I just got off the phone with fermentation evangelist Amanda Feifer, who told me about her new book, "Ferment Your Vegetables." If you make DIY food gifts to give at the holidays, you'll find dozens of easy ideas in this "fun and flavorful guide to making your own pickles, kimchi, kraut, and more" from the author of the Phickle blog.

Ferment-Your-VegetablesThe book itself makes a wonderful gift — paired perhaps with a flat of canning jars and some pickle weights — a good idea for anyone on your list who likes to eat healthy or get creative in the kitchen. And, if you're looking to add some incredibly flavorful dishes to your holiday meals, you'll find plenty of ideas.

Released in mid-October and already going into its second printing, the book is the culmination of "five years of rabid daily fermenting," says Amanda. I spent some time reading through the book, and I found a wealth of ideas for the holiday season and year-round. I asked Amanda about using this book for the holidays, and she pointed out three specific recipes that she thinks would be perfect for serving on a holiday table and three that would be perfect for gift giving.

Ferments for the holiday table

  1. Stuffing Kraut is a ferment Amanda created specifically to serve at a holiday party for a friend with Celiac disease. "I wanted to come up with (a recipe) for my friend with the flavors of stuffing. It doesn't have the texture of stuffing but it mimics the deep traditional flavors — sage, thyme, celery and onion." For those who can't eat bready stuffing, Stuffing Kraut is a flavorful option.
  2. Rosemary Rutabaga is one of Amanda's all-time favorite ferments. "In the Midwest, mashed rutabaga is as essential as mashed potatoes during holiday meals," Amanda told me. The recipe in the book is a garlicky pickled version of mashed rosemary, created when she lived in California and was trying to find ways to use up the huge bush of rosemary outside her apartment.
  3. Mac and Kimcheese is the most "decadent recipe in the book." The liquid from kimchi is used to make a roux that helps create a cheese sauce. "The dish is delicious piles of cheese and pasta with a terrific amount of sour," said Amanda. "It's my go-to potluck dish. I take a steaming Le Creuset baking dish full of it and always come home with an empty dish."

Ferments as holiday gifts

  1. Mirepoix Kraut is Amanda's take on the French holy trinity of celery, carrots and onions. It makes a great gift because it can be carefully put together to look pretty in the jar and be used as a stunning centerpiece on a table in addition to be used as a side dish for a chicken dinner.
  2. Pint of Pickled Peppers is "a good topper for foods that are cheesy or for meats." It's also great for gift giving because the red and green peppers used in give it a lovely holiday look.
  3. Cocktail Onion Rings (recipe below) can be used as a replacement for pickled pearl onions in a cocktail. Give it as a gift with a bottle of gin, and the recipe for Amanda's Dirty Gibson tied around the jar. Of course, they can be used in non-boozy ways, too, like piled high on a burger or sandwich.

Cocktail Onion Rings


  • 2 medium-small onions (5 1/2 ounces, or 150 grams each), peeled
  • 8 juniper berries
  • 2 allspice berries
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-inch (7.5 cm) sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 cup (235 ml) filtered water


  1. Cut the onions into 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) slices.
  2. Place the seasonings into a wide-mouth pint (500 ml) jar and stack the onion slices on top of them, filling the jar to 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) below the rim.
  3. Mix the salt into water until dissolved and pour the brine into the jar, ensuring that there is a thin layer of brine over the onions.
  4. Submerge the veggies and cover your jar. (Instructions for submerging the vegetables are in the book, or you can find instructions on Phickle.)
  5. Place your jar on a small plate or bowl and allow to ferment at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.
  6. Once you're happy with the flavor and the acidity, remove the weight, secure the lid, and place the jar in the fridge.

Dirty Gibson Cocktail

Dirty-gibsonThe onions and the brine are used in this version of a classic Gibson.

  • 1 or 2 cocktail onion rings
  • 4 teaspoons (20 ml) brine from cocktail onion rings
  • 2 1/2 ounces (75 ml) gin
  • 3/4 teaspoons (4 ml) dry vermouth

Place the onion rings in a martini glass. Shake the brine, gin and vermouth with ice in a cocktail shaker and pour into the glass. Serve chilled.

For those new to fermenting, "Ferment Your Vegetables" begins with a thorough guide to getting started and covers the tools you'll need, the safety considerations, the health benefits, and troubleshooting tips and more.

"I really hope the book inspires more people to start fermenting," said Amanda. "One of the best things about the book is getting emails from people who say, 'You've finally convinced me!'"

Images: Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.