Today in my town there are farmers who have gotten up extra early, packed the products of their fields into their trucks and drove to town. They set up tables at the farmer's market, and wait for me to arrive. I bring my little red wagon, shopping bags and a good portion of my grocery money for the week. I will buy at least seven quarts worth of whatever they are selling fresh. Today it is probably green beens.
When I get home I will ferment them, like they discuss in this Slate.com article. According to slate, you should also involve your kids in the process of fermenting the bounty of the field. They give four reasons, but I really think there is one best reason, that they don't mention. Your kids should learn that there is nothing magical about making really good food. Your fermented green beens will turn out really good. You will be amazed at how much better something that starts out fresh and ripe will be than whatever that is that you dump out of the green been can. I can only really speak for myself here, but I grew up thinking that the reason we ate out of cans and bottles so much was that there must be some really hard and mysterious process that created these things.
My granddaughter and I make peanut butter at home. I don't start from raw peanut that I got from the farmer's market, I buy Planter's Spanish Peanuts already cooked and salted. I tried from raw one time and it wasn't better or easier. From before she was old enough to help she has watched me doing something really simple, and making something really delicious. She eats store bought peanut butter, but when she is here she demands real home made peanut butter. If we don't have any then she helps me make it. We peel the red skins off of the nuts, fill the food processor, wait four minutes, put the product in a one pint spring top jar, lick the bowl…the lesson for her is that there isn't anything about making peanut butter that requires us to get it ready made. She knows that it only takes thirty minutes to make, no cooking.
Fermenting foods is the same way. Your kids (or you for that matter) may think that they bottle cucumbers for you because making pickles yourself is a delicate, dangerous process. You may think that if you foul this up that you will kill yourself with botulism. It's like they have convinced us that we aren't competent to rot food safely. This process is as easy as falling to sleep at night. The product is as remarkable as the raw ingredients you put into the jars. So far this season I have made sauerkraut from cabbage, pickled beets, kimchi, pickles, pickled peppers and kombucha. I have never had to throw a batch out. I have never gotten sick eating any of these things.
You will need bottles to ferment in, I use quart or half gallon mason jars. I use beer-making fermentation locks to keep bugs and mold out. I put brine and vegetbles in, I take out pickles. I refrigerate a quart or two of it, the rest goes in a storage room in the basement. This year I may actually can some of these things for long-term storage, which kills the probiotic bacteria in it that some say is the beneficial point. I think the beneficial point is that when I eat it, probiotic or no, I will know exactly what is in it. The only preservative will be salt and heat. The food will be pure and unadulterated. My kids and grandkids will see that it is fun and easy. They will learn to set todays bounty aside for later. Our planet and our neighborhood will benefit from our attentions. It is a small thing, and the world may not notice, but the world that I can see will. My universe revolves around the things I can see. Paying attention to my food, giving it the honor that it deserves, turning it into things that are created with my entire mind is the highest honor I can give to these plants that lived for me. Passing that devotion on to my grandchildren is the best thing I can do for them.