How to Make Fermented Pickles From Vegetable Scraps
Making fermented pickles from vegetable scraps is a great way to reduce food waste while enjoying delicious probiotic-rich foods. Fermenting vegetables is easy, requires minimal ingredients, and transforms leftover veggie pieces into tangy, crunchy pickles.
In this article, I will provide a step-by-step guide to fermenting vegetable scraps into delicious pickles. I will cover:
- The benefits of fermented pickles
- Necessary supplies and ingredients
- Choosing vegetables for fermenting
- Basic steps for making fermented pickles
- Tips for troubleshooting and flavor variations
- How to store fermented pickles
With just a few simple ingredients and materials, you can easily turn old vegetable scraps into a tasty fermented treat! Let’s get started.
Benefits of Fermented Pickles
Fermenting vegetables provides numerous health and culinary benefits:
Probiotics: The fermentation process preserves vegetables and promotes growth of beneficial probiotics. Consuming fermented foods can improve gut health and digestion.
Preservation: Lactic acid created through fermentation prevents growth of harmful bacteria, allowing vegetables to be preserved for months.
Enhanced flavor and texture: Fermentation produces tangy, complex flavors and a pleasantly crunchy texture.
Reduced waste: Fermenting scraps reduces food waste by transforming wilted veggies and odds and ends into something delicious.
Overall, fermented pickles are a nutritional and inexpensive way to preserve vegetables with major health perks.
Fermenting vegetables requires only a few basic supplies:
1 Quart Mason Jar or Pickling Jar: Use a wide-mouth quart jar with tight sealing lid for fermenting. Avoid metal lids, as the brine can corrode metal over time.
Cheesecloth and Rubber Band: Cover jar opening with cheesecloth secured by a rubber band during fermentation to allow air exchange while keeping out dust and insects.
Smaller Jars or Weights: Optional – Place a smaller jar or glass weights inside the fermenting jar to keep vegetables submerged under the brine.
Kitchen Scale: Used to weigh out the proper proportions of vegetables and salt.
Knife and Cutting Board: For prepping, slicing, and chopping vegetables before fermenting.
You will also need a few simple ingredients:
Filtered Water: Use clean, non-chlorinated water to create the pickling brine. Avoid using tap water which can inhibit fermentation.
Sea Salt or Pickling Salt: Use non-iodized salt, measured at a ratio of 1 tablespoon per pound of chopped vegetables. The salt helps prevent harmful bacterial growth.
Fresh Vegetable Scraps: Almost any vegetable scraps can be used, such as cabbage cores, carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, and more. Chop or shred into small pieces for optimal fermentation.
Spices or Herbs (Optional): Add spices like peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves or herbs like dill or rosemary for flavor.
The best vegetables for fermenting are crunchy, water-rich vegetables. Good options include:
Cabbage: Cabbage cores and outer leaves work very well. Simply shred or chop the cabbage.
Carrots: Chopped or shredded carrots add color and sweetness.
Onions: Sliced onions add a nice sharp bite.
Bell Peppers: Chili peppers, jalapenos, or bell peppers make the pickles spicy. Slice thinly.
Garlic: Adds powerful flavor. Use 2-4 cloves per quart.
In general, the firmer and crunchier the vegetable, the better it will ferment. Avoid leafy greens like lettuce which can become slimy. Stick to vegetable scraps and any odds and ends in your fridge for a flavorful fermented medley.
Follow these simple steps for making perfect fermented pickles every time:
1. Gather vegetable scraps
Raid your refrigerator for odds and ends like cabbage cores, carrot stubs, pepper slices, wilted greens, etc. The more variety, the better!
2. Wash and prepare vegetables
Rinse vegetables well. Trim off any mushy or rotten spots. Chop, slice, or shred vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces. This increases surface area for more thorough fermentation.
3. Weigh vegetables and mix with salt
Weigh vegetables and measure 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of veggies. Place chopped vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle on salt, and massage salt into the veggies until they start to release liquid.
4. Pack jar and add brine
Firmly pack the salted vegetables into your fermenting jar. Pour over any liquid released by the vegetables as you massage them. If needed, make a brine by dissolving 1 tbsp salt per cup of filtered water. Pour over vegetables until completely submerged.
Cover jar with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Keep at cool room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Ferment for 1-4 weeks, until it reaches desired sourness.
6. Transfer to cold storage
Once done fermenting, screw on jar lid and transfer to refrigerator. Fermented pickles will keep for 6-8 months properly refrigerated.
Tips and Variations
Add herbs and spices like dill, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, or chili peppers for extra flavor.
For a spicy kimchi-style pickle, add chili paste, grated ginger, garlic, and green onions.
If vegetables are not submerged under brine, press down with a smaller jar or weights. This prevents mold growth.
If white scum appears on the surface, skim it off and continue fermenting. This is harmless yeast, but can impart bad flavors.
For softer vegetables, ferment for 1 week. For crunchy vegetables, ferment for 2-4 weeks. Taste frequently until it reaches desired tartness.
Refrigerate for 1-2 days before eating to allow flavors to mingle. The flavors will mellow and improve over time.
How to Store
Properly stored, fermented pickles will keep for 6-8 months in the refrigerator.
Always use clean hands and utensils when removing pickles to prevent contamination. Never eat straight out of the jar.
Check regularly for any mold growth. Skim off and discard any mold, then continue refrigerating.
Over time, pickles may continue to ferment and get more sour. This is normal, but for stable flavor it’s best consumed within 6-8 months.
For long term storage, pickle slices or spears can be canned through a water bath canning method. This stops fermentation and extends shelf life.
Enjoy Your Fermented Creations!
Now you’re ready to turn leftover veggie scraps into tangy, probiotic-packed fermented pickles! This simple process lets you reduce food waste while creating delicious and nutritious fermented foods.
Play around with different vegetable combinations and seasonings until you create signature flavor combos. The possibilities are endless. Soon your fridge will be stocked with crunchy, tangy fermented pickles!