use a clean spoon when sampling your ferment-no double dipping! You don’t want to introduce bacteria from your mouth into the colony of bacteria in the jar.
- 1 daikon radish
- 1 small head of savoy cabbage
- 4 bay leaves
- 500 ml water
- ½ tbsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp red chili flakes
- 2 wide mouthed mason jars
- Wash and dice the daikon into small cubes
- Wash and chop the savoy cabbage
- Put 2 bay leaves and a sprinkle of red chili flakes into each jar, use more chili flakes if you like spice
- Fill each jar with a mixture of the daikon cubes and shredded cabbage until the jar is full, you can use a wooden spoon or your hands to pack the veggies down into the jar
- Mix the salt and water together in a jug and pour into the mason jars, covering the veggies with the water mixture
- It is very important to make sure the vegetables stay under the water because once they come into contact with the air they will start to grow mold. To keep the veggies under the water mixture you can use a smaller jar that will fit into the mouth of the jar you’re using and fill it with water so it can act as a weight and hold the veggies under the water.
- Cover your jars with a towel or cloth to keep particles from the air going into your ferment and let the jars sit in a cool dark place for approximately 5 days
- Around day 2 or 3 the jars will start to foam a bit, this means it’s working! The foam and bubbling is from gases created by the fermentation, at this point you can use a clean spoon to scoop off the foam and taste a sample of the veggies. You can let them continue to ferment until they reach a flavor and texture that is to your liking (the veggies will become softer as they ferment)
- Once the radishes are done, put the lid back on the jar and store in the fridge for up to 6 months
Happy Fermenting, and don’t be discouraged if things don’t turn out great your first time. The bacteria in your ferment are greatly affected by things in your environment like the temperature, bacteria in your environment, and even your emotions so every batch will likely be slightly different.
Fermentation tends to happen a lot quicker in warmer temperatures and if temperatures are too warm (above 26 Degrees C) the veggies will turn brown and spoil. If this happens, discard the veggies and start again. (By the way your compost will LOVE your discarded ferments)
One of my favourite ways to eat these pickles is on top of lettuce wraps-almost like a salsa, but it’s a great side to almost any dish.