BY NICK MACMAHON | 3 MAY 2019
Jerusalem artichokes, earthy, sweet and nutty. A delicious root vegetable with an infamously unfortunate side effect. Often referred to as ‘fartichokes’, jerusalem artichokes can create a lot of unwanted intestinal gas after consumption. For this reason, some people absolutely refuse to eat them. There are many recipes out there that suggest various ways to prevent this side effect but through my own attempts, I have never been successful.
The team at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, who are the experts in fermenting anything and everything, have claimed that fermenting jerusalem artichokes could hold the key to preventing these unwanted effects.
Jerusalem artichokes contain high levels of the carbohydrate ‘inulin’. This is what our intestinal bacteria love to consume and is the cause of the unpleasant aftereffects. When fermenting foods, the bacteria that is harnessed contain enzymes that break down different components of foods. Using a basic fermentation method, lacto-fermentation (used to make sauerkraut, kimchi), the main bacteria present is ‘lactobacillus’. According to the guys at Noma, this type of bacteria contains the enzyme ‘inulase’ which breaks down inulin.
So theoretically, fermenting jerusalem artichokes = no farts.
That makes sense but we should also consider that when eating cooked jerusalem artichokes we tend to eat a much higher quantity than when eating fermented foods. Maybe an experiment eating half a kilo of cooked and then half a kilo of fermented on different days would give us the answer.
Regardless of the gas issue, fermented jerusalem artichokes are a really great ferment. They stay crunchy and retain their earthy flavours. It’s a simple process and a great way to use up jerusalem artichokes.
For this ferment we will make a brine of 2% salt, this means taking the combined weight of the jerusalem artichokes (JA) and the water and adding 2% of that weight in salt. So say your JA and water weigh 100g, you then add 2g of salt. Easy.
-Keeping the skin on, cut up your JA into bite-sized pieces.
-Place your fermentation vessel on a scale and tare the balance.
-Add your pieces of JA to the vessel until an inch below the rim.
-Pour plain water into the vessel until JA are covered
-Take note of the combined weight of JA and water.
-To make the brine, pour out just the water into a mixing bowl with the salt.
-Stir until the salt has dissolved, then pour back into the vessel with the JA.
-Make sure the JA are submerged under the brine. If needed use fermentation weights or a layer of cling film to keep them submerged
-Keep the lid on the vessel loose or use an airlock.
-Check the ferment every few days to monitor progress. Different environments and temperatures will affect the rate of fermentation so there is no hard rule for how long to leave them. The smell and taste of the ferment is the best way to judge. Through fermentation, the JA will turn from salty to funky. Once there is a definite funk that can be smelled as soon as you open the jar, you know they are ready. Eat on their own or sliced for a salad or sandwich.