A couple years ago, while experimenting with fermenting vegetables I came up with a way to make a starter culture without salt. That wasn’t probably the discovery of America but anyways, here is it (as promised earlier).
While preparing your starter, try to be as clean as possible around cabbage and kitchen items you use to diminish the possibility of bad bacteria interfering with the fermentation process. The reason cabbage is ideal for this purpose as it doesn’t spoil easily due to its high cellulose content.
Pick a medium to large-sized cabbage (the more cabbage is mature the better). Use filtered water and glass or ceramic container with a lid, a soup pot, for example.
Shred cabbage using a knife or food processor. Then put shredded cabbage into a pot and add filtered water just enough to cover the cabbage. Cover a pot with a lid and let it stand at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Give the mixture at least 48 hours. That’s if your room temperature is in range of 21-23°C. If it’s lower, then let the mixture stand for another 6-8 hours. If it’s higher, reduce the time by 6-8 hours.
Check your ferment in 12 hours and help gas (released by bacteria) to come out by stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon. When time comes, taste the liquid, it should have a pleasant sour taste. Then drain it, first with a spaghetti strainer then with a cheesecloth, into a clean container (again glass or ceramic). Throw out the cabbage. And voila, a town with million of alive friendly bacteria is at your service!
Use this liquid to ferment your vegetables. When not in use, store it in a refrigerator. Virtually all vegetables can be fermented – carrots, beets, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radish, celery. Depending on the cellulose content of a specific vegetable, different time is required for its fermentation. For example, a high-cellulose vegetable like a carrot needs more time than a tomato which is low in cellulose. For traditional tastes, throw in some dill or caraway seeds, basil, cranberries, whatever you prefer. Basically, it’s done the same way as preparing a starter culture. Just don’t throw away the veggies at the end, that’s what you are after :). When fermenting, taste veggies frequently and with time you would know exactly when they are done. For example, if you cut veggies into pieces which approximately are 0.5 cm thick and 5 cm long, 4-5 days is enough. When ferments are ready, store them in a refrigerator.
I hope you like what you end up with the first time! If you have any suggestions to improve the recipe or anything of that nature, let me know.