How to Make Fermented Ginger Pickles (+ a Spicy Lentil Salad)
Ferment your own ginger pickles for a spicy condiment that can be used in a variety of savory dishes.
It’s hard to say when spicy cooking truly started, but 6,000-year-old clay pots that were found in Germany and Denmark carried traces of ground garlic mustard, were discovered right next to traces of fish and deer, proof that perhaps our prehistoric ancestors might have known a thing or two about spicy condiments.
Today, most spicy condiments come from the grocery store shelves, the industrial version of preservation methods that were mastered long ago: fermented spicy foods. There’s a new book out on exactly that topic called Fiery Ferments: 70 Stimulating Recipes for Hot Sauces, Spicy Chutneys, Kimchis with Kick, and Other Blazing Fermented Condiments by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey. The fermentation advocates are behind Ferment Works, and give numerous workshops.
This book is full of recipes for making your own spicy fermented food at home, but one of my favorites is one for fermented ginger pickles. They are easy to keep on hand and add into any dish to give it a bit of extra bite, and all you need to make them is ginger and a little bit of salt. They do pack a punch, which means that a batch of these is going to last you a long time.
What can you use fermented ginger pickles for? A multitude of things. I have recently started making a simple lentil salad that uses them, and you’ll find the recipe for that below. It’s a refreshing salad that’s quick to put together and perfect for eating at home or to take to a picnic. So get that batch of ginger going today!
Fermented Ginger Pickles
Adapted from Fiery Ferments
1 pound (450 grams) fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use my all-time favorite, Jacobsen Salt)
*I have done this recipe as a half batch, and that works great too.
Peel the ginger and slice it as thinly as possible. You can do some of this with a vegetable peeler, but eventually the piece of ginger root will get too small and you will have to switch to a pairing knife. Place the sliced ginger in a bowl.
Mix in the salt.
Pack the ginger tightly into a glass pint jar, pressing out the air pockets as you go. Leave the top quarter of the jar free.
Press a ziplock bag in the jar, on top of the ginger. Fill it with water and zip it closed. (Note: When you’re fermenting something like this, it needs to be weighted down. The ziplog bag method is one recommended in Fiery Ferments, and while usually I try to avoid plastic in the kitchen, I find that it’s really useful for putting weight on top of the ferment, and magically manages to fill in any air pockets at the top. That being said, if you want to go plastic-free there are options a variety of options, outlined here and here.)
Place the jar on a plate and put in a place that’s out of direct sunlight. Let ferment 7 to 14 days; taste to determine if it’s funky and ready for you! If during the fermentation process you see any air pockets, press down the ginger. As the ginger ferments the brine will become milky.
When the pickles are done, cover the jar and place it in the refrigerator. These pickles will keep for about 12 months in the refrigerator.
Lentil Salad with Fermented Ginger Pickles
1 cup (7.5 ounces, 210 grams) red lentils
1 cup (240 milliliters) water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 – 3 tablespoons chopped fermented ginger pickles
Large handful of cilantro, chopped
Add the water and lentils to a saucepan and place on high heat. Bring to a boil then remove from stove and cover. Let sit for five minutes.
Pour into a mesh strainer and rinse the lentils with cold water. Place the lentils in a salad bowl.
To make the dressing, add the sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce to a glass jar. Whisk together or cover the jar and shake. Pour over the lentils and toss together. Add in the chopped ginger pickles and cilantro and any additional ingredients.
Disclosure: Fiery Ferments was sent for me to review for my Wild Culture column on Paste Magazine, but I am wholeheartedly behind it and would recommend it to anyone who loves spicy or fermented foods!