Lacto-Fermentation is named for the bacteria, lactobacillus, that thrives during the fermentation process. Fermented foods go way back and have a myriad of health benefits, in addition to adding the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria to your body.
It’s definitely a great way to preserve the abundance of the harvest this time of year so you can be eating farm fresh foods when you can no longer be growing outdoors. We had this class a long time ago but what’s great about fermented foods is that you can do it any time of the year! It’s fairly simple to do and very safe! The method described below was taught to us by our very talented chef and lacto-fermentation instructor at The Farm School, Cristina Garcia!
1. Choose your vegetables.
- Try: Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Hot Peppers, Radishes, etc.
- Add-ins: Ginger, Turmeric, Dill, Garlic, Onions, Herbs
- Grate, dice, or slice! (Consistency of size is important).
- Things not to add: Fruit and Sugar (they require more specific recipes).
2. Choose your brine strength. 1-3 tablespoons salt per quart of water (each tablespoon of salt in a quart of water adds 1.8% brine strength to your ferment).
- Use salt in the higher range during warmer weather. (The ideal temp range is between 68-72°F).
- The more salt you use the slower the ferment.
- Vegetables with a higher water content (cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.) require a higher brine strength (just think of how much additional water is actually in your jar). More rugged veg (think cauliflower, beets, green beans, etc.) work well with a lower bring strength.
- Some recipes call for substituting up to 1/2 of the required salt with whey. To make this substitution replace 1 tablespoon of salt with 4 tablespoons whey. Whey contains lactobacilli and helps to get things going. If you’re fermenting in warmer weather, skip the whey.
- You can also inoculate a new batch of something you’re fermenting with 1-2 tablespoons of the brine from a finished batch.
- Chlorinated water kills bacteria. If your water is chlorinated use distilled water.
3. Choose your vessel
- Glass and glazed stoneware (jars and crocks) are great.
- Lacto-fermentation requires three key beneficial bacteria. Since all of the magic happens in an anaerobic environment, it’s important to keep out the oxygen once you’ve started.
- Make sure your brine completely covers your veg. You can create a liquid seal by adding a clean weight or use a Ziploc bag filled with brine.
- Be sure to leave a couple inches of head space; when the oxygen is replaced with carbon dioxide pressure is created and without space for expansion everything will bubble over.
4. You’re ready!
- Fill the vessel with veg.
- Pour brine over.
- Make sure you have a water seal to keep oxygen out.
- Choose an area out of direct sunlight with an ideal temperature.
- After a couple of days release a little bit of the building gases. Do this daily as you check on your veg-taste it as you go.
- Your fermented vegetables will take between 3 days to 3 weeks.
- Move your veg to the fridge (lacto-fermented products will last for months).
Happy Fermenting! ~Amber
- Fallon, Sally, Mary G. Enig, Kim Murray, and Marion Dearth. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends Pub., 2001. Print.
- Katz, Sandor Ellix. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Pub., 2003. Print.