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With all of the gardening and preserving of food that I enjoy to store up for the winter, I wanted to share with you a traditional form of canning that has increased in popularity over the years.

Lacto-fermentation.  Just the word fermentation can sound so scary and beyond any regular persons capabilities, right?!  Here is some good news.  When we really begin to understand what fermentation is the less scary it becomes.  Fermentation happens all around us and many of us are eating fermented foods on a daily basis.  Bread, yogurt, cheese, wine, and beer are all examples of foods that undergo a process of fermentation.

According to dictionary.com

fermentation is a chemical reaction in which sugars are broken down into smaller molecules that can be used in living systems.

I just sowed 2 different varieties of beets and will be fermenting them to enjoy all of the rich health benefits one receives from eating fermented foods.

In order to ferment beets or any other vegetable, all this really means is that it undergoes a salt brine cure set out in room temperature for about 3 days to 2 weeks.  Naturally, one would think, “won’t the food spoil?”  By covering your food in the brine and allowing it to sit in room temperature it creates an ideal condition for the lactic acid-forming bacteria existing on the food surface to feed upon the sugar naturally present in the food.  The lactic acid will continue to grow (or ferment) until enough has formed to kill any bacteria present that would otherwise cause the food to spoil.

The benefits of naturally “pickling” our bounty is that the lactic acid, not only keeps the vegetable in a perfect state of preservation but promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.

According to Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions

The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances.

It’s so funny that what used to be completely normal and so unscientific now needs a clear definition in order to feel comfortable to begin to adapt these foods into our lifestyle.  Clearly our age of pasteurization has everything to do with it.  Unfortunately, we are depriving our bodies of needed bacteria in order to have a healthy intestinal flora.  I really believe that a lot of our sickness starts in our gut and by incorporating and reintroducing many different varieties of lactobacilli, we can begin to rejuvenate our intestinal flora improving our digestion and health.

The more that you start preserving and adding canning books to your bookshelf you will notice that every canning book has at least one recipe for brine curing or lacto-fermentation.  Before the age of canning and using vinegar to pickle, our ancestors preserved their bounty by means of fermentation.  All across the world we have natural pickling recipes to prove this true.  From kimchi in Korea, cortido in South America, sauerkraut in Europe, and relishes in the States.

One of the things I really enjoy about fermenting is that you don’t have to spend all of the time needed to can!  A definite bonus for me :D  Also, it’s another great way to get your kids involved in making real food.

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Below are a few recipes for fermenting foods from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

Korean Kimchi

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For me any form of sauerkraut was well… unappetizing.   I did not grow up with this and found my first batches of sauerkraut and kimchi rather unappetizing.  After research and reading seasoned fermenters experiences I have come to find out that in order to get the best tasting sauerkraut it needs to be fermented for at least 6 months.  Meaning 3 days fermenting at room temperature and placing in the fridge for 6 months before eating.  Wow, did I find this to be ever true!!  I fermented a large batch of this kimchi and would try a bit of it every month.  It has now officially been 6 months and taste out of this world delicious!!  I will now start a routine to make a few jars of this every 6 months or twice a year to have a delicious and nutritious batch of kimchi at all times.  This idea would hold true for regular sauerkraut and cortido.  This has just enough spice and tang, so yumm!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head of napa cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup daikon radish, grated
  • 1 tbls freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3-4 green onions diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1 tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)

Place vegetables, ginger, garlic, red chile flakes, sea salt and whey in a bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices.  Place in a quart sized, wide mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage.  Cover with a large cabbage leaf to ensure the kimchi stays below the liquid.  The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

Fermented Beets

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This has to be my favorite fermented food so far because my kids LOVE it!
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They are so easy to make and taste so good!  Earthy yummy beets.
Ingredients:
  • 12 medium beets
  • 1tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)
  • 1 cup filtered water, this is very important.  In order for proper fermentation your water needs to be filtered and clean of any chlorine which will inhibit the fermentation process.

 Prick beets in several places, place on a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, or until soft.  Peel and cut into a 1/4 inch julienne or slice.  (Do not grate or cut the beets with a food processor – this releases too much juice and the fermentation process will proceed too quickly, so that it favors formation of alcohol rather than lactic acid.)  Place beets in a quart-sized, wide mouth mason jar and press down lightly with a wooden pounder or meat hammer.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over beets, adding more water if necessary to cover the beets.  The top of the beets should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

Cortido – Latin American Sauerkraut

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Ingredients:
  • 1 large cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 2 medium onions, quartered lengthwise and very finely sliced
  • 1 tbls dried oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbls sea salt
  • 4 tbls whey (if not available use an additional 1 tbls salt)

