I have to be honest with you about something. The last time I wrote about fermenting carrots, they weren’t as good as I thought. Sure, I tried them, and they tasted like pickled carrots, and I was happy enough with them at the time I wrote that post… but the more I ate of them, the less I actually cared for them. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t horrible or nasty or anything — they just weren’t my ideal snack.
The more I read on other blogs about people fermenting carrots, I started noticing that some of them were shredding the carrots! I’ve seen in some Japanese restaurants how they serve pickled ginger with their sashimi, and while we’re not huge fans of ginger in our home, we love carrots… so we decided to give fermented shredded carrots a try.
Making Fermented Shredded Carrots
There isn’t really a ton of preparation to get started, but you do need to do a couple of things to ensure your ferment has the best chance to succeed.
Everything has to be clean — the food, jars, weights, prep surface, your hands. If the food is going to come into contact with it, it has to be completely clean. I know this sounds like a “duh” kind of thing, but when you’re dealing with ferments, it’s even more important. You don’t have to bleach anything or even boil them sterile. Good ol’ blue Dawn works fine — just be sure to rinse everything thoroughly.
Any harmful bacteria introduced into the ferment could cause the fermentation to take longer to process, or it could cause the ferment to fail altogether.
Make the Brine
The thing about fermented foods is you can’t use chlorinated water. Why? Because chlorine kills bacteria — the very stuff that makes the ferment work in the first place. I used tap water, so I boiled it for about 5 minutes to be sure to remove anything harmful that could adversely affect the ferment. (Note: Boiling won’t remove chloramines or flourides, but will remove chlorine.) Most people recommend using bottled distilled water as it is completely free of any minerals or chemicals, but I didn’t have any on hand.
I used the boiled water to make up a 2% brine, which is comprised of 19 grams (or approximately 1 Tablespoon and 1.5 teaspoons) of uniodized salt (because iodine kills bacteria) and 1 quart of water. After mixing the brine, I set it aside to cool to room temperature.
Now, I know some of you are saying, “Patrick, 19 grams isn’t EXACTLY 1 Tablespoon and 1-½ teaspoons!” …and you’re right. However, until I can get this nifty little kitchen scale that I’ve been wanting, I’ll have to do it the other way. It might not be exact, but 99% of the time, it’s “close enough for government work.”
Shred the Carrots
After washing everything, I peeled the carrots and shredded them with a grater. I really want a grater like this one because of the stability, but for now, I have one more like this — gotta work with what you have, right?
Alternative Method to Make Fermented Shredded Carrots
If you read my post on homemade sauerkraut, you know that I make it by massaging the salt directly into the cabbage. You can actually do that here, as well.
Go ahead and boil the water if you need to and let it cool to room temperature. Instead of mixing up a brine, massage the salt directly into the carrots for about 5 minutes, but be gentle — carrots are much more fragile than cabbage, and we’re looking to retain the shredded texture, not turn it to complete mush.
You could even reduce the amount of salt from 1 tablespoon and 1-½ teaspoons down to just 1 tablespoon. It will still ferment fine. Of course, adding the salt directly to the carrots will begin to pull moisture out and form its own brine, though you may still need to add a little distilled water to the jar when you’re done.
Start the Ferment Process
Using a canning funnel, add the carrots to a quart-sized mason jar. If you made a brine, add it to the carrots leaving about a half inch of head space. If you massaged the salt into the carrots, then added them to the jar, be sure to pour in any liquid that was formed, add a glass weight, then top it off with the water — again, leaving about half an inch of head space. Put your Fermentools top on with the seal, stopper and airlock, and screw on the ring hand tight. (You can get that kit right here.) Don’t over-tighten the ring — you’ll regret it later when you’re struggling to get it off.
Here’s where the science is out the door and opinion comes into play. Just about anyone that has been fermenting for a while will tell you that you should let your ferments go for at least 3 days, and after that it’s totally up to you when to put it into the fridge. Taste it, and when the taste suits you, remove the airlock, pop on a normal canning lid (which needs to be clean), and put it into the fridge. The fermentation will continue, but it will be slowed down a lot. This will allow the taste to mellow and most people say it actually improves the flavor.
(Note: I recently started an Instagram account specifically for Survival at Home… be sure to follow me there, too!)
How My Shredded Carrots Fermented
I let my carrots ferment for 6 days before I moved them to the fridge. However, when I checked them, they were slimy. They didn’t have any kind of bad smell at all. I actually tasted them, and they tasted fine — but I don’t do slimy.
I talked to some folks in the Fermenter’s Kitchen group on Facebook, and we tried to troubleshoot what happened. Someone suggested it was the sugar content of the carrots, while others said it might be something about the water. Either way it goes, it happened, and I had to figure out what to do next.
After about 5 days in the fridge, I checked the carrots again, and they were still slimy. On the suggestion of someone in the Fermenter’s Kitchen, I rinsed the carrots and filled the jar with water again.
After a few more days, I checked the carrots again, and they weren’t slimy again, so I tasted them, and they were absolutely perfect! …if you like pickled carrots.
I just don’t think fermented carrots are my cup of tea. They’re not disgusting or anything, they’re just not for me. I know plenty of people that love them — they all think I’m crazy. What can you do, though, right?
How Long Will Fermented Carrots Keep?
This is a tricky question, to be honest. If you store them in a cool, dark area (like a cellar or in the fridge), they can keep for anywhere between 4 and 18 months. Of course, if you’re making them to eat instead of storing long term, time won’t matter.
If you are storing long term, be sure to check them every month.
- Appearance – Is the color even throughout, or is it starting to look different in spots? Do you see any mold or mildew? Does the food look like it has been looking, or has something changed?
- Smell – Open the lid and take a whiff. Does it smell like pickled carrots, or does it smell weird? An off-putting smell may mean your ferment has gone south.
- Texture – Scoop some out in a small bowl. Is the texture still solid, or has it gone mushy? Is it still at least slightly firm and crunchy?
- Taste – If the ferment has passed the first three tests, it’s safe to taste it. If it still tastes like it should, you’re safe.
Extra Add-Ins for Fermenting Carrots
Now, I just went the basic route. I figure it’s best for my family to know what the “base model” tastes like before going further and using other ingredients. However, you can add in extras to make the ferment have the taste you want.
Garlic, onion, chili peppers – You can add in some garlic and onion to give your ferments a little extra flavor. If you really want a kick of spice, add in a chili pepper — anything from jalapeños to ghost peppers have been used in ferments.
Fresh herbs – Throw in a sprig of thyme, some oregano, a little dill weed, or any other fresh herbs you might like with your ferment.
Mix it up – You can actually put anything you want into the ferment as long as it doesn’t drastically change the salt content — that would change the way the food ferments. Black pepper corns, mustard seeds, fresh ginger, crushed red pepper… anything!
Even though I said fermented carrots aren’t really my cup of tea, I may actually try it one more time with a little garlic, some cilantro, and a fresh cayenne pepper. (If I do, I’ll update this post.)