Pickled carrots and a history

I’ve already dropped the ball on my fermenting promise.

I didn’t have time to make yogurt this week, even though it’s such a simple recipe. All you need to make yogurt is milk, yogurt and a big pot, but there are a lot of time-consuming steps I underestimated.

So next week, I promise yogurt. This week, I’m recycling an old favorite — a jar of random pickled vegetables. (This break in regular programming does have an advantage in that it provides opportunity for a history lesson below.)

Pickled vegetables are the only thing I ferment regularly other than kombucha. It is the easiest thing in the world. Gather up all the vegetables in your fridge that you haven’t been eating, cram them into a mason jar and fill it to the top with a mixture of vinegar, water and salt. Any vegetable can be pickled like this, including cucumbers to make refrigerator pickles.

This particular jar includes baby carrots, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Since I made this last week, I didn’t take step-by-step photos, so here’s a great recipe that breaks down the instructions.

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How to Quick Pickle Any Vegetable

The history of fermentation

This post on quick fermenting vegetables leads nicely into talking about the history of fermentation because vegetables are one of the first things people fermented, along with dairy and beverages.

Humans have been fermenting dairy for thousands of years, which probably occurred unintentionally since milk is so unstable and refrigerators are a new invention. It has been said that the first yogurt was produced when farmers filled bags with goat milk in North Africa and the 110° heat naturally fermented it.

Ancient jugs suggest that alcoholic drinks were consumed as early as 10,000 BC. A chemical analysis from jars in a Chinese village found traces of a fermented alcoholic drink being produced as early as 7000 BC.

Evidence of fermented drinks has been found across cultures, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that people understood the chemistry behind fermentation. After Louis Pasteur studied yeast and began to understand fermentation, the process was still being used to store food longer.

Then in 1910, people began to realize that eating fermented foods was connected to health. A Russian scientist noticed that Bulgarians lived very long and believed Bulgaria’s high consumption of fermented milk products to be the force behind their longevity.

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