LACTO-FERMENTED BEETS

Date: October 2, 2017

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I just recently started to eat beets.  I refused to eat them as a child and for most of my adulthood.  My father used to can them every September, infusing our small house with the super pungent aroma of stewed beets and vinegar.  I think that’s what started my aversion to beets in any shape or form.   A few years ago, I was served a salad garnished with a spiral of raw beets and couldn’t believe how delicious they were.  I soon began to incorporate raw beets in my salads, and experimented with roasted beets as well.  Success, I was hooked!  As with most vegetables I encounter, I tried lacto-fermenting some beets last year.  The result?  Lacto-fermented beets are super easy, not stinky, and downright delicious!  

NUTRIENT-DENSE AND DELICIOUS!

Fresh, local beets

Beets are delicious and nutritious vegetables to include in your diet. Beets are a good source of folate, fibre as well as a multitude of vitamins and minerals  (vitamin C, manganese, potassium and iron).   Since there is no heat involved in lacto-fermentation preservation, the beets maintain their bounty of nutrition and take on even extra flavour!

Used in the right ratio, beets’ earthy but sweet flavour adds an interesting dimension to dishes, and pairs remarkably well with tangy flavours such as citrus and goat cheese.  It is best not add too many beets as their strong flavour can easily overpower a dish.  And don’t forget the beet greens!  They are incredibly delicious lightly sauteed in olive oil with garlic!

LACTO-FERMENTED BEETS

lacto-fermented radishes, beets and asparagus with kombucha vinaigrette

Beets are an easy vegetable to ferment.  I mainly add bay leaf to my beet ferments, but will sometimes add some herbs or ginger for extra flavour.  Lacto-fermented beets can be ready in as little as 2 weeks, but I prefer the flavour after a 3- 4 week period.  Lacto-fermented beets have a stronger beet flavour, more olive-like with a bit of tang.

I always have a jar on hand in the fridge to add to salads, sandwiches, or anywhere I would use raw beets.  

Lacto-fermented beets are also tasty when cooked, but the heat will kill off the probiotics derived from the lactofermentation process. 

LACTO-FERMENTED BEETS

Recipe by Jody GowansCourse: Lacto-fermentation, Recipes

Fermentation time: 2 - 4 weeks

Ingredients

  • Fresh beets (red or golden)- cleaned (peeling optional)

  • Brine :1 litre water filtered water + 20 grams (approximately 4.5 teaspoons) salt (non-iodized)

  • Bay leaf

  • Flavourings (optional): Garlic clove, ginger, fresh herbs

  • Glass fermentation container

  • Fermentation weight

Directions

  • Wash and trim beets of greens.  Leave skins on.
  • Cut beets into slices or cubes, as desired.
  • Place beets, bay leaf and optional flavourings in the fermentation container, leaving a 1" space to the top of the neck of the jar.
  • Fill with brine, leaving a 1" space to the top of the neck of the jar
  • Add fermentation weight (if necessary). Close jar.
  • Leave at room temperature (ideally 55-75 F (18-22 C) ) for 2-4 weeks.
  • Transfer to the refrigerator for storage.

51 Responses

  1. I am Eastern European, and watched my father ferment the beets for the liquid ,borscht , not the actual beets which were discarded.
    I am doing it myself now , using about 5-6 lb beets and 4 l water , (one gallon plus ) I am using a pail
    I put in a heaped tablespoon of sea salt , actually sprinkle it on the beets before adding water. I cover it with a cloth. remove scum if I see any . After a week I have fermented beet juice. drink it every day , love it. I actually make a salad out of the beets

    1. Hi Tomi- thanks so much for your story! I love hearing these stories! Great tip about eating the beets after the ferment- I do this when I make kvass and also put them in salads- it is a bonus: kvass and fermented, delicious beets!

  2. Hello, I have been very suprised while trying to ferment yellow beets. I shred them, and very soon, they became blueish-black….while I was salting and mixing them. I later tried to shred them a bit thicker and I put them in a jar as soon as this was done. They remained golden, but the top surface has become black all the same. Do you have any clues on this matter…..? Thank you

    1. Hi Laurent- the blueish-black you see on the beets is from oxidation (exposure to oxygen). Yellow beets are higher in sugar than red beets. When the out layer (skin) is cut, the inner layer is exposed and vulnerable to oxygen. Long story short, this is an example of Enzymatic browning, found in high sugar produce such as bananas, apples, and pears, for example. It is harmless, but not pretty. Your beets are fine. Mould can be black (green, white) but it is fuzzy.

  3. This is not a reply. I have never made fermented vegetables before. I made lacto fermentef beets and I used a burp top. The top was full of colored liquid. I opened the jar up and there was a brownish foam on top so I scooped it off and took the weight out. Went to taste the beet and there was a thickened gel throughout the jar. Beet was firm and somewhat salty. Did I room my fermentation by opening the jar.

