Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation

ng_cabbageEver thought of how people in the past survived without refrigerators, freezers, and other modern luxuries? When you read about our past history, you soon discover that they had a wealth of knowledge on how to preserve food.

Besides their cold cellars, insulated milk houses, or other even more simple ways to keep food cool (such as placing buckets of milk in a stream, or placing roots in a hay lined hole), they also lacto-fermented or cultured food to preserve it. This simple method not only preserved food, but also gave a wealth of nutrition.

Lacto-fermented foods span the nations. You will many traditional recipes for lacto-fermented foods from all over the world. If so many peoples thought this an important part of their diet in the past, I think we should pay attention!



What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria.

This produces not only a tangy, delicious product (like the sauerkraut pictured above), but it also preserves it….. and does so much more than that!

Health Benefits

The health benefits of lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables are wonderful. I think we probably only know a small part of why they are so good for us. For example, unpasteurized sauerkraut and kimchi got a lot of buzz in recent years after some scientists found that birds fed kimchi or sauerkraut would often start recovering from the Avian Bird Flu!

Here’s what we know, when you lacto-ferment vegetables it increases in vitamins, it is more digestible and you get a plethora of good bacteria when you consume it!

“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.”

Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 89

A healthy nation in perhaps wiser times would be getting healthy, good bacteria from numerous sources, including lacto-fermented vegetables and cultured drinks every day. Today, instead we bombard our bodies with chlorine (not just in the water we drink but we also absorb it from our showers and baths) and antibiotics (in our milk, meat, and what we take ourselves).

Stay tuned for more about lacto-fermentation!I hope to experiment more as fresh, local produce becomes available and will also be sharing my thoughts and questions on the different methods out there for lacto-fermenting.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. says

    We just ate some of my first fermented sauerkraut yesterday! Wow, it’s nothing like the slimy mess from the can! I’m very excited about your upcoming fermentation posts…bring them on!

    KH: We also love homemade sauerkraut! Yum!

  2. says

    Your sauerkraut looks different than mine. I use purple onions, so I guess it shares it purpleness w/the cabbage. :)

    KH: I bet that would be good! (and pretty)

  3. says

    Cultured vegetables is something I want to learn more about, too. Not being able to eat dairy right now rather limits my probiotic options!

    We’ve done the salsa and sauerkraut pretty well, but I want to learn more options. We would like to eventually be able to preserve a portion of garden harvest via culturing instead of all in the freezer or canned….

    • Dianne A says

      Hey Lizzy :) Check out water kefir as a great non-dairy probiotic that’s slightly sweet and fizzy, and fills the place of soda. Also, just as an fyi..If you avoid dairy because you’re lactose intolerant dairy kefir could still be an option for you. Unlike yogurt, the multitudes of bacteria and yeasts in milk kefir eat lactose in it’s entirety, so won’t give you any digestive issues <3 Do start slow if you'd like to try though.. It has SO MANY good guys it can be a bit of a shock to your system, so a little at a time and built up is the way to go ;) Wish you the best! <3
      Dianne

  4. Christy says

    I’ve been following your website for a few months– I love it! I’m going to be making some fermented veggies this week for the first time, so I was very excited to see you would be posting about them. What a happy coincidence! Can’t wait to see what you do!

    KH: I am no expert in lacto-fermenting, but I hope to do a lot this spring/summer! I’m excited. :-)

  5. says

    I just got Sandor Ellix Katz’ “Wild Fermentation” last month and have been eager to try out some of his stuff (AND some of the recipes in NT). I’ve held off because I don’t want to use whey (that way my dairy-allergic daughter can eat this stuff, too), but I also don’t want to overdo the salt and mess up the flavor. So I will be paying close attention…

  6. says

    I just picked up “Wild Fermentation” from the library last week, and was looking forward to trying some of the recipes – I’m excited to see what you have to add as well! :)

  7. says

    My husband grew up on homemade kraut. He loves it bunches. Another thing you may not know, is my husband late-father was born in the early 19′s. He grew up on a farm with no electric. My hubby once asked him how they preserved their meats. He said, they kept things like sausages in crocks filled with lard. The Lard would keep the air out. So when they wanted to cook up some sausages and kraut, they would dig the sausages out of the lard and open a jar of homemade kraut.

