Friday, 3 October 2014

Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks

Living in Vietnam, it's so wonderful to see all the different fermented foods available, the cook at my children's school even makes and serves naturally fermented kimchi! Even so, I am finding it hard to fit in 2-3 serves of fermented foods to my children, mainly my 6yo who needs it most with all the health issues he has had. He can also now tell when his body is needing some extra probiotic doses of fermented veggies if we end up eating out too often and missing our home made meals. So I made a batch of fermented carrot sticks which we could zip lock up and take this out with us when we eat out and also pack in his lunch bag. This version is much quicker and simpler than the grated version of fermented carrots I have here so if you are short on time, and want to include more fermented foods in your diet, give these a try!

Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks
An easy portable probiotic rich fermented food for the kids - Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks

Fermented carrots sticks are not just for the kids lunch boxes, they also work well as a snack to keep at your desk. You get a good dose of probiotics and I also find they help keep my cravings away especially if I combine them with a handful of nuts. If you have a food saver or food vacuum, you could easily pack them in single serves and take them travelling or camping with you. They have been so beneficial to us while our tummies are getting used to life in Vietnam. 

For all of my fermenting, I use a flip top jar (like a fido jar) that has a rubber seal. I find these have worked for me reliably as the seal is airtight so it doesn't allow air in, but allows gases to escape to reduce the risk of your precious jar and contents from exploding! I have read you can use Mason jars but I personally have never tried. 

Some of the basics that you should know if this is your first time fermenting is to ensure all your equipment, including your chopping board, knife & jars should be cleaned in hot scalding water with some white vinegar and ensure your hands are cleaned and rinsed very well. I like to wash all my equipment and let them sit on a clean tea towel to air dry while I wash and prepare.

I always use a culture starter (Body Ecology's Veggie Culture Starter) to ensure my batch always has the right bacteria as that is most important to me to heal my son's health issues and protect him from future issues. This is optional as using the right amount of salt is enough to prohibit the growth of bad bacteria while the good bacteria start working.

(If you live in Australia, you can order your Body Ecology products from here. Enter discount code 'loveurbelly' for 5% off or order direct from Body Ecology USA.)

As carrots are not self brining (meaning you cannot get out enough of it's own juices to make a brine), I make a brine using clean filtered water and salt. The ratio I stick to is 2 teaspoons of natural sea salt (not table salt, iodised salt or any other salt with additives), 1/2 to 1 sachet of Body Ecology Starter Culture to 1 litre of water. If you choose not to use a Culture Starter, use 3 tablespoons of natural sea salt to 1 litre of water. The less salt you use the softer your vegetables will be, so if you prefer them crunchy, stick to this ratio as that is how I like mine!

You can add any flavours you like, such as a few slices of ginger, a clove of garlic, herbs or lemon juice. Just remember that the fermentation process increases all the flavours so don't overdo any strong flavours like garlic, 1-2 cloves would be plenty and you can also slice them rather than keep them whole. My kids just like them plain, so here it is:

You will need:
  • 750ml flip top jar or larger (it needs to be tall enough to fully submerge the carrots)
  • 1/2 culture starter sachet (I use Body Ecology) - optional
  • 4-6 Large carrots (approx 1.5kg organic if possible, and have some spare)
  • 1 litre filtered water
  • 1/2 tsp natural sea salt (or 2-3 tbsp if not using a culture starter)
  • 1/2 tsp organic raw sugar
  • Take out the Culture Starter sachet to come to room temperature
  • Clean all equipment in hot scalding water and vinegar, rinse well and air dry on a clean tea towel
  • If you are unsure of the quality of water you are using, you can boil it and let it cool to room temperature (I am living in Vietnam, so I boil the water just to be sure even though its bottled)
  • Pour about 1/4 cup of water in a glass, dissolve the sugar and add the sachet of culture starter so the bacteria can start waking up and feeding. Set aside
  • Wash the carrots, peel and chop into sticks
Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks
Lacto-Fermented Carrot Sticks

  • Lay the jar on it's side so you can stack the carrots easily so they will all sit vertically when the jar is upright
Lay the jar on the side so you can stack the carrots easily

