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[Photographs: Marisa McClellan]

The radish is an amazingly handy and versatile little root. It grows incredibly fast (ready to pick just 28-30 days after the seeds go into the ground); it's full of bright, peppery flavor (the hotter the season, the spicier they'll be); and it can be eaten raw, braised, smeared with butter or pickled.

Of all the possible radish treatments, I'm particularly fond of them when pickled (though crunching through several buttered and salted French breakfast radishes is never bad either). My default radish pickle is this slightly sweet quick version I wrote about last fall. What's so nice about that one is that it takes all of seven minutes to put together from start to finish and it ready to eat within just a day or two.

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I'll be the first to declare that the quick pickled version is delicious (and so good on a homemade taco). However, when I'm in no rush to go from radish to pickle, there's another method that results in a wonderfully crisp, tangy finished product that I actually like even better that the vinegar variation. If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about a fermented radish.

Fermentation is one of the oldest method for food preservation. It's the process of allowing beneficial bacteria to grow within the food, transforming sugar and starches into tart lactic acid. It's how sauerkraut, preserved lemons, and the classic deli kosher dill are made and in addition to creating wonderful flavor, it also makes for a healthier, digestion-friendly pickle.

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Before You Get Started

Make sure that both your primary jar and the weight (either smaller jar or bag) are scrupulously clean. Because fermentation is a process of allowing bacteria to work, you want to ensure you've got the good beneficial bacteria and not a harmful one.

When you ferment, it's important to keep the vegetable fully submerged in the brine. I like to use a wide mouth quart jar as my primary vessel and then use a little quarter pint jar filled with a bit of the brine as the weight. If you don't have a little jar that will fit, you can also fill a zip top bag with some of the brine and use that as your weight.

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This recipe uses a 5% salt solution. To achieve that, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and stir in 3 tablespoons of sea salt until dissolved. Let it cool completely before using. This solution can be used for any number of fermented vegetables.

About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, also called Food in Jars, is now available.

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