  8. says

    Oh and one more thing. My 88 year old mother-in-law swears that a woman should not make kraut during her monthly cycle. She says it will ruin the kraut. *shrugs shoulders* don’t ask me why? LOL

    • Darlyne says

      My parents and grandparents did their planting and butchering by the ebbing and waning of the moon. Swore by it. Did they know something we missed?

  9. KimiHarris says

    Stacy and Meg,

    Wild Fermentation is a great book! Love it. Whey can also have it’s own problems (adding a funny taste, etc), so I don’t find it a loss working with just salt. :-)

    Anita,

    That’s great! I was just reading in a history book about the northwest how they would keep sausages in lard. Very interesting! I bet it would be good though.

    I will have to keep your mother-in-laws advice in mind, lol! That’s pretty funny.

  10. says

    I just made some cortido last week and am excited to see how it is compared to good old sauerkraut. Ferments are one area that I’ve really slacked on so I am going to try to make them every couple of weeks to keep up.

  11. Matt says

    Fermentation is awesome. We have made our own kraut, salsa, yogurt and kombucha. We just got kefir grains and are making our own kefir.

  12. says

    Great post, Kimi! And you’re so right about “healing and health happening in the gut.” A large part of our immune tissue is located there, so it’s important to keep things healthy and happy!

    I love the photo! Looking forward to further posts on this.

    Melissa

  13. says

    I tried NT’s Ginger Carrots and I was so looking forward to the taste-test… I gagged and spit it all in the sink! I used the extra salt since I didn’t have any whey and it tasted like a spoon-ful of salt. What happened??? I’m looking forward to your recipes, b/c I really want to incorporate cultured foods. The salsa is next on my list and then pickles.

    KH: Overall, I haven’t had great success with carrot ferments. The texture is always a bit yucky to me. Yes, with the extra salt it can be a bit salty. I will be doing a post later this week comparing the different methods you can use, hopefully that will help some. (By the way, I love lacto-fermented salsa!)

    • Jylah Ritmeester says

      I had a similiar experience with the ginger carrots but did a mass rinse off afterwards and back in the jar: much better taste!

  14. says

    Thanks for posting this, I’m looking forward to read about your adventures in fermentation. I’m very much interested in lacto-fermentation though it is pretty much Terra Incognita for me (I make my own yogurts though with raw milk and live cultures).
    In France and Germany, where I grew up, sauerkraut is made with juniper berries. The berries impart a very specific taste (though you don’t eat them) to the kraut…Which I kinda miss here.

    KH: I’ve read about the juniper berries. I will have to try it sometime if I ever can get my hands on some. I wonder if dried would work?

  15. says

    Oh I forgot to ask: do you think that raw apple cider vinegar would make a suitable substitute for whey? I know that most traditional recipes call for (lots of) salt but I don’t want and can’t have too much of it.

    KH: I will be doing a post later this week talking about some of the common methods I know of in making ferments. But in short, you can cut down on the salt, but it won’t be quite the same. :-)

  16. Kaylin says

    I just made my first batch of “kefir-kraut”. I fermented the cabbage with kefir grains and salt, which speeds up the fermentation. It only had to sit on the counter for 3 days before moving to the fridge. It’s good! I understand you can use water-kefir grains instead of milk-kefir for those asking about whey alternatives. I’ve also been using my kefir to make sourdough. Three cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups kefir, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Let it sit on the counter 24 hours and then make it into a loaf, let the loaf rise and bake it. That’s it! The yeast in the kefir raises the dough.

    KH: Very interesting! I’ve never heard of “kefir-krauts” before! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Jessie says

    This is a timely post. I have been gradually becoming more & more Nourishing Traditions in my cooking & diet. And I just made my first batch of lacto-fermented veggies. It’s on my counter now lacto-fermenting. So exciting! It’s the ginger carrot recipe from NT. Based on the comment of a woman I know through a farm I use, I decreased the salt from 1 TBS to 2 tsp.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your future posts on this.

  18. says

    if you don’t use whey and only use salt to make kraut, is it considered ‘lacto-fermented?’ I made krat with whey and didn’t like the flavor. I wasn’t sure that I’d get the same beneficial bacteria by using just salt. Looking forward to reading future posts.

    KH: At one point, I thought it wasn’t considered “lacto” fermented any more, but I think it is. The definition of lacto-fermentation is, I think, pointing to the lactic acid it produces. I saw it referenced to just salt recipe. :-)

  19. says

    Do you have any suggestions for a person who would like to try lacto fermented food but really can’t prepare a ton of it, I’m the only person in the house who will eat it. Is there a brand of prepackaged.

