I admit that I had been reluctant to get into the world of fermented meats. After all, animals are more complex, what with their locomotion, protein-based muscles and specialized organs. Not like those simple cellulose and carbohydrate plants. And more complexity means more creatures in Nature which like to
feed on recycle other expired creatures. And some of those creatures are decidedly NOT good for we living animals.
So I decided to begin with a simple fermented fish sauce. I certainly use fish sauce quite often in cooking and when making kimchi, so I thought, “what kind of Fermenter would I be if I used store-bought fermented sauce?!” I based my first attempt on the recipe in Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook (yes, I am one of those kooky WAPF‘ers).
I consider this a relatively “safe” recipe because the fish only ferments on the counter for 3-4 days, in a tightly lidded mason jar. After that, it ferments for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator, albeit more slowly,at a temperature safe from the putrefying, pathogenic bacteria. Things do continue to ferment at refrigerator temperatures, just at a much slower pace.
I wound up splitting the contents into two jars. That way I can try two separate time frames and compare. The first batch was made in 31 days– 4 days on the counter, followed by 27 in the fridge. (The second batch is still fermenting in the fridge.)
- 1½ lbs. fresh sardines
- 2 cups filtered water
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon mixed or black peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon lemon peel
- 2 Tablespoons whey or pickle brine
- Cut whole fish into 1″ pieces and add to jar.
- Mash fish into a slurry with a potato masher or mortar
- Smash garlic cloves by pressing under the blade of a wide knife. Add to jar.
- Grate or peel lemon and add to jar.
- Add peppercorns, salt, and water to jar. Mix well.
- Cover tightly with lid.
- Let sit on counter 4 days.
- Transfer to refrigerator, let it sit for 4 weeks.
- Strain contents through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Pour contents into recycled dressing bottle and refrigerate. Will keep for several months in fridge.