For more than 30 years now, I have been cultivating chiles and preserving them from drying and freezing to pickling and canning. I have enjoyed peppers en escabeche (a vinegar brine), however once canned, the peppers tend to get soft and lose their crunch. And although they are tasty, they do not have the bright flavor nor the vitamins that fresh chiles do. So why not try fermenting chiles? It is a quick and easy way to preserve your harvest and retain optimum nutrients, not to mention the benefits that fermented foods have to offer for healthy gut flora.
Fermented foods are good for us-providing us with better health and well being. This age-old process is easy to do and requires no special equipment. Why should we ferment our vegetables? Because fermented vegetables are preserved without heat and vinegar retaining their vitamins, enzymes and minerals. Some of the benefits of fermented foods are: aids digestion; nutrients are more readily available; helps to support the immune system and no chemical preservatives are needed.
The formula is easy: simply fill clean, sterile jars with sliced chile peppers and cover with salted water. Use sea salt, Celtic sea salt or a salt that has not been bleached or chemically treated; about 2 tablespoons of salt dissolved in 1 quart warm water. The water should not be chlorinated; if so, bring water to a boil and allow to cool a bit, and then add salt, use warm or room temperature.
Throughout history, cooks from many cuisines, fermented vegetables in crocks with a plate on top and a rock as a weight. This can be done with a heavy, zip-close bag filled with tap water as the weight. Nowadays, there are many different fermentation systems and kits. The one I am using in this video, used with a wide-mouth canning jar, is fairly new–it has a ceramic weight–and a two-part plastic lid, which is held tight by a canning jar ring. it is called Ferment’n (www.fermentn.com) and it is the first time using it. My daughter Lucie, sent it to me for my birthday, along with another kit for me to experiment with, which you will see in the next video following this one. A great source for all kinds of fermentation equipment, as well as instructional recipes is Mountain Feed & Farm in Ben Lomond, California, www.mountainfeed.com.
Place your packed, brined and weighted chiles in a cool place out of direct sunlight (I do this on the counter in my mudroom). I learned from the fermentistas at Mountain Feed & Farm that once the chiles turn from bright green to an olive or army green, that the fermentation is complete. This takes from about 5 to 7 days, depending upon the temperature and climatic conditions in your kitchen. Once fermented, secure with a lid and a ring and store in the refrigerator for up to a year.