Whey Fermentation | Chioggia Beets & Brussels Greens with port wine salt

Whey fermentation is the anaerobic process of pickling and preserving fresh food with whey, the liquid byproduct for many dairy products, or a combination of whey and salt.  I'm fond of whey fermentation for a few reasons:

  • I'm a total sucker for ways to use food products often discarded by most, 
  • I use less salt during the whey fermentation process, and that can't be a bad thing, and...
  • It boosts fermentation and shortens the time it takes to develop the fermented "tang" so sought after.

It's pretty darned simple to make whey, but if you are short on time and/or dairy and happen to live in the Austin area, my friends with Mother Culture offer whey, often complimentary with the purchase of yogurt. I took advantage of this generous favor last weekend upon my visit to the Texas Farmers Markets. (Of course don't stop short of just grabbing complimentary whey, if and when they have some. Mother Culture offers savory and sweet whole milk yogurts that are to die live for.) You can also purchase their products, including whey, online.

In addition to Mother Culture whey, I make things particularly interesting by using another favorite product sold at Texas Farmers Markets-- one of the creative combinations of seasoning and salt sold by Hill Country Provisions, Texas Pork Wine Salt. I'll be sharing more ways to use their various salts in my seasonal ferments in upcoming recipes so keep and eye open for these seasoning salts. They make super sought after gifts for the cooks in your life (hint, hint), and I've taken to bringing them along as host gifts instead of the ubiquitous bottle of wine these days. You'll find them at the Texas Farmers' Markets each Saturday and Sunday, but you can buy these online, too! (If you're in the super DIY mode and want to make your own, I found this recipe. Haven't made it but it comes from a reliable source, and I think it would make a fun weekend project. Like maybe this weekend.)
What the heck is a Chioggia beet anyway, you ask?
While it's tempting to use up the produce that's perhaps a day past it's best, resist the urge to let it languish, and use fresh, crisp properly stored and/or recently harvested fruits and vegetables for optimal results. I choose organic-- I can't see the benefit in preserving pesticides, and I encourage you to find the best quality available to you. These Chioggia beets and Brussels greens hail from Johnson's Backyard Garden and I use pretty and pristine vegetables from Gray Gardens in upcoming ferment recipes, too.


3 small Chioggia beets
1 small head Brussels greens
Whey (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon port wine salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns (optional)


Wash and sterilize a pint jar. Any pint jar will do. Doesn't even have to be a canning jar. Drain upside down on toweling while you collect and prepare ingredients.

Scrub beets with a vegetable brush. (I retain the skins, where so much fiber is found. Peel at your nutritional peril!) Thinly slice and set aside. Hint: While Chioggia beets don't "bleed" like conventional beets, it's still a good idea to protect your clothing while handling them.

Wash Brussels greens well, and separate leaves. Stack 4-5 leaves, and tightly roll them into a cigar-like cylinder. With a sharp knife, cut crosswise into thin ribbons. Separate ribbons by "fluffing" with fingertips. Set aside. Note: What even ARE Brussels greens you ask? Well, they are the pretty little bloom on top of a Brussels sprouts stalks that would have eventually formed into individual sprouts if left to grow. If you have access to them, by all means do not let them go to waste, however if you can't find them, all is not lost. Collard greens are a great substitute, similar in texture, but any sturdy greens (even cabbage, though a bit bland) will do. Or leave them out altogether and use all beets if you choose.
What the heck are Brussels greens anyway, you ask?
In a separate container, combine whey with kosher salt, port wine salt, and peppercorns, if using.

In sterilized jar, layer beets with shredded greens, packing firmly to fill. Pour in whey, using a small utensil (I use a clean chopstick) to carefully pull the stack of vegetable away from the sides of the jar to allow whey to penetrate to the bottom and release air bubbles. I spend a little time doing this-- let the whey settle and the vegetables adjust and repeat the process until adding as much whey as the jar will accommodate and releasing all air bubbles.

Keep vegetables weighted down under the surface of the whey brine. There are a few ways to accomplish this. I use

  • glass weights like these (This is not an affiliate link and I do not profit from its purchase. Just a suggestion.)
  • but you could also utilize a commercial airlock system
  • or experiment with other DIY systems (and learn which popular choices you shouldn't use.)

Cover your jar with your chosen lid.

Leave jar in dark corner of your kitchen counter, pantry, or cabinets, perhaps on a saucer or small coaster of folded towels. Fermentation will begin after a day or two. With a plain jar, I leave it alone for 2 days, then open the jar daily after to release fermenting gas and taste for developing "tang". Follow the directions for your chosen method if using a commercial system.

