Learn from homesteading and fermenting guru, Gina Phelps, as she shows you how to make some of her special treat of Italian Delight fermented tomatoes!
Transcript from Gina Phelps Italian Delights Fermented Food:
I’m Gina Phelps, a nutritional therapy practitioner, and I had the opportunity to demo cultured foods at the Homesteader of America conference in Virginia. We had so much fun getting to meet new people and talking about fermented foods. After my demonstration a lot of people came up to me and asked where my recipes were and, since I didn’t have them written down, they encouraged me to share them.
The recipe I’m sharing today is for Fermented Tomatoes using little cherry or grape tomatoes with basil and garlic. They are unbelievable! I like to call them Italian Bites or Italian Delights. Once you try them, I think you’re going to enjoy them so much that you’ll find your own name.
Part of culturing or fermenting is the process of preserving. One of the things that I found with tomatoes is they don’t preserve a long time. They’re not like sauerkraut or pickles that you can preserve for an entire year. This is because they are so full of sugar that they ferment just like a fruit. Any of you who have fermented with fruit will know it ferments and turns to alcohol very quickly. Alcohol tomatoes are just not my thing but my pig loves them so I make them and if we don’t eat them, the pig gets them.
How to Make Italian Delights (Fermented Tomatoes)
Making fermented tomatoes is simple and is one of the easiest cultured food recipes. We start with putting the tomatoes, fresh basil picked from the garden, and fresh garlic from the garden this year. Peel the garlic ahead of time so you don’t have brown and nasty garlic. Layer in more tomatoes, basil, and garlic. The more basil and garlic you use the more that the flavor is going to be enhanced. The flavor is going to go right into those tomatoes.
You don’t want to squish the tomatoes down in fermented tomatoes. Normally when you’re doing a ferment you’re going to want to press it down and really get it down in there but with fermented tomatoes you don’t want to mess up your tomatoes. Top the jar off with some garlic and more basil.
These are probably the three of my most favorite foods ever and you can eat this raw after you’re done or one of them one of the attendees at the Homesteaders of America conference recommended blending it up and making a sauce and putting it over some nice spaghetti squash or fresh zucchini.
Making a Salt Brine for Fermented Tomatoes
The only thing left to do is to make a salt brine. We’re going to use grey sea salt which has a lot of minerals in it. It also dissolves very nicely and it doesn’t taste overly salty. It just has a very nice flavor. I recommend that when you’re doing any kind of brine or ferment that you start out with about a tablespoon of salt per quart of product, whether that’s vegetables or liquid. You can always add salt afterwards. So many people spend all this money and make what should be a wonderful ferment but can’t eat it because it was awful. Unlike when you put too much salt in your veggies and can add a potato to the water, you can’t do this with a ferment. So start with a low quantity of salt. I put it right on top.
Next, fill the jar right up with fresh, pure, filtered water. Make sure the water is above the food. I like to use a product called Pickle Pebbles. The Pickle Pebble is just a clear glass wedge. You could also use a rock that would fit in your wide mouth jar. Put it down in there, pop that right on the top, and as long as I didn’t add too much water I’m not going to make a total mess. Make sure there are no vegetables above the water. One of the reasons for keeping the vegetables under the water is because of the anaerobic activity with the salt and the bacteria. You don’t want the vegetable to hit the outside air.
The second thing that I love to use are Pickle Pipes. They are a silicone pipe they have the little tiny hole at the top. Place it right on top and then place of your regular ball jar ring over the Pickle Pipe and your ferment is finished.
I always put these on the counter because I think they look really pretty. This will be done in about three to four days if the temperature of your house is at about 65 to 70 degrees. If your house is warmer it will be done more quickly. If it’s colder it will take much longer.
What happens is tonight, or more likely tomorrow, you’re going to start seeing little bubbles that come up. If you touch it, little bubbles will come up to the top. That is the fermentation process happening. Now I did put salt across the top so I’m just going to gently shake it a little bit. You don’t need to shake it during the week but you might want to check and make sure everything’s underneath the weight.
Another reason I love using these little silicone lids is because as the pressure builds inside, this lid is going to start expanding, getting larger and larger. That little hole will open and you may have liquid that comes out. It’s just letting the pressure off. There’s nothing wrong with your fermented tomatoes. The good news is the bacteria can’t get back inside. I always recommend that you put this in some kind of a jar so there won’t be a mess when I wake up in the morning.
While there are many ways of fermenting, I love using just the salt method, also called the wild method. But I also use culture products. There are many starter cultures on the market such as those available from Cutting Edge Cultures from Cultures for Health and Dr. Mercola has a culture powder. In our center what we like to use is a probiotic pill that we open up and add that in. For those people that are using cultures for more medicinal purposes you can find that culture probiotic that you really need and add it to your ferments. Now you’ve got food that is really your medicine too. Food can double as our medicine so let’s use it to the best of our ability!
The salt does make bacteria, there’s no question about it but we don’t know what kinds of bacteria. Not that that’s not good either. Right now I’ve got cabbage and pickles in the refrigerator. I have cabbage with oranges in there, cabbages with apples, and some pickled fermented okra from last year. Every day we have a little bit of everything. I do have some fermented tomatoes left from last week and they’re almost gone so now we’re ready for our next batch.
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