    1. hi Julie-the foam is normal- it was brown due to oxidation (residual oxygen in the container) I don’t have a timeline, but it sounds like the ferment was cut short- the “gel” happens mid-ferment (long story, short… there are many microbes that get busy and change the environment for the next microbes to take over .. and so on…, I think you checked mid-ferment)

  4. Hi I?m in the process of making beet kvass, can I keep the beetroot and eat this as welll or do u discard after and keep the juice?

    1. Hi Noeleen- Thank you for your interest and question. Yes, you can absolutely eat the beets after making kvass. They are very delicious and packed with the same benefits as the kvass! I like to add them to salads.

  5. Hi Jody
    I made a jar of beet ferment. I mistakenly added a tsp of yogurt weigh along with the salt, as I?ve done with making sauerkraut. Will it still be okay? Or should I toss it out and start again. Also I did not have an airlock but I ordered some can I switch from the two piece ring lid to the airlock?

    I?m afraid to open the lid to burp.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Shirley, thank you for your interest and question. There are many who like to use starters, in particular, whey to kickstart ferments. However, it is not necessary to add any starter to the beets to start fermentation as there are adequate microbes on the vegetables – all you need is water and salt. You are also introducing microbes found in dairy fermentation into a ferment with microbes involved in vegetable fermentation. This can lead to unpredictable, and often unsuccessful ferments. I am not sure what airlock system you purchased, but most of them are designed to fit on most mason/canning jars. You also don’t need to open your jar to burp it. Just loosen the lid to release built-up gas, then retighten.

  6. So I made beet kvass. Isn’t that the same as fermented beets? I really like the kvass but don’t know what to do with the beets after.

  7. Refrigerator space is always at a premium in our house. Have you tried canning fermented beets once they’ve sat on the counter long enough – I realize that kills off the probiotics, but I’m looking for a way to store them over the winter without letting them get to sour.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Dan- I haven’t tried canning fermented beets-I have kept jars in my fridge for over a year with no issue to texture and spoilage. If probiotics are not your goal, and you are lacking in fridge space, then canning would be an option for preservation for this nutritious and delicious ferment. Hopefully, the canning process and storage will help maintain the flavour and texture- please send updates on the progress!

  8. Hi Jody,

    I made the mistake of over filling my jars, so by day 4 of fermenting they were spilling over the rim of the jar. I opened the jars to tip some excess liquid out, have I ruined the process by opening the jars?!

    1. Hi Amanda- it is advisable not to open the container during fermentation to avoid introducing oxygen, but it’s not the end of the ferment if you opened them briefly. You can also place the jars in a bowl or plate in the future to catch any overflow.

  9. Do I have to be careful of too much of a build up of gases in my jar, once it did crack due to the pressure

    1. Hi Patrick- yes, you should always burp your jars to release built-up carbon dioxide if you are not using an airlock or other gas releasing system. Beets, in particular, are a very active ferment!

  10. Hi. Well I tried it, and yes it worked. I love the taste it?s just right for me, however I would have preferred my beets a little softer to the bite, although the crunch isn?t bad. Would it get softer with time.
    Thanks again

    1. Hi Vireen- Since the fermented beets are now refrigerated, they will maintain their texture and will technically very slowly soften over time. However, my jars of beets that are a year old are still firm. I suggest letting the beets ferment for a week or 2 longer the next time you make them to achieve a softer result.

  11. As usual, i began prepping before reading not to peel the beets. What will be the result? Everything else done as per recipe.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. No problem! You can leave the skins on- they will add more nutrition to the ferment. They might leave a residue in the brine, making it murky, but it is harmless.

  12. Hi , I think I made a mistake. I put my in the fridge after two weeks, but would have preferred it out longer, can I take it out of the fridge it?s been in a day now, Would it go off if I take it out and leave it for the complete 4 weeks. I haven?t opened it as it.

  13. Hi Jody
    I am trying this for the first time it?s only been two days but there is a little froth at the top all ready is that normal.

    1. Hi Vireen- yes, the froth on the surface is normal, it is a byproduct of fermentation. I often see this froth when I make beet kvass. This ferment is very active due to the beet’s high sugar content. Just make sure to keep the jar closed to keep oxygen out of the ferment. If you are using a jar without an airlock system or a jar with a screw-on lid, make sure to loosen the lid to release CO2 pressure, but do not remove the lid until fermentation is complete. If there is any residual froth at the end of fermentation, you can scoop it off the surface before storing the fermented beets in the fridge.

  14. I see some recipes call for “open fermentation” for a couple of weeks before sealing the container for storage in the fridge, thoughts. I have lots of beer and wine making experience, does the fermentation put off gases that may pressurize the container? Thanks

    1. Hi Jeremy- The only “open fermentation” recipes I have seen are for kombucha, ginger bugs, milk and water kefir. When these are bottled and placed in the fridge, the cultures tend to become sluggish, and emit less CO2, thereby reducing the risk of exploding bottles. I hope this answers your question!