    • Melissa says

      I live in Indianapolis and there are a few people who produce commercially. One is Fermenti Artisan – they have a facebook page you could contact them through. I have just started playing around with lacto-ferments myself and am having great success with small, one-jar batches of things.

  20. Matt says

    Kim,

    How long did you ferment the ginger carrots. Without using whey it will take almost a month and then the salt taste would be gone. The three day counter-top ferment requires whey which has much more lactobacillus.

  21. says

    We aren’t fans of the Gingered Carrots, either. But we love NT’s recipes for Tomato Pepper Relish and Pineapple Chutney is a favorite. When we make Pineapple Chutney we use the skin and core of the pineapple to make pineapple vinegar, which we later turn into traditional cortido. I love berry sauce on my pancakes or mixed into yogurt and drink coconut kefir almost every meal.

    Fermented foods are the most “foreign” of the foods we’ve tried since adopting this traditional diet, but it’s also the one that has given us the biggest difference in our health.

  22. says

    Matt,

    Thanks for the tip! I only left it on the counter the three days and then transferred to the fridge. I’ve still got it by the way. Will it get better eventually if I forget about it on the bottom shelf? Picked up my first raw milk today and will be seperating the curds from the whey… Can’t wait to try a few more things!

    Kim

  23. Kathy says

    Kim,
    the longer my carrots sat inthe fridge the less salty they were, I felt the same way as you did at first. The next time I made them I just used less and they turned out more to my liking.

  24. Jessie says

    OK – so the ginger carrot ferment is done – just over 72 hours.

    When we opened up the quart jar, it was bubbling and actually started rising out of the jar – so we ran & got some spoons and tried it. My husband really liked it. The first taste I had, I wasn’t too sure at all about this. But the second taste was OK. I think I might actually like it when it’s a bit colder.

    I want to try other recipes but my schedule is a bit crazy for a few weeks & may not get to it. I’d like to try the Taro root and some type of sauerkraut – maybe kimchi if I’m brave :)

  25. says

    Hi Kate – NT has recipes for small quantities that you can make using plain old canning jars. It’s a great way to try things out on a small scale.

    Kimi, I was trying to figure out what that is in the post image? I might have missed it in the text somewhere. What a cool tidbit about the bird flu! We are just getting chickens so that is something in the back of my mind. Very far back but it’s there.

  26. thomas says

    Hey guys, If you are experiencing overwhelming salinity, just restart and this time use less salt. I have found the magic ratio to be 1 gallon of water to approx 4 – 41/2 ounces of salt by weight (be sure to use pickiling salt). Also be certain to make sure that your vegetables are comepletely submerged for the entire fermentation process. And finally TASTE YOUR FERMENTATION!!! regularly.
    I find that 3 days is a good period to get the fermentation ball roling. after that taste the vegetables (what ever they may be ) daily. you should notice a decline in salty taste and an increase in delicious tartness every day. simply move the vegetables to jars and refridgerate when you like the taste. If no tartness is present or it is not increasing something has probably gone wrong. Just start over. Persistance will pay dividens…. Delicious healthy natural pickles.
    Good luck,
    Thomas.

  27. Cecelia says

    Just opened our jar of lacto-fermented carrots today, and found they were a little slimy. Pulling the fork out of the jar left trails of . . . boogers, so to speak. Is this normal? It smells good, and tastes, well, pretty good, but the sourness is sort of unfamiliar. Do I just need to get used to it or is it off?
    Thanks for any comments!
    C

  28. thomas says

    Cecelia, I just had this happen to me with a batch of green beans that I floated some whole jalepenos in. I did it all in one batch and then after i was happy with the level of sourness I put the batch into two jars. one I refridgerated and the other I left out. The left out jar was fine and I ate off of that every day for a few days untill there were only a few beans and two jalapenos left in the jar. then i started eating the refridgreated beans, while the other jar sat. when I came back to the room temp jar I grabbed a jalapeno and when I pulled it out it look like it had snot on it. and fearlessly I took a bite The flavor was definately off.

