I have always been intimidated by the idea of lacto-fermentation. I mean, just listen to the name. Sounds scary! I always thought it was time-consuming with not so tasty results. And if it weren’t for my sweet cousin, Amy, I probably would still be in that scared state. This last week, Amy, invited me over to her home to make lacto-fermented salsa. I thought, why not? I discovered how incredibly easy this process is! And how fun to learn something new with friends. Couldn’t get much better than that – inspiring one another on in our healthy homemaking pursuits. So find a friend, and dive in with me to the world of lacto-fermentation?
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
Rather than go into all the details, I will just share a few quotes with you and direct you to my lovely friends on the web who have explained this so well previously.
Lacto-fermentation is the process of cultivating lactic acid as a natural preservative to prevent putrefication. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. It has multiple health benefits as described by Sally Fallon in 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. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
I have discovered that is is a simply, easy, and worthwhile means of adding wonderful vitamins, enzymes, and especially probiotics to your diet.
Recipe adapted from Nourishing Days
Makes 1/2 gallon
1 large onion cut into large chunks
1 large green, red or yellow pepper, cut into large chunks
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, unchopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half
3 lbs of tomatoes, cut into quarters (approximately 4 cups)
2 Tbsp lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sea salt (definitely sufficient!)
1/2 cup whey (Take yogurt or kefir and place in a cheesecloth/cloth napkin and drain over large measuring cup. Squeeze the cloth gently with your hands until you get enough liquid. The juice that drains will be your whey! It’s very easy!)
1/4-1/2 cup water (UPDATE: we found this completely unnecessary and made it too watery, so use your judgment.)
- In a food processor or blender, place onion, pepper, garlic cloves, cilantro and jalapeno pepper. Pulse several times until mixture is nicely diced. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Place tomatoes in the food processor or blender and pulse several times in likewise fashion until nicely diced. Add to large bowl.
- Gently combine all ingredients in the large bowl and add lemon juice, vinegar, sea salt, and whey.
- Transfer to a 1/2 gallon glass jar (or 2 quart size jars), and carefully add 1/4-1/2 cup water until all the ingredients are submerged. Make sure to leave 2-3 inches of headspace for expansion.
- Cover tightly with a lid and leave on your counter for 2-3 days until the salsa is bubbly. Transfer to cold storage or the top shelf of your refrigerator. Best used within 3 months.
Here’s our little video demonstration amidst all of our 5 little ones! We had the little girls cut up the tomatoes for us and they loved being included in the process. All in all, it took about 2 hours to make 3 gallons of salsa with interruptions so it was a very easy process. Amy is allergic to dairy, so she offers her dairy free alternative to using whey, which is Body Ecology veggie culture starters, as described in the video. Join us for all the fun we had!
Easy Fermented Beverages
Kombucha is a simple way of getting some of these fermented benefits into your diet regularly! We love this beverage! Kefir is another easy one that we have used forever for our smoothies and for soaking our grains.
Easy Fermented Condiments
After our successful salsa makings, I knew that a few other easy means of getting probiotics would be through our condiments. I love homemade ketchup and whipped it up in a few minutes and it is currently on my shelf fermenting away. Here are a few recipes:
I have made lacto-fermented sauerkraut in the past, and I don’t recommend the standard recommendation that you can replace whey with an extra tablespoon of salt, as we did with that attempt. It makes an extremely salty final product! Best to use the simple process of making whey as described above!
So that is a simple start on lacto-fermentation!