Suzanne’s Blog: No Whey! Yes, Whey.
Fermentation Experimentation — Fermenting Without Salt

Kimchi, prepared with celery juice and whey. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.
Recap from yesterday’s blog: I have no local source of salt to help me preserve a year’s worth of food and rhubarb juice pickling is out.

What about lacto-fermentation? Fermentation is as old as humanity. Think beer, cheese, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Lacto-fermentation of vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, takes advantage of the naturally occurring good lactic acid bacteria on the surface of the vegetables, which helps transform the juice of the vegetable into an acid that essentially ‘pickles’ the veggies. There are lots of experts in lacto-fermentation in the Yukon including Kim Melton here in Dawson. I recently took a wonderful fermentation workshop by Kim at Yukon College. However, the fermentation of vegetables calls for a brine, made from salt. And I have no local salt.

Not to worry, the ingenuity of northerners prevails! Leslie Chapman, who spent many years living in the Yukon bush near Dawson, ferments without salt. She uses celery juice.

I also consulted Kim Melton’s copy of the fermenting bible, The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, a very large book with a very small paragraph on fermenting vegetables without salt. It mentions the option of using a starter culture of whey.

I have celery. I have whey.

So I tried a new experiment. I made sauerkraut, kimchi, and dill pickles, fermenting one jar  with celery juice and another jar with whey. No salt.

Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how it goes.

Suzanne’s fermentation experiments include sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi, prepared with and without whey. Photo by Suzanne Crocker.

4 Replies to “Suzanne’s Blog: No Whey! Yes, Whey.
Fermentation Experimentation — Fermenting Without Salt”

  1. Congrats on your fermenting success! Would you share the recipe for fermenting with celery juice? What ratio of celery juice to vegetables did you use? What part of the celery did you juice – celeriac root and all, or just the stems/leaves? Thanks for sharing!

    1. I just juice the main stems of the celery. The celery is so fibrous that the leaves and the really thin bits of stem just seem to get bunged up in my juicer. I haven’t experimented with the root at all, actually.

      I pick off the leaves and dry them and then ground the dried leaves – this I use as my ‘salt’ and my go-to herb for all things savoury.

      The small parts of the stem I chop and freeze.

      As far as quantity goes, I pack in the veggies as much as possible and then add the celery juice so the liquid covers the veggies. So I’m not sure what the actual ratio turns out to. I put a weight on the veggie part to prevent them from floating to the top and keep an eye on it to make sure all the veggies are always covered in liquid so there is no spoilage. Sometimes I need to add more celery juice after a few days in the beginning, but then it usually is good as is.

      For kraut/kimchi variations, I use a combo of chopped cabbage, carrot, radish. Then I ‘massage’ the veggies with my hands so they start to secrete their natural juices. I add a couple of juniper berries, some green onion or leek, some garlic scares and some chopped horseradish +/- some a bit of hot pepper.

      For the pickles, pack in the small cucumbers, add a bit of garlic, green onion and dill and then add enough celery juice to keep the cucumbers covered. You will probably need to weigh them down with something so they don’t float to the top or else pack them in tight enough that they can’t float. Similarly with the green tomatoes.

      I think anything goes, really, as long as the veggies remain under the celery juice so that they can lacto-ferment.

      Putting some black current leaves (or if you are lucky enough to have them, some grape leaves) in the bottom of the container helps keep the veggies crisp.

      I cover the container with some cheese cloth (to help prevent fruit flies) and then just lightly lay the lid on. If you are using individual jars, it is a good idea to put them in a tray because the concoction can bubble over during the first week or two of fermenting.

      Hope that helps. If anyone else has more specific instructions or other variations that have worked well, feel free to let us know!

  2. Fermenting with celery juice and without salt. That has been the subject of your posts, and it is very important to me.
    To simplify: Could I just add celery to whatever I am fermenting, and crush it up?
    Is celery juice something I can buy?
    I don’t have a juicer, but I could peel off the fibrous part of the celery with a carrot peeler.
    But I like the fibre, so just adding celery to the cabbage (or whatever else I am fermenting) seems the easiest.

    1. I don’t know if just adding celery and crushing it would provide enough celery juice to help the ferment. But worth giving it a try. I juiced celery using a juicer. The celery juice also seems to freeze easily. Sandor Katz’s book is where I first read about fermenting with celery juice. I’ve never seen celery juice for sale in a retail outlet.

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