Traditionally, fermentation is used to preserve harvest. Every culture has it’s own version of ferments like pickles, kimchi, dairy, sauerkraut, fish or grains – fermentation is deeply ingrained with our growth as a species. Methods, ingredients and flavours became an identity over the years, extremely rich in history and health benefits.
It’s no secret, there’s an abundance of benefits that comes with naturally fermenting your foods, such as adding nutrients (enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics), eliminating toxins (like phytic acid) and it even breaks down the food so it is more accessible. Vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains undergone a “Lacto-fermentation” become fully optimized foods that help cleanse our bodies.
But, what exactly happens during lacto-fermentation?
Lacto-fermentation is the process where “good” bacteria, Lactobacillus, feeds off the natural sugars in food, in turn creating Lactic acid. The salt component kickstarts the fermentation process by banishing the “bad” bacteria from our foods so team Lactobacillus can get to work. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that keeps the bad bacteria away and locks in the nutrients. Foods with live Lactobacillus bacteria can help balance pH, maintain immunity, aid in the absorption of nutrients, neutralize harmful compounds, produce short chain fatty acids that aids the digestive process and increase the bioavailability of amino acids, particularly lysine and its antiviral effects. Moreover, there’s a plethora of new studies focusing on the gut-mind connection – how we feel, how we operate, how we think, it all starts with the gut! (Waiting patiently for my copy of “I Contain Multitudes.. by Ed Yong” in the mail!)
What do you need to ferment?
Traditional lacto-ferments involve submerging food in salt and water, also known as a brine. There are other ways of naturally fermenting foods, such as the use of whey, water kefir or kombucha. One can also cut back on the amount of salt when using these culture starters in combination with salt.
Where Can I start?
There is no need to be intimidated by lacto-fermentation! It is one of the safest, easiest ways to prepare food – not only reserved for niche foodies or experimental homesteaders. With just a little curiosity, patience and practice, you too can whip up endless varieties of beautiful pickles, fruit ferments or fizzy beverages!
Try some of these beginner recipes:
Rules to Follow to Avoid Contamination
- Rule #1: Always start with a clean working area and equipment!
- Fermenting Mantra: Submerge in brine and all will be fine. This will help insulate the ferment from yeasts and other aerobic organisms that can cause it to rot.
- If it has a white film, mold, or smell pungently sour (like your compost bin), or you are unsure – throw it out and start over!
- Temperature and exposure to oxygen impact the flavor and fermentation. There is such a thing as over-fermenting. Experiment often to find that sweet spot!