What is Lacto Fermentation?
Lacto-fermenation is the process in which the lactobacillus bacteria convert the sugars naturally present in fruit or vegetables into lactic acid in an oxygen-free environment. This simple fermentation process requires nothing more than salt, vegetables, and water (no canning or fancy equipment needed!). Some examples of lacto-fermented goods include fermented milk, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, and other pickled vegetables.
What are the Benefits of Lactic Acid?
Populations of lactic acid bacteria are naturally present in nature and the ones found in milk, fruits, grains, vegetables, and meat can be used for fermentation. Lactic acid bacteria inhibit or kill undesirable bacteria in food and in the human body by a number of mechanisms including the production of lactic acid and antimicrobial peptides.
Other benefits include:
- Improved nutritional value of food (ex. Iron is more readily absorbed from fermented vegetables)
- Reduce inflammation and improve barrier of your gut
- Improved heart health - reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Control of intestinal infections
- Weight control
- Improved brain function
- Improved digestion of lactose
- Control cholesterol levels
- Speedy recovery form yeast infections
- Have anti-inflammatory properties useful for preventing certain kinds of cancer
How to Lacto-Ferment Vegetables
- Submerge a food that naturally contains lactic acid bacteria (Ex. cabbage or cucumber) into a jar of brine of water and salt and whatever herbs you like. This step will first help to kill the harmful bacteria and the surviving lactobacillus (good bacteria) convert the lactose and sugars into lactic acid. The resulting acidic environment helps extend the shelflife of the food and gives it that delicious, tangy flavour.
- Make sure that the vegetables stay submerged during the fermentation process by using a bowl that fits in the jar as a weight
- Cover the jar with a lid and if the lid doesn’t close, you can cover the opening with a clean kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band
- Place a small plate in case the water bubbles over the top of the jar
- Let the vegetables sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for about a week to two weeks
- Don’t forget to release the gasses by opening the lid once a day!
Remember, the longer they sit out the more sour they will get so it really depends on what your personal preference is. Once you are pleased with the taste, secure the lid and transfer to the refrigerator. It should last between 2-3 months depending on how sterile you keep their environment.
What’s the Difference between Lacto-Fermentation and Pickling?
Pickling is more of a general term for pickled foods either through fermentation or quick pickling to preserve the food longer. The breaking down can occur in two different ways: Fermentation or Adding vinegar/lemon juice to make the sour pickly- taste. All fermented foods are pickled BUT, not all pickled foods are fermented.
Remember, fermented foods needs to sit out for a substantial period of time for the bacteria to convert the sugar into lactic acid whereas pickled foods are done in a brine that has already been fermented. For instance, submerging the vegetables in a salty brine with vinegar to get that tangy taste and extend its shelf life. You will most likely find these type of jarred pickles at grocery stores and are not to be touted as health foods. They do not do much for the digestive system as fermented vegetables would. However, studies have shown that pickling does have its health benefits.
So How Can You Get more Fermented Foods into Your Diet?
It sounds like a lot of work but actually the practice of fermentation is simple and pretty affordable. If you don’t want to make your own, we do have a variety of fermented foods available.
- Cultured yogurt or kefir bowls topped with whatever you like
- Blend yogurt or coconut yogurt into smoothies
- Top your scrambled eggs with sauerkraut
- Drink some kombucha tea or kefir to start your day!
- Add chopped fermented pickles to your salad or in your sandwiches
- Put some sauerkraut to your hot dogs or burgers as a condiment
- Make some miso soup noodles
- Add sauerkraut to your potato salad
- Make a sourdough bread sandwich
- Pair kimchi with rice or make a kimchi broth
- Make grilled salmon with a miso glaze
- Have some sauerkraut or misozuke vegetables as an appetizer
- Make some tempeh (fermented soy) as your vegan protein source
- Soba Noodles with Miso dressing
If you don’t know where to start, we have an array of fermented foods available at Foodcraft.
- Raw Fermented Mustard Caviar (227g)
- Lacto-Fermented Organic Cucumber Pickles (250g)
- Water Kefir Fermented Sourdough Bread (1 lb)
- Organic Chickpea Tempeh - 250g
- Misozuke Beetroot with Red Quinoa Miso - 500g
- Misozuke Carrots with Chickpea Miso
- Organic Nuka Zuke Daikon Pickles (200g)
- Vegan Coconut Yogurts
- Miso Pastes
- Organic Sprouted Buckwheat Sourdough Bread
- Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
- Gluten Free Soft Seeded Sourdough Bread
- Gluten Free Sourdough Bread with Chia Seed
If you want to learn how to make fermented foods like sauerkraut, nuka zuke, or kefir, we also have classes here at our Kitchen. You can see the entire list here!
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