There are some tried and true staples here in our kitchen, and these savory lacto-fermented carrots are without question one of them. (P.S. They are kid-approved.) 😉
Carrot sticks. A perfectly healthy, nutritionally dense snack. I think we can all agree that they are a good addition to any lunch box or snack.
But if you're craving something healthy and want to mix things up a little, you HAVE to try these carrots if you haven't made fermented vegetables before. Fermented carrots pretty much look the same and still have that awesome crunch to them, but they also have this savory, complex magic in them that is hard to describe. A little salty, a little sweet...kind of like pickles but perhaps a bit sweeter from the natural sweetness of the carrots.
Plus, they are super healthy since the fermentation process will automatically add a bunch of natural probiotics into the final recipe. And their new flavor profile will make your taste buds dance. So juicy, so good. 🙂
Sometimes I'll add some kimchi and rice to my plate along with these fermented carrots and voilà--it's an instant healthy snack packed with even more natural probiotics.
What is lacto-fermentation?
Similar to making sauerkraut or kimchi, these carrots are going to be fermented by way of "lactic acid fermentation" - or lacto-fermentation.
But don't worry if this sounds overly difficult or complicated; I assure you it is neither. Actually, fermented carrots are an awesome way to get your feet wet fermenting veggies. They are hard to mess up and require only a few ingredients.
Quick note: In case you're wondering, the term "lacto" in the case of fermenting vegetables has nothing to do with milk or dairy. Rather, it refers to the Lactobacillus bacteria that are at play here in the fermentation process.
How to Make Fermented Carrots
Okay, let's talk tools.
For most lacto-fermented vegetable recipes, the equipment needed is actually really simple.
A mason jar or other glass jar with a tight lid is basically the only requirement--this is where your veggies will ferment at room temperature, and you can place the same jar in the fridge when they are ready (no need to transfer the carrots.)
Pro tip: Instead of using a regular mason jar lid, you can also buy special fermentation lids (on Amazon, etc.) that will help keep the air out of the jar while you ferment. While these are not essential, they do help make things go more smoothly especially if you're just starting out fermenting. You can also buy fermentation weights to help keep veggies submerged under water during the fermentation process.
You'll want to look for wide-mouth mason jars (as opposed to regular mouth mason jars) -- the wider opening will allow for easier access as you both place your vegetables in the jar to ferment, and then serve them later on.
In terms of size, pint sized or quart sized mason jars are ideal especially if you're just getting started fermenting and don't want to make huge batches just yet.
In many cases, the amount of vegetables you're starting with will dictate which size jar to ferment in. I used a pint-sized jar for this recipe because I found a perfect little 1 pound bunch of carrots at the farmers market which should be just right for a small batch.
Prepare the vegetables
The two vegetables I used for this recipe are carrots (obviously) and fresh garlic. You'll only need a clove of garlic at the most as a little goes a long way here especially if you are just making a pint-sized batch. I also like to add some dried mustard seed which really adds to the savory quality of the recipe.
One tool which does come in very handy for this recipe is a mandoline slicer, which can perfectly slice veggies into very thin slivers. This is optional; you can also opt to just slice the carrots into thin slivers with a knife--the mandoline just makes the job faster and more precise.
Warning: Make sure that you are extremely careful when using a mandoline; they are very sharp and can unwanted accidents if you get too close to the blade while slicing. I usually just stop slicing when I have about a third of the carrot left so that I don't get too close, and I'll save the carrot ends for a salad.
You can set the blade to a medium setting for a nice uniform and thin slice.
I also use the mandoline on the thinnest setting to slice my garlic into paper thin slices; if this is the first time making this recipe, try just 6-8 slivers of garlic at the most (it can be powerful if too much goes in, but makes the carrots SO GOOD when it's just right!)
Prepare the salt brine
The next step is to warm a couple of cups of filtered water on the stove with a tablespoon of sea salt, and stir until just dissolved. This is called the brine, and the salt will ensure that any bad bacteria are killed during the fermentation process.
Cool off the brine back to room temperature.
In your mason jar, add the garlic slices and mustard seed first, followed by the carrots. Be sure to leave at least an inch of room between the carrots and the top of the jar--this allows room for a little expansion during the fermentation process.
Then pour enough water in the jar just to cover the carrots. If you have fermentation weights, go ahead and add one to the jar to keep the veggies submerged. If not, just try to pack the carrots down firmly so that they stay in place underwater.
Cover the jar with a lid or fermentation lid and place it on the counter out of direct sunlight for about five days. You can open the jar after four days if you'd like, and try one of the carrots to see how it tastes. If you'd like a little more tang to it, just re-cover and ferment an extra day or two. Five days works perfectly for me, but everyone's tastes are different.
When the flavor is to your liking, simply place the jar in the fridge to stop the natural fermentation process. The carrots should stay good for up to 3 months in the fridge. Enjoy!
You might also like:
- Preserved Lemons
- Tuna Salad and Sauerkraut Sandwich
- Breakfast Rice Bowl with Kimchi, Asparagus and Eggs
Savory Lacto-Fermented Carrots
- 1 pound carrots preferably local and organic
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 cups filtered water
- Prep the veggies: Wash, trim and peel the carrots. Peel the garlic. Use a sharp knife or a mandoline slicer to slice the veggies, and set aside (see notes).
- Prepare the salt brine: Place salt and water in a saucepan and heat over low heat stir just until the salt dissolves; remove from heat and set aside. Allow to cool back down to room temperature.
- Assemble: In a pint-sized mason jar, add the mustard seeds and garlic first. If this is your first batch of fermented carrots, try adding just 6-8 slices of garlic at the most and adjust upward for future batches. (A little goes a long way!) Add the carrots to the jar making sure to pack them in as tightly as possible as they'll be less likely to move around that way as they ferment. Keep adding carrots until there is about an inch of space left in the jar, and then slowly pour the salted water over the carrots until just covered.
- Ferment: Close the jar with a lid and place in an area that's out of the direct sunlight--on a countertop or in a cabinet is fine. Open the jar after 4-5 days and take a taste--if you prefer a stronger flavor, keep fermenting and test again in another day or two (see notes).
- Enjoy: Once you're happy with the taste, place the jar in the refrigerator to end the fermentation process, and enjoy! Fermented carrots will stay good for up to 3 months in the fridge.