In a large bowl mix cabbage with carrots, onions, oregano, red chili flakes, sea salt and whey.  Pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices.  Place in 2 quart-sized, wide mouth mason jars and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage.  Cover with a large cabbage leaf to ensure the kimchi stays below the liquid. The top of the cabbage mixture should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jars.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

These are recipes, some adapted, from Nourishing Traditions.  There are numerous ways you can begin to ferment your own vegetables.  Really, you can include any sort of vegetable or spice to your liking.  This year I’m going to experiment more with my harvest.  I plan on buying a crock and try to do some large scale fermenting including vegetables such as cauliflower, onions, garlic, dill, green tomatoes and wow.. the list can go on.  I can’t wait!!  I also have a few recipes utilizing fermented veggies that I can’t wait to share!

I hope you found this way of preserving vegetables exciting and something to try in your own home.  Please do share if you’ve fermented vegetables and how they turned out.  Like and dislikes.  I was excited to create this post especially for Annette’s lacto-fermenting carnival over at Sustainable Eats.

Other posts of interests


34 Responses to Lacto-Fermentation – A traditional and natural way to preserve natures bounty

  1. Divina Pe says:

    HI Diana, I started making my own kimchi three months ago experimenting with different flavors. I would like to try the other recipes on this post soon. And after my sister in law made some fermented green mangoes, I made a bottle the other day. But I didn't use the right mangoes as they really have to be green. It sounds like we're on the same page on doing fermentation on different side of the world. :) Hope you can find some green mangoes soon.

  2. Sanjana says:

    This is so interesting- I can't believe I had never considered this. The health benefits must be sky high and if it tastes good, I'm up for it :) Thank you so much for this informative post. It will be my guide!

  3. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I still haven't made kimchi, but I will soon! :) Your beets sound good, too. I used seriously dislike beets when I was younger, but now I love them.

    I love all your experimenting, preserving, & canning!

  4. Sustainable Eats says:

    Diana thanks for posting! I can't wait to try the cortido..yum!

  5. Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS says:

    Diana, I love how you explained LF and made it sound not so scary or gross – not to mention your pictures are beautiful and the fact that your kids love the beets!

  6. momgateway says:

    My family can't get enough of kimchi and we're not Korean! We also enjoy, pickled vegetables like eggplants, papaya, radish, peppers and beets. I would like to experiment with your cortido!

  7. Raine Saunders says:

    Hi Diana – great post about fermentation! I have done a lot of fermented dairy but no vegetables yet. This is on my list, and as usual, you inspire me and motivate me. Blessings to you and your family, and I wish you a blessed Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

    x0x0x0x

    -Raine :)

  8. Cristie says:

    Very interesting information. I would love to try making the beets.

  9. kc says:

    Hi Diana, I am such a big fan of lacto-fermentation that I have actually recruited quite a few people to the fermented veggie club. I like to suggest them as a dairy-free probiotic for those that can't tolerate dairy. I usually have at least four different ferments in my fridge at any given time – my kid prefer the ginger carrots so we must have those. I like giving them as gifts to all my elderly friends and family since they aid in digestion (the beneficial bacteria in our gut are naturally depleted as we age).

    I can't wait to get some cucumbers from the farmers market so I can pickle some of those, too. I've read about using oak leaves to give brined cucumbers a good crunch. I can't wait to try it. My favorite combo so far was the onion and red pepper relish that I made. The recipe is on my blog.

    I've read that if you aren't crazy about the flavor of a new fermented recipe, just put it in the fridge and try it again in a month. The flavors really do change over time. I am trying to get a system down so that we always have aged ferments to eat, but we can't seem to keep up with the demand. I also run out of storage room so I dream of a root cellar.

  10. Fresh Local and Best says:

    Cultured foods are so easy and delicious when you make it at home! I love the way that the jar of veggies fizzes when you open it for the first time after months of fermentation.

    Great job!

  11. Tasty Eats At Home says:

    I have never tried to make kimchi or sauerkraut, but now you're inspiring me! It sounds so tasty. Now that I have an extra fridge in the garage, I can totally do this!

  12. Fuji Mama says:

    I love kimchi, saurkraut, etc. YUM! Very informative post Diana–thank you!

  13. Tiny Urban Kitchen says:

    I would love to try making my own fermented foods. One question – does it stink up the fridge? I know kimchi does, but I'm not sure about other veggies.

  14. the clark clan says:

    Diana, I jumped to this article from your green beans and I wanted to tell you how terrific it is! I want to share it with my readers on my Thoughts on friday link love post this week! :) Alex@amoderatelife

  15. Diane@Peaceful Acres says:

    I've been feeling under the weather lately battling a relapse of malaria…and drinking the fermented pickle juice is absolutely soothing and refreshing! My son knows to never dump out the juice! It's one of my prized ferments filled with Vit C and little beastie healers!

