These easy homemade fermented carrot pickles are a delicious source of beneficial probiotics!
Ever since I learned how easy it is to ferment, I’ve been on a bit of a pickling kick. If someone who didn’t know me saw my kitchen, they might suspect I’m practicing witchcraft with all the mysterious bubbling jars on my counter. When I find myself with an excess of produce, I find myself quoting Bryce and Lisa from Porlandia – “We can pickle that!”
I may need an intervention.
Maybe you’re scratching your head thinking ‘what on earth is fermentation and why on earth would I want to eat it?’ I hear you! Fermentation is a method of preserving foods that’s been used for thousands of years. Lacto-fermentation, the kind I’m talking about today, uses bacteria (the good kind – think probiotics!) to break down carbohydrates into lactic acid. It gives food a sour, pickled flavor. Soaking foods in a salt solution creates an oxygen free environment that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, fungus and molds while allowing the healthy bacteria to flourish.
It took me awhile to build up the courage to ferment food at home. Let’s face it, we’re talking about bacteria here - there’s certainly potential for things to go horribly wrong. All the recipes I found seemed pretty complicated, making that potential for disaster seem much higher. Then I learned the key is to get the right concentration of salt water used for fermented your vegetables – 2 tablespoons salt for every 4 cups water. From there, you can play around with different vegetables, aromatics and spices to come up with combinations you enjoy. A couple other pointers:
- Hard water can decrease acidity, so if your water at home isn’t soft, use filtered or distilled water.
- Don’t use iodized salt, which interferes with the fermentation process. I use sea salt.
- To sterilize your mason jars, place them in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes then carefully remove with tongs.
Still a bit squeamish about fermenting? Don’t be! Fermented vegetables are actually very safe, as the fermentation process kills harmful bacteria. Plus, there’s been an astounding amount of research showing the benefits of probiotic rich fermented foods. In the past year alone, my understanding of their importance has evolved tremendously. The complexity of the human body is a really cool thing!
DIGESTION // Fermented foods are best known for their digestive benefits. Gut bacteria plays a major role in digestion, since gut bacteria produces digestive enzymes. This makes fermented foods a great addition for anyone experiencing tummy troubles!
WEIGHT MANAGEMENT // Yep, those trillions of bacteria in your gut might actually play a role in the number on the scale! Human studies have shown a correlation with gut bacteria types/diversity and weight. Studies have found probiotics a beneficial for weight loss. More recently, rat studies have found transplanting feces from obese mice to normal weight mice and visa versa results in weight changes. They’re currently conducting the same studies in humans. Gross, but fascinating. Stay tuned for results!
ENHANCED IMMUNITY // Did you know about 80% of your immune system is in your gut? Make sense when you think about it – the gut is a major barrier between the outside world and the inside. Having a healthy gut flora enhances that barrier.
INFLAMMATION // Probioics have been show to reduce inflammation. Since inflammation has been linked to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, it’s not to big of a jump to say fermented foods may reduce your risk.
BRAIN HEALTH // The gut is often referred to as the second brain because it is home to the enteric nervous sytem. While it can’t ‘think,’ the gut does produce 95% of the bodies serotonin and other neurotransmitters that affect mood. Fermented foods and probiotics are even starting to be used as a treatment for depression and anxiety!
Pretty impressive stuff! Hopefully that’s enough to get your past your fears!
These carrot pickles came about after I accidentally bought an extra bag of carrots and realized, hey, we can pickle that! I love the crunchiness of these carrot pickles compared to traditional cucumber pickles as well as the sweet tart flavor. My next plan is to play around with these pickles and come up with a spicy carrot pickle!
And don’t worry guys, my pickling obsession hasn’t progressed to the point of pickling band-aids. (My fellow Portlandia fans will get that one!)
Fermented Carrot Pickles
Makes 1 large jar
- About 6 medium carrots
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 clove
- 1 garlic clove smashed
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 large mason jar
- Sterilize a large maon jar in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove carefully with a tong and set aside to cool.
- Dissolve sea salt in 4 cups of water. Set aside until ready to use.
- Peel carrots and cut the ends off. Cut into sticks. Place spices and garlic in the bottom of the mason jar. Add carrots, fitting in as many as you can. Pour the salt water over the top until full. Secure the top, leaving it very slightly loose, which allows gasses to escape without 'burping.' Place over a plate in room temperature out of direct sunlight and let ferment 5-10 days until it stops bubbling. If you notice at any point the water is running low, sprinkle a little extra salt over the top and add a little extra water. After it stops bubbling, the pickles are ready and can be stored in the refrigerator for a month or longer.