    So that being said… Boogery slime can be attributed to some sort of contamination, and although it is probably harmless. It is unpleasant at best. I would toss the batch and start over.
    Taste your fermentation frequently to guage its progress.
    Good luck,
    Thomas

  29. says

    Hi, Guys – stumbled across this site while trying to do more research on lacto-fermentation. I made my first batch of “saur kraut” when I finally had enough cabbage & broccoli in the garden to make some – & it was TERRIFIC! There’s only 1 quart left of a 1/2 of a 5-gallon bucket, LOL! I have a 2nd batch going that I just tested & it’s coming along nicely, too but needs a few more days to acquire the flavor of the first batch.

    I started my 3rd batch this morning, but something happened to my cabbage & most of them rotted, so . . . this 3rd batch consists of mostly broccoli so far.

    So here is my question: what other kinds of veggies &/or fruits have you guys tried & liked? (besides carrots) I was wondering how celery & peppers might be, added to the broccoli & teensy bit of cabbage I’ve gotten chopped/salted so far. How about herbs? I wondered if they might end up becoming overwhelmingly strong being fermented? What else? How abt onions? We love our alliums, but again – wondered if the fermentation process might really magnify the flavor. . . ?

    Since I do make it in pretty big batches, I don’t want to chance ruining a few gallons worth by adding something that’d ruin it! Esp. since I’m out of cabbage as of just a few minutes ago (unless/until it has an opportunity to sprout new growth before killing freeze), & . . . the broccoli picking is getting pretty sparse, too.

    I still have quite a bit more to go, constructing this latest batch – probably won’t get time to finish it till this afternoon or tomorrow, so . . . I’ll look forward to everyone’s experiences & suggestions! Thanks in advance!
    Sarah/MI

  30. Susan says

    I am also curious about whether adding apple cider vinegar, or something similar, might be helpful. I made a batch of kimchi recently, before reading much about lactofermenting, and I decided I didn’t want to brave leaving it out on the counter as long as they recommended (just 24 hours). I left it out for about 4 hours and then stashed it in the fridge. Now I’m wondering if I can take it out again and let it ferment, or if it’s too late. It’s been refrigerated for about 2 weeks. I think it might be getting a little bit sour, but not distinctly. It’s definitely mellowing out with age, even in the fridge. Should I add some vinegar? I just want to be sure I’m not going to grow the wrong bacteria…Any help would be appreciated :) Thanks!

    • sharon says

      It is crucial that it be left out at room temp for 2 -3 days. And at times I have left it out for a week. If the Lactic Acid does not have the warmth & the time to proliferate, It will really retard the development of your kraut.

  31. adam h says

    How do i get my bbq sauce to stop fermenting. I use a variety of ingredients but it always turns into bubbles two days later.

  32. says

    It’s amazing that its only in recent history that many cultures stopped eating fermented foods. Only now are people starting to realize the importance in a normal diet. Many people still don’t realize there are options beyond the usual yogurt. Kefir, kombucha, feremented fruits and veggies and others are becoming more and more popular.

  33. says

    Hi, I have been experimenting with ferments and I am also concerned about using whey, we have dairy allerigies. One of the things I did earlier this week was make a lacto soda starter with ginger & sugar. If the point is to give the good bacteria a head start then would that starter not work pretty well. I tried it with some strawberries, just strawberries pounded, some 1/4 c sugar and a tbs of honey and the lacto soda starter, thinking I would make a sweet/sour lacto jam. It is very much fermenting after 2 days, loads of bubbles. I just started some kvass and added the soda stared to it as well. I will see what is happening in 24 hours.

  34. Daniel says

    I have a vitamixer that can make vegetable juice easily. If you let the vegetable juice sit in a dark place for twenty four hours it will ferment. It is very delicious. I just made a gallon with carrots, parsley, cucumber, kale, celery, and cabbage. After the batch is drank, it would be good to bleach out the container to kill any microscopic residue. I have a bunch of containers so I can make one batch after another. A gallon lasts me three to four days.

  35. Fran says

    Love your video. I also use unpasteurized miso from the refridgerated section of the health food store. Miso (soy paste) is already fermented from soy beans, barley, koji spores. It can be a bit pricey but a 1lb container can cost anywhere from $5-9 bucks, but a little goes a long way and can literally last for years in the fridge. I also use organic kelp (dried seaweed) to layer the top. The seaweed adds the natural seasalt and cover from the air. Just made a new batch and have added pieces of fresh sugar cane to the veggies, will let you know how it turns out and if it adds a little sweetness to sour.

