Along with cabbage, radishes are my favorite fermentable food. They are so porous that they readily absorb the flavors of the fermentation process and whatever spices you might add, yet they still maintain a somewhat crisp texture. While I commonly use the common red radish and daikon, in the fall, these beautiful “watermelon radishes” show up at my local food coop, and I buy up a bunch and start with fermenting them. They make nice presents to bring to holiday parties with their beautiful green and red coloring.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Fermentation time: 10-14 days
Yield: 1 quart
10 medium watermelon radishes
1 thumb-sized hunk of ginger – diced
4T salt dissolved in
3 cups non-chlorinated water
- The process is quite simple. First, you’ll want to clean the radishes, but don’t scrub and soap them so carefully that you scrub away all the natural bacteria which inhabits the surface.
- Slice them in rings, about 3/16″ – 1/4″ thick. cutting them in cross-section rings helps to display the natural beauty of the radish. Save the ends separately as we’ll use them with the ginger later.
- Dissolve the salt in the water to create a brine. Place the radish disks in a bowl or wide-mouthed jar and pour in the brine. The brine will likely not cover the radishes completely, but that’s OK for now. Place a weight on top of the radishes (I like to use a 1/2 gallon glass jar filled with water) to exert some pressure on the radishes. The salty brine coupled with the pressure of the weight on top will serve to leach out some extra liquid. Give it a few hours, putting a little body weight on it occasionally. If the brine level doesn’t rise to cover the radishes after a few hours, add some additional water to cover, and let it sit for a total of 8 hours or so.
- Drain off and save the brine.
- Take the ginger and end pieces from the radishes and place them in a food processor to grind them up into a paste. If you want other flavors in this ferment, you could also add a couple of garlic cloves, horseradish, chilis, or onion to the food processor at this time.
- Toss the drained radish disks with the paste from the food processor.
- Layer the disks in the container you’ll be fermenting in. I prefer a 1 gallon glass jar for this. Pour 1 cup of the saved brine back in (while still retaining the rest) and again place a weight on top. Every hour or so, spend a minute exerting extra pressure on the weight to try to pull more liquid from the radishes. Your goal is to have the liquid rise and completely cover the radishes in order to engender a suitable fermentation environment. After several hours, if the liquid hasn’t risen sufficiently, pour back in some of the brine (best to dilute with water or you’ll end up with something too salty) until covered.
- Cover with a towel and let it ferment at room temperature until done. You can keep it in a cooler place but it will take longer. Taste it every day or so to follow its evolution. Mine seems to take about 10 days – 2 weeks, but in honesty, it’s done when you really like it. The ginger/radish intensity should quell a bit during the fermentation process and it will become more tart in flavor from the lactic acid.
- Place it in the refrigerator when done to significantly slow the fermentation process.