  16. Elisa says:

    Thanks for the recipes Diana! I’m realizing that if I want to have fermented veggies available when next winter hits, I’m going to have to start now, especially if I want it to be 6 months old! Oh, how much I have to learn!

  17. [...] by means of lacto-fermentation, methods of preparing our grains or healthy fats for brain development and cardiovascular [...]

  18. Marsha Paulson says:

    How long before you can eat it and how long will it keep in root cellar. I can’t wait to make some thank you

  19. [...] Step 7. After as many hours as you have let it to ferment, stir well to incorporate the curds and whey. As you can see in the picture below, the liquid or whey, rises to the top with the curds below it. If you are into lacto-fermentation, I would suggest you save some of it to use for fermenting vegetables. For more information on lacto-fermentation, click here. [...]

  20. Diana says:

    Hi Diana!

    We have been following WAPF for a couple of years now but not heavy on vegetable ferments. Now doing GAPS, we are looking for more ferments that our culture (Spanish) traditionally used but are now “encurtidos” (pickled in vinegar). Sadly, I found a book from 1832 and they were using vinegar way back then! Aside from olives (any sources for raw??), onions, peppers, garlic and maybe pickles. Can you offer up any ideas?

    We do yogurt and finally found imported Serrano that only uses salt!!!

    Saludos,

    Diana

    • Diana Bauman says:

      You know Diana, aside from yogurt I’m not too familiar with fermented vegetables that Spaniards eat. Well, besides olives of course! (Look into Chaffin Family Orchard from California. They ship raw olives!) Now, the one thing I can think of which I’ve been looking for a traditional ferment for is Mejillones En Escabeche and other shellfish put up in vinegar! I haven’t dived into fermenting meat but I would love to. Unfortunately, being in Iowa, well… any kind of fish or shellfish is not worth preserving ;)

  21. Diana says:

    I order my Olive oil from them indirectly but it just didn’t cross my mind! Thank you!! I’m in FL and sadly, its hard to find good seafood. There is a little shop near me that ships in frozen shellfish from the Cantabrico every week. Even their frozen stuff can be superior. I have some old books on conservas. I will keep an eye out for the mejillones!

  22. [...] I have cayenne peppers fermenting and just put up a small jar of smoky, roasted alma paprika [...]

  23. Bob Stidham says:

    I live in Mexico and make a lot of yogurt but usually just drink the whey. I’m going to try some of your recipes. I worked in South Korea several years ago and enjoyed rice wine and kimchi. Every apartment there has a balcony with a row of crocks that contain different kinds of kimchi. When served everyone gets a pair of silver chop sticks, if the silver turns black the kimchi has spoiled and is poison, obviously it isn’t eaten. That would be good advice for anyone making their own that is kept for a long time, check it with a silver spoon to be sure it is still safe to eat.
    Bob

  24. [...] Lacto-Fermentation – A traditional and natural way to preserve natures bounty [...]

  25. [...] swear by adding grape leaves to retain a good crunch and others add whey to speed up the lacto-fermentation process. This age old practice is a simple, salt brine cure set out at room temperature for days, [...]

  26. Karlene says:

    I love this site but why don’t you provide a way to make copies of this wonderful info for us that like to make notebooks without having to copy all the advertisement?

  27. […] years of adding fermented foods to your diet will do. From sourdough, kombucha, natural pickles, beets, and kraut, I now can’t get enough of anything fermented with a bit of fizz – tart and […]

  28. Korean Kraut says:

    Diana,

    Your Lacto Fermentation process is extremely interesting and I look forward to trying some of your recipes. Although as a German Korean (Hence Korean Kraut) I have to say your recipe for KimChee is a bit non-traditional, and sounds labor intensive (pounding the cabbage). If you’d like to try a traditional method, still using fermentation try this link: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/easy-kimchi

    Happy Fermenting

  29. […] As I’ve been sharing on the blog lately, my family is in the midst of baseball season. I’ve been intentional in making quick and easy meals for the busy baseball season and I’ve been trying to cut down on sugary treats that spread like wild fire at the ball park. Like I mentioned on facebook, although I’m being more intentional with the snacks and treats my children munch on during the season, I do not restrict what they choose to eat when other members of their team bring in snacks on their assigned day. It’s certain that during this time of the year they are eating more processed foods than they are used to so I make sure that they are daily consuming good probiotics like homemade milk kefir, kombucha, pickles, and beets. […]

  30. nir says:

    hi thank you,
    can you cook the beets in a pot full of water over the fire instead of baking them?

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