  36. sarah Huse says

    Im just starting to try lacto fermentation but am loveing the outcome. Sourkrout, Kimchi, pickles carrots. Trying Sallys ginger carrots I was a bit dissapointed but being a creative person by nature found by tossing some cider or rice vinigar and oil in with the carrots befor serving them it changed the flavor enoupgh to make them quite delish. Also Combiing NT’s pickled cucumber recipie with an old sweet pickle reccipie handed down to my family by a missionary friend made appitizeing sweet pickles. Slice 2 cucumbers into a jar. disolve 1/3 C brown sugar, a pinch of cloves, and 1/2 tsp mustard powder or 1/4 tsp prepared mustad in a few Tbs of hot water heating on the stove if needed. Then let cool befor poreing over the cucumbers. Add 2 tsp salt, 4 Tbs whey, and fell jar with cool filtered water. Cover tightly with lid and alow to sit at room temp. 3 days before refrigedration

  37. Hayley says

    Today my sauerkraut from Nourishing Traditions (1 quart jar method) is done and I’m really excited to start eating it with dinner… I also have a gallon of kombucha brewing (7 days Friday) I purchased raw milk keifer from our organic-raw dairy farm which I feed to our chickens, cats and dog to help keep their guts healthy too. I just ordered water keifer grains (to make coconut water keifer)

    Each year we make 5 gallon crock of sauerkraut from our garden grown cabbage – but have always canned them (with heat, killing the bacteria) so I’m looking for other options to make smaller batches and leave them alive.

    I’m looking for a good dill, garlic crispy pickle recipe too…

  38. says

    Hi there, I hope one of you can help shed some light as to whether or not I just ruined a batch of lacto-fermented jars of veggies: I let them sit for 3 days (whey and salt brine) at room temperature, then put them in an extra refrigerator, and it got too cold..they froze! Did I kill this batch or is it still going to be teeming with the healthy bacteria I’m looking for? Thanks in advance, Gage

  39. says

    I did find this on the web:

    Is it OK to freeze the products for long-term storage?

    Yes. When vacuum-packed and unopened, Caldwell’s cultured vegetables can be stored frozen for up to one year. The high proportion of lactic acid protects them and prevents any degradation. Tests conducted at the Food Research and Development Center (FRDC) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada produced the following conclusions:

    There were no detectable decreases in the concentration of ascorbic acid; in fact, the maintenance of vitamin C in the frozen product facilitated the preservation of other antioxidants and nutritional characteristics such as vitamin E and polyphenols. The conclusion of the research was that freezing does not modify the nutritional value of Caldwell’s lacto fermented vegetables.
    There were no discernable differences in taste, texture, color, or aroma compared to products that had not been previously frozen. According to a panel of testers (and numerous satisfied customers), freezing does not alter the organoleptic properties of the products.
    Your products arrived partly frozen. Is it safe to refreeze them?

    Yes. Unlike many other products, laboratory tests have shown that Caldwell’s lacto fermented vegetables can be safely refrozen after thawing. Refreezing does not alter the nutritional properties of the products. Nor does it change their taste, texture or color.

    (My note: they expanded in the jars a bit so there’s purple cabbage juice that got out, but I’m hoping they are okay…thawing now…)

  40. says

    Great stuff. I’ve been playing with the fermentation process with more and more of my foods. As a fat loss specialist, I really believe that nourishing your body can greatly improve your ability to reach and maintain YOUR healthy weight. Keep up the good works!

  41. says

    I am making my first batch of Lacto-Fermented veggies – the ginger carrots from NT. The top 1/4 inch or so is turning black. Is this normal? They have been on the counter for two days now.

  42. says

    Hi,
    I just wanted to mention that Lacto-fermented veggies come out so much better when using an airlock system. Our Kraut Kaps are comprised of food safe components. Be cautious of other lids for sale or DIY projects as most use petroleum based grommets and Tattler brand lids which contain formaldehyde.
    Whey is mainly used to inoculate your vegetables during open crock fermentation to help guard against undesirable bacteria, molds or yeast. With an airlock system you do away with that risk and the difference between a plain salt and airlock ferment versus an open crock whey ferment is incredible!
    I’m offering a free Kraut Kap to a few bloggers willing to try one and give us a review. Let me know if you are interested!
    Thanks!
    Rochelle
    http://www.amazon.com/shops/primalkitchen

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