Probiotic Pickled Brussels Sprouts

This is a leftovers day, but I still found excuses to play in the kitchen. I tested the salsa I started fermenting a few days ago. It looks and tastes as fresh as the day I made it even though it has been sitting at room temperature for the last three days. It can now keep in the refrigerator for months. Mind you, I said CAN and not WILL! I would like to have left it out to ferment longer but I was anxious to dig in! The culture will continue to develop in the refrigerator at a much slower pace.

A few years ago we purchased a jar of sweet, vinegar cured Brussels sprout pickles and really loved them. Today I started a jar of Brussels sprouts fermenting in a salt brine to see if I can come up with a probiotic alternative which we will like just as well.

Vegans need not be alarmed by the term lactobacillus fermentation. There is no milk or milk derivative necessarily involved. Some people do use yogurt whey to give the process a boost. The term lactobacillus refers to a bacterium which is naturally present on fruits and vegetables. The saline solution provides an environment where lactobacillus bacteria thrive but undesired bacteria and yeasts are not so welcome.

To determine the amount of salt needed I put an empty widemouth canning jar on the kitchen scale and set the dial at zero. I trimmed the stems and peeled a few layers of leaves off the Brussels sprouts. I made a cut partway into each sprout and packed them tightly into the jar. I then poured in filtered water to cover the sprouts. The required amount of salt is 2% of the combined weight of sprouts and fluid. In this case it was .57 ounces of sea salt.

It is important that the sprouts stay submerged, but the darn things wanted to float! I discovered that the plastic lid for a regular mouth canning jar fits perfectly inside a widemouth jar.  I put the inverted small lid into the jar and pressed down until it packed down the Brussels sprouts and filled with liquid. The jar ended up full to the brim with the saline solution. All the experts stress the importance of leaving a minimum one inch head space between the fluid and the rim. I am confident that by using an airlock there will be plenty of room for any expansion.

Airlock systems allow gases to escape but prevent unwanted bacteria or yeasts from entering. Such systems are available for lactobacillus fermentation purposes at a cost of $27 plus shipping and handling fees. I wasn’t prepared to spend that amount of money so I adapted.

I already had the airlock and rubber cork as part of my brewing equipment but needed to figure out a way to make it work with a mason jar. The plastic lids which fit canning jars seem to be air and fluid tight, so I used a 1 1/4 inch hole-saw bit to drill a hole in a plastic lid to accommodate the rubber cork. Perfect!


I will leave the Brussels sprouts to ferment for at least three weeks to a month since they are whole rather than chopped or blended into a mash. I would like them to turn out quite sour so I can then sweeten them up a bit with honey or maple syrup.

When making cultured foods there is always a possibility of the project going awry. I have had remarkably good luck with my attempts. I guess I enjoy the suspense and anticipation awaiting the final result of these long term projects.

brussels sprouts 2







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