Introduction to Lacto-fermentation
Lacto-fermentation is a traditional method of processing and conserving foods that has been used in every culture around the world for thousands of years. Lacto refers to a specific species of bacteria called Lactobacillus. Some popular foods that are fermented are: pickles, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, olives, cheese, yogurt, vinegar, soy sauce, tempeh, chocolate, coffee, beer and wine.
Lacto-fermentation is the result of beneficial micro-organisms, generally bacteria and yeasts. We select for these beneficial micro-organisms by creating an anaerobic and acidic environment. For vegetables this is done by submerging them in water or their own juices. The lactic acid created by the bacteria naturally inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Using salt in vegetable ferments also helps to select for good bacteria.
There are many lacto-fermented products that are very easy and delicious to make at home. For example, most lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi are quite easy to make at home, very versatile and do not require an additional culture.
Kefir and Kombucha are also very easy to make at home. While it is possible to buy them at the grocery store, it is much more beneficial to make them at home. When they are produced commercially they isolate a few select bacteria that can be reproduced in the lab and make it from those. However, when these products are made at home from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY), they will have a much larger diversity and quantity of probiotics.
Lacto-fermenting is a reliable and safe method of food preservation. It often requires less work and consumes less energy than other methods of food preservation such as canning, freezing or dehydrating. Additionally, lacto-fermentation adds taste and nutrition. Lacto-fermented foods contain probiotics, enzymes and vitamins such as C, B’s and K2 which are created by the beneficial bacteria. They can also be easier to digest, more assimilable and detoxifying.
- Cultures for Health – section Learn – Natural Fermentation
- The Art of Fermentation – Sandor Ellix Katz
- Wild Fermentation – Sandor Ellix Katz
- Superfoods for life: Cultured and Fermented Beverages – Meg Thompson
- Preserving Food with Freezing or Canning – Terre Vivante
There are many more books on specific types of fermentation such as cheese making, sourdough baking, brewing vinegars, wines, or beers, etc.
HOME MADE SAUERKRAUT
Recipe by: Vera Dougley (originated from my Mom)
- 1 head of cabbage shredded (must be hard winter cabbage)
- 1 shredded carrot (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. Coarse salt
- 1 gal. crock or glass jar. Do not use metal or aluminum container
- Shred cabbage on thin mandolin blade.
- Shred carrot on grater blade.
- Mix together in clean basin and sprinkle salt on top.
- Continue mixing using hands until liquid is released from cabbage. This should take a few minutes.
- Pack it tightly into your crock or glass jar. Do not use metal or aluminum container.
- Press this down with a plate and water bottle. All the cabbage should be covered with
the liquid by now.
- Sit at room temperature for 5 - 6 days.
- On day three you will mix it allowing the gases to escape.
- On day four you will do the same.
- By day 5-6 it should be ready. Refrigerate. Enjoy!
Recipe by: Julie Graham
This recipe can also be made with whole hot peppers or banana peppers (stem cut off), garlic scapes, or pearl onions. Dill or other spices can be added as well.
Always remember lacto-fermented veggies are inherently safe but the general rule is to never consume anything that smells or tastes unpleasant.
- garlic (approx. 1 lb.)
- 1-3 Tablespoons of salt
- 1 Liter of water (warm)
- 1 Liter mason jar
- Peel garlic, leave cloves whole.
- Prepare a brine with 1-3 Tablespoons of salt in 1 Liter of water. Use warm water to dissolve the salt. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place garlic cloves in a 1 Liter mason jar (or smaller depending on amount). Fill with brine.
- Close lid and place jar in a tray or something to catch overflow.
- Leave at room temperature for 5-30 days, “burping” the jar regularly (especially at the beginning) and pushing down any garlic cloves at the surface. Alternately, you can cover the surface with a cabbage leaf. Add in more water or brine if necessary to ensure all garlic is submerged.
- Store in the fridge once fermented to your liking.
- Use in salad dressings, hummus, salsa, babaganouche, sauces, etc. or add to cooked dishes at the end. The garlicky brine can also be used in salad dressings (replaces some of the vinegar).