Life Health & Wellbeing

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Let's get pickled!

Waste not, want not says Valerie O'Connor, with recipes for fermenting that leftover veg

Pickled beetroot
Pickled beetroot
Pickled garlic
Fermented turnip
Valerie O'Connor, author of Val's Kitchen

One of the best things about fermenting foods is that it really helps to eliminate food waste at home. There are some classic things that we might throw away, like half a head of cauliflower or broccoli, those few stray carrots at the end of a bag or the bag of radishes you promised to eat raw with hummus.

Fermenting costs little and takes little time too, all you need are a few jars and some nice sea salt. It's not a good idea to use chlorinated water as this is a disinfectant that will take all the goodness out of the food and out of your gut too.

Boil the water and leave it to cool before using, or else use water from a good water filter at home. From beetroot to turnip, herbs and spices, there are few things that you can't ferment, but generally soft veg like courgettes don't work so well.

If you grow your own then you will be enjoying a glut of some things like garlic, and these ferment particularly well and taste amazing with spicy food or cheeses.

It's better to keep fermented foods out of direct sunlight so don't have them on the window sill. I keep them on the kitchen counter while they ferment, or the airing cupboard in winter. Once they are done fermenting, transfer them to a cool dark place.

Fermented turnip

Fermented turnip

It sounds unappealing I know, but fermenting turnip totally transforms this humble veg into a delicious, sweet yet tangy treat. Fermented foods like this can be warmed up and go great with fatty roasts like duck or lamb. Turnip costs hardly anything and often gets given to the pigs, so make the most of it like this.

One turnip, depending on size, will fill a one litre jar


1 tblsp sea salt


1. Peel and grate the turnip into a large bowl.

2. Sprinkle over the sea and mix it through the turnip, massaging it lightly to release the juices.

3. Pack this into your clean jar, pressing the contents down well to release any air pockets.

4. Weigh it down with a small, clean jar or a scrubbed and boiled stone that you use only for this purpose.

5. Close the lid and store this at room temperature where it will begin to bubble after a few days, open the jar once a day to release the gasses.

6. When gasses subside the fermenting is done and you can now enjoy your delicious pickle.

Fermented garlic

Pickled garlic

This is a fantastic way to use up a glut of garlic and it works so much better with home grown or organic garlic which is everywhere right now. For a one litre jar you will need about 6-8 heads and you can peel them easily by bashing a head, on a chopping board, with the back of your hand and then yanking out the cloves. Leave the interior, papery inner skins on. The fermentation eliminates the pungency of the garlic, making it much more edible raw.


6-8 heads garlic

1 litre water, spring or filtered

1 tblsp sea salt


1. In a large jug mix up the water and salt, the ratio is generally 1 litre water to 15g sea salt.

2. Pack the garlic cloves into a sterilised jar and pour over the salty water up to the shoulder of the jar

3. Weigh everything down with a small jar or stone and lever the lid closed to ensure that everything is under the liquid

4. This will take a month to ferment but will keep for several months, up to a year in the fridge.

Pickled beetroot

Pickled beetroot

I loved this old-time classic on my picnic plate as a child and I often have a bunch of unused beetroot that I didn't get around to using, as it's also beetroot season, now is the perfect time to make this.

You will need a 1.5l sterilised jar after the beets are cooked and peeled.


6 large beetroot/12 medium

1 litre/ 2 pints filtered water

2 tsp sea salt OR 1 tsp sea salt and 2 tblsp whey (this is made by straining natural yogurt through muslin, the whey is the watery liquid)


1. Preheat the oven to 150C/320F. Place the unpeeled beetroot on a roasting tray and bake them for 3 hours until a knife goes in easily. remove the tray from the oven and leave them to cool.

2. Slice them into slices or sticks about 1/2 inch thick and place the beets in your clean jar, leaving a space of about 1 inch from the top. Press the down firmly with your hand or a spoon.

3. Mix all the remaining ingredients together and pour over the beets, giving the liquid time to mingle through all the spaces. Make sure the beets are just covered and seal your jar.

4. Place it in a warm spot, ideally 20-22 degrees and leave it for 4-5 days, checking once a day and releasing the gasses by opening the jar. When the bubbles have subsided pop the jar in the fridge

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