(This is a guest post by Scott Cuzzo from The Fermented Evangelist.)
Fermenting fresh vegetables allows the natural, and very-good-for-you bacteria (you can say “probiotics” if you think bacteria is gross) that is present to flourish and grow. This good bacteria will give you a healthy gut and “strong like bull” immune system. Eating fermented foods has seriously done wonders for me…and I want that for you too.
Plus, fermenting foods, especially in delicious combinations, melds flavors and creates a special magic. My friends, family and coworkers love this fermented salsa…even those that are suspicious of anything fermented. I really hope you are brave enough to try it.
At the end of this post is a link to a free how-to poster for pickled carrots. It is the same process as this fermented salsa, and many, many other vegetables can be used. Cabbage, turnips (surprisingly good!), radishes (try the mild daikon radish!), Brussels sprouts, green beans, beets, and so much more.
Day 1 Ingredients:
4-5 plum tomatoes, or any kind, cut into medium wedges
1 jalapeño pepper, stems and seeds removed, cut into a few large strips
1 yellow sweet pepper, or red, orange or green, stems and seeds removed, cut into large chunks
1/3 of a medium onion, sliced into 1/3″ thick disks, try to keep them together
1 tablespoon non-iodized salt (like kosher or sea salt)
Day 4 Ingredients:
1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
the juice from 3-4 limes
1-2 avocados, diced (optional)
a 1 quart glass jar
a smaller jar that fits inside the mouth of your larger jar
Take a clean one quart glass jar and fill about 2/3 full with your tomato wedges, tucking your jalapeño pieces amongst the wedges. Add your sweet pepper chunks into a layer on top of the tomatoes. Finally use your onions slices like a cap on top of everything. If you can find a slice that is just the right size to wedge under the shoulders of the jar, that is terrific. You want to allow at least an inch of space at the top of your jar.
Mix your tablespoon of salt with one cup of water. Cold or room temperature is fine. Do NOT to use iodized table salt. Iodine will inhibit the fermentation process. I use kosher salt or sea salt. Kosher salt has less sodium in it than sea salt, by volume, so if I use kosher, I use a rounded tablespoon, if sea salt, a level tablespoon. Who am I kidding??? I never really measure anything. I always pour the salt in the palm of my hand…but that is roughly what I shoot for. But you should measure.
None of this order really matters all that much, do not sweat things. The main principle is to pack your veggies into the jar in big pieces, so you can chop them up later. And the onion on top merely serves as a “lid” to help keep your food below the brine. Repeat after me, “below the brine, is fine!”
Place another food safe “whatever” on top of your veggies. Your “whatever” can be a smaller jar, a wine or ketchup bottle, or even a few smooth rocks that you’ve washed off. It’s smart to have a bowl or plate underneath your jar of veggies. The brine will likely bubble over during the first couple of days. This is perfectly fine and expected.
Allow your jar of veggies to sit out at room temperature for 3-5 days. Check daily to make sure you have enough water to keep everything sufficiently submerged. Top things off with fresh water, as needed. It’s wise to cover everything with a dish towel, in the event of something like fruit flies in your kitchen. You are welcome to unpack things and taste them along the way. But I have found that 3-5 days is about perfect for this combination of vegetables.
So, about day 4, unpack your jar and dice the tomatoes, onions and peppers, then finely mince the jalapeño. You could probably have packed the jar with diced pieces in the beginning, but I think using larger pieces and dicing at the end makes the salsa visually more appealing. I usually dice things into a various sizes based on how I think it will look visually. I do not include the brine into the salsa. You are welcome to drink it…it’s is delicious and very good for you.
Mix everything in a bowl, add your minced cilantro (feel free to sub out parsley, even basil if you hate cilantro…and I know some of you do), and squeeze in your lime juice. You might want to mix your tomatoes and sweet peppers first, then add your onion and jalapeño in gradually, deciding how much you like. Some of the heat from the peppers will already be present on all the veggies. When I served this particular salsa at my sister’s birthday party, I divided the salsa into two bowls and made one mild and one hot. Kinda smart, just sayin’.
Add diced avocado if you like! I really like diced avocado with this salsa…I just thought it wouldn’t photograph as well, so I left it out of the photos. But, I don’t recommend trying to ferment avocado…that just sounds gross. Add it fresh, just before serving.
Bonus tip! I think I’ve figured out how to not get hot pepper juice in my eyes when dicing peppers like jalapeños. I wash my hands, lightly towel dry them, pour a few drops of cooking oil into my palms and massage in thoroughly. Be careful that your hands aren’t too slippery when using a knife of course, but I think doing this prevents the hot stuff from the peppers from getting into your skin and then later rubbed into your eyes by accident. You’re welcome.
As promised, HERE is a link to my how-to poster on pickled carrots. Remember that this how-to works great with cabbage, turnips, radishes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, beets, and more! If you would like to stay in touch and receive more information on how to make and enjoy fermented foods, go to thefermentedevangelist.com and sign up for my newsletter!