  15. Hi Jody. I messed up with the amount of salt. Instead of 2 teaspoons I used 2 Tablespoons for my quart. It’s been a week and my brine solution is still very salty. Any suggestions or should I just start over? I’d hate to waste the beets. Help.

    1. Hi John- thanks for your question. It is never a good idea to open your container mid-ferment. This is an anaerobic ferment, and the introduction of oxygen can encourage the growth of pathogens that could multiply and ruin the ferment. Let the beets continue to ferment, and at the end of the process, you can rinse the beets before eating to remove the excess salt, and you can add distilled or non-chlorinated water to the brine to dilute it.

  16. Hi Jody, I’ve just tried the recipe and I used Kilner jars with airlocks instead of sealing with a lid. Its how I’ve done other lacto-fermentation, so figured this work ok too. However, the tops have sealed with mould. Seems ok underneath, but got a nasty layer on top. Is that ok? What are your thoughts on how to manage this best?
    Cheers,
    Derek

    1. Hi Derek- thanks for your interest and question. Fermenting beets can be tricky, due to their high sugar content. Are you sure it’s mould? I have never experienced mould with the beet ferments, but have had Khams Yeast. Khams yeast is very common in beet ferments (it is a white, unfuzzy layer- it is harmless and can be skimmed off the surface). You also have to ensure that the beets remain submerged below the brine. If it is mould, I would personally toss the ferment but that decision is up to you. Many people ok with skimming the mould off the surface.

  17. Hi Jody, wondering how tender are the beets? And do they get more tender the lender you ferment?

    1. Hi Anthony- thanks for your interest and question. I would say that after the fermentation period, the beets are “al dente”. The are still firm but not crisp. As fermentation continues during refrigeration (albeit slowly) they will gradually soften over time. I tried a jar that I had made last summer using the above method, and they still had maintained their texture. It would likely take a few years for them to completely soften.

  18. Hi Jody, I have a large lock jar and I would like to know if I don’t fill the whole jar, as long as the beets are under the fluid, would that be Ok.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Helen- Absolutely, you don’t need to fill the whole jar. The key is to keep the beets submerged below the brine. Beets are high in sugar and very susceptible to kham’s yeast (it’s harmless, but not pretty and can add an unwanted “funky” taste to your ferment! Good luck and enjoy!

  19. Hi Jody, this is so interesting.

    I see no lacto primer is added, is this just a spontaneous fermentation or could you also steal a live culture from, say a 1/4 cup of water from a yogurt batch? Have you tried various starters? (I see your old pop used vinegar which of course doesn’t really pickle anything so much as marinate it in sourness and preserve it.)

    Genuinely curious, thanks.

    1. Hi Jonas- thanks for your interest and question. There is no need to use any starter culture when fermenting vegetables. There are ample wild microbes on and in the vegetables (specifically from the lactobacillus strain) that will kickstart the fermentation process and thrive in the anaerobic, acidic environment of the fermentation container. Adding whey from yogurt is not advisable since it contains different bacteria not involved in lacto-fermentation. To clarify, the “lacto” in lacto-fermentation refers to the lactobacillus strain of bacteria that is present on and in vegetables. You are correct, using vinegar is another way of preserving the vegetables and is found in most commercial preserved beets, but the vinegar kills off any microbes (good or bad).

  20. About how many carbs would be left after fermentation. I am really struggling to find accurate information? I am Keto and use the beet juice daily and beets sparingly or in soup. Thank you for any information.

    1. Hi Todd- thanks for your interest and question. I have not been able to find an accurate indication on the carb amount for fermented beets. What I do know for sure, is that the carbs are reduced during fermentation since the microbes involved in the fermentation process are consuming the carbs for fuel. The longer you leave the vegetables to ferment, the less carbs will be left over in the vegetables. If you are still concerned with the carb amount, you can try diluting the beet brine with sodium-free soda water. I use my Soda Stream and drink diluted beet brine (and kvass) daily. It is very refreshing, especially on a hot day (if you like the taste of beets!)

    1. Hi Pam- thanks for your interest and question. There is no set quantity for the amount of beets. I pack them into whatever size jar I decide to use and make sure to leave at least 1″ headspace from the top. I like to slice mine in rounds for easier maintenance and chop them up if I add them to salads, etc. However, it is important to follow the amounts in the brine solution (included in this recipe) to ensure an optimal ferment. Also be sure to keep the beets submerged in the brine as their high sugar content makes them more prone to mold contamination.

    1. Hi Lora- thank for your question and interest. I always toss in a bay leaf with the beets, and have also tried thyme. I generally don’t like to add too much extra flavour as I don’t want to overpower the beet flavour. I suppose the sky’s the limit as to how you want to flavour your beets (if at all!)

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