  • Turn the jar upright, once it is filled enough so the carrots do not fall side ways
  • Insert as many more carrots as possible so that the carrots are packed very tightly to avoid them floating in the brine (they need to be fully submerged in the brine)
  • I find using the carrot sticks that are a little tapered easiest to insert in from the smallest end. Pack as many in as possibly until you cannot pack anymore, if you run out of carrots, cut up some more
  • Add the salt and culture starter mixture to the jar (if not using a culture starter add 2-3 tbsp of salt) and fully submerge the carrots (they should be covered by at least  2cm of liquid)
  • Leave for 5-7 days before you open and taste
  • Once opened, store in the fridge
  • I have left some of my fermented veggies on the counter (not refrigerated) for over 6 months and they have remained crunchy and tasty, but most to the time we gobble them up pretty quick
Here are some suggestions on how to include these fermented carrot sticks everyday (and how we usually eat them):
  • use the carrot sticks (and add other chopped veggies like cucumbers and peppers/capsicum or roasted sweet potatoes) to dip into things like home made guacamole, salsa or bolognese sauce 
  • as a side veggie to your main meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner (I add about 5 sticks per plate)
  • add to salads
  • as part of a snack platter with olives, cheese, other veggy sticks, nuts etc and if you eat meat some chicken strips, ham or hard boiled eggs
  • dip into soft boiled eggs with lots of salt & pepper (again add other chopped veggies or roasted sweet potatoes to add some variety and aim for about 5 or so sticks per child/person)
  • add to the kids lunch box (and threaten them with no iPad, no minecraft and no tv if they don't get eaten at school ;)
 Some Tips for first timers:
  • My preferred fermentation vessel is a a flip top jar with rubber seal (like a fido jar) which allows gases to escape so there is not need to 'burp' the jar but does not allow air in
  • You should also get no risk of mould with this method. You may find a thin white film at the top of the brine, this is perfectly fine (mould is usually circular and furry like what you find on bread and cheese)
  • Keep the jar out of direct sunlight, after 5-7 days you can start eating the carrots, they should be crunchy and sour by now. Store them in the fridge once opened and use clean utensils each time. (No fingers!)
  • There is no need to move them to the fridge for storage, I have left my veggies on the counter for over 6 months with no problems as they have been preserved with the fermentation process although I recommend eating them within a month to get all the probiotic goodness in your belly as the bacteria start to die off once they run out of food (sugar)
  • Eat the veggies at room temperature, unheated as heat will destroy the beneficial bacteria
  • Using a starter culture is optional, you can use 2-3 tbsp salt per 1 litre of water instead. The salt inhibits the bad bacteria to allow the good bacteria naturally present in the vegetables to start the fermentation process (opposed to rotting process!) The trick is to get the right balance of salt (depending on the type of salt you use which is why I suggest 2-3 tbsp). Too much salt and you may inhibit the good bacteria, too little salt might leave you with a smelly rotting batch of veggies. I have never had a bad batch using Body Ecology's Veggie Culture Starter which is why I highly recommend it. It helps your batch of veggies start off with all the right bacteria and contains lactobacillus plantarum. This probiotic organism is known to reduce gut wall permeability and enable the body to produce it's own folate amongst some other amazing things. 
  • I was referred to Body Ecology's Veggie Culture Starter by my doctor as my son was battling a recurrent clostridium difficille (c.diff) infection and had other gut issues, I cannot say enough and really believe this to be one of the main factors that cleared his infection (we were prescribed Flagyl 9 times over the course of his recurrent infection with no success). He has been clear of c.diff since we introduced fermented foods in his diet ever since and many other symptoms have been resolved and others are still improving.
  • I do receive a small percentage of the sales generated on my site. In case you're wondering I started using Body Ecology before my affiliation was setup. It was only once I started blogging that I set up this affiliation, it helps support the time I put into my blog so if you buy from my site, you are also helping me and my blog, thank you :) 
  • P.S if you live in Australia, I am able to offer you 5% discount when you order from using discount code 'loveurbelly' at the checkout

I really recommend the below books if you want to know more about fermentation, I found them really useful when I first started out:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates

Hope you enjoy! May <3


  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting post May Ly. I loved to read this post very much.

  2. Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. You did an excellent work May Ly.

    1. Thank you, appreciate your comment :)

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