Allow your lacto-fermented vegetables to process this way until they reach the level of fermentation that you prefer. This might take anywhere from 4 days to 8 weeks, dependent upon your preference, the season, and the temperature in your home. 
Hint: The optimal home temperatures for active fermentation are between 60 and 75 degrees. Cooler than this, and vegetables simply won't ferment, and warmer than 75, your vegetables will become soft.
When your vegetables have fully fermented, transfer them to the refrigerator where they will last for months, or as long as it takes to devour them, likely. I keep several small jars going at different intervals so I always have a variety of fresh ferments on hand. There is a point where they will lose freshness and quality in storage, but I always finish each jar within 3-6 months, well within the safe to consume threshold.
Learn more about the food safety and science behind experimentation from industry experts, here
There's a lot of discussion, and much of it heated, about the benefits of fermented foods and the differences in lacto-fermentation, wild fermentation, and cultured foods. I am not a scientist, a doctor, or even a registered dietician. I like the flavor of fermented foods, primarily, and I have 'sensitive digestion' that seems to benefit from its consumption. While I can't provide any expert endorsement, I did find some intriguing reading/listening while researching the subject. In addition to the links found above, you might find the following interesting, and perhaps useful, too. 

Mayo Clinic Minute: Figuring out fermented foods

Recipe | Early Spring Lemon Berry Crunch Probiotic-rich Salad

This weekend at the farmers' market, the clouds overhead made for rather gray skies, but the vegetables from market vendor stands certainly were bright enough for an after showers rainbow explosion of flavor and nutrients.

Eating in season saves nutrients, pennies, and resources by preventing the need for long transportation distances and storage times, and provides fresher, more nutritious food. "Eating the rainbow" has the additional benefit of a more varied array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in skin and flesh, whether eating raw, steamed, roasted, and/or whirled into a smoothie.

If you're fortunate enough to live in our neighborhood, do try some of the products used to enhance the flavor of this salad, a beautiful burst of health and beauty. If you live away, suitable high quality substitutes can be found in your local markets, farm stands, CSA boxes, and quality grocery stores. The more you search out these products, the more familiar you'll become with the entirety of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables available to you.



1/2 container Mother Culture onion chive yogurt dip

1 T raw Round Rock honey

2 T Kala’s Cuisine Preserved Lemon, rinsed and minced fine

2 t Texas Hill Country Olive Co. lemon-infused olive oil

Mother Culture whey, to thin


1 pint strawberries, sliced

1 bunch parsley, leaves chopped fine

1 large watermelon radish, sliced thinly crosswise

1 small bunch (3) Chiogga beets, shaved thin, crosswise

1 small bunch young carrots, scrubbed well & shaved thin crosswise

1 carton purple kohlrabi microgreens

Combine dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl, whisking together well and adding whey as needed to thin dressing to a consistency capable of coating salad lightly.

Toss each prepared fruit & vegetable individually into dressing, folding to coat each. Top with microgreens and serve at room temperature or refrigerate to chill.

Nutrition Notes

Fresh lemon juice and lemon peel contains Vitamin C plus bioflavonoids. This is a good reason to eat the white part between the peel and the fruit, called the pith. Most avoid this because it is considered to be bitter, but it should be consumed with the fruit whenever possible. Preserved lemons allow for the consumption of the entire fruit, which also provides greater fiber and concentrated nutrients than does juice and pulp, alone. 

Beyond creating an Instagram-worthy meal, what are the benefits of 'eating the rainbow'?  Consuming a variety of colored fruits and vegetables provides an array of nutrients. Red foods contain phytochemicals including lycopene and anthocyanins, orange and yellow foods are packed with carotenoids, green foods are rich in chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants green, loaded with antioxidant power that promotes well-being, and blue and purple foods are loaded with anthocyanin and resveratrol. 

Eating in season saves money, provides optimal nutrition, and supports local farmers. If you find yourself in the Austin area in the month of March, please stop by the Texas Farmers Markets at Lakeline, Saturday, March 17 and the TFM Mueller on Sunday, March 24, where I'll be sharing ways to make the most of the seasonal best you'll find waiting for you from Austin's local farms and farmers.

Classes & Events | Mardi Gras Seafood Gumbo class with Maggie Perkins for Kitchen Underground


"First, you make a roux…..”

A little magic, a little science, a little art, gumbo is a Creole cook’s expression of affection, a one-pot love affair for friends and family, alike.

There are as many types of gumbo as there are Thibodeaux in South Louisiana, and the most special feature the finest sustainable seafood the Gulf has to offer. Join market chef and food writer Maggie Perkins as she breaks down the basic bones of this iconic dish, Creole Seafood Gumbo beginning with the mighty and indispensable ROUX.

You’ll be as entertained as you are enlightened by hints, tips, family secrets, and raucous stories about life in Bayou Country while learning to prepare, and afterward feasting on Seafood Gumbo with rice, traditional garlic bread, classic Sensation Salad, and a sweet little bit of lagniappe to finish.

Come join us, cher, it’s going to be a BIG TIME.

C’est si bon!

Purchase tickets ----> Kitchen Underground 
Feb. 13 | 6:30-8:30pm | BYOB

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