The art of lacto-fermentating vegetables has certainly been lost. Those of us who want to relearn the art have been slowly trying out recipes, throwing out ones that didn’t work, and enjoying those that did.
I’ve found that lacto-fermenting vegetables is simpler (and certainly much more nutritious) than canning in some ways. It’s really easy to just do a few jars of lacto-fermented vegetables one day, while with canning, it only seems worth the work when you do vast amounts. But it’s also less simple because there is no “one way” to ferment vegetables. As people have relearned it’s benefits, I’ve seen everything from kefir sauerkraut (fermented with the help of water kefir grains), to whey ferments (as suggest by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions), to traditional only salt ferments, to using culture starters (like the Body Ecology Vegetable Starters), to using fermented liquids (like kombucha or other dairy free liquids in place the whey). The wide variance can be overwhelming at times. Where do you start? What’s the best method? What tastes good?
There is no better place to start than having people share the recipes that have best served them. That’s why I invited a few other bloggers to share with you some of their favorite recipes here. And as always, those of you with experience lacto-fermenting are welcome to share your thoughts and ideas and recipes as well. I would love to hear what works for you too (and I know other readers would love it as well).
In closing, here is a section discussing lacto-fermentation from my post “Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation”.
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!
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 recipes!
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I have been experimenting with lacto fermenting some veggies and fruit this summer, but I am finding the spare refrigerator is nearly full, and there is barely enough room for my kombucha anymore! So far, lack of storage is the only down side I have encountered. How do others handle this?
More like: full root cellar, pantry, cupboard, closet.
Refridgeration is uneccessary for fermented product;
as long as it was inoculated promptly and effectively with “Known Good Culture”.
You may refridgerate when opened, only as a deterrent from accidental taint,
but statistically, the saturation by good bacteria will inhibit any invasion.
True for saurkraut, kombucha, pepperoncini, escabeche, ketchup, etc……
Or you could refridgerate for palatability.
Minor issues that arise without refridgeration are
slim possibilities of metallic leaching, mold and hydrogenation.
Metallic leaching is possible to some degree with metal serving utensils.
(use a dedicated wood utensil, plastic, bone, or least favorably, silver, gold, stainless)
* Do not use aluminum! brass, copper, lead ceramic pottery, etc.
I typically try to assure food-stuffs are submerged when returning to storage.
(no food is stuck to the lid or sides.
Damp food-stuffs may mold. Submerged foods are protected)
I may skim off the white wax from the top of the liquid.
(Olive oil, if used, will hydrogenate in the acidic confines of the jar)
Cindy, I am right there with you… I hear a ton of complaints from my S.O. about how full the fridge is.
We were honestly thinking of getting a second fridge just so we could handle all the lacto-fermented foods. But so far I’ve screwed it up twice (pickles) and haven’t had the guts to try again. Oh well…someday. I’m satisfied with my kombucha, for now.
I’ve messed up my pickles twice now too! I’ve made some great ginger carrots and saurkut.
I have had wonderful success with both dill pickles and sauerkraut with the NT recipes and wide-mouth glass jars. But I recently read that if you consume them after six weeks, the benefits are gone. Can anyone speak to that?
Also, I realized after my very first attempt at sauerkraut that my Kitchen Aid mixer would do the pounding much more effectively and with considerably less mess. I’ve been enjoying the fruits of its labor immensely!
Whether the nourishing effects of the pickles and sauerkraut are gone or not, both my husband and our 3-yr-old son love them. I have a hard time keeping them from consuming more than a small serving each time.
I tried the ginger carrots and kimchi (I think) from NT cookbook. They were both awful! Also I tried the pineapple chutney and it was equally bad. I saw in a recent beeyoutiful supplement catalog a recipe for fermented salsa that they raved about. I have been meaning to try it but haven’t gotten around to it.
I just made a batch of lacto fermented salsa and it excelled past all of my expectations. Awesome!!
I’ve been watching Sally Fallon’s DVD recently (which I HIGHLY recommend – start a study group and watch it!), and she says that lacto-fermented veggies such as sauerkraut just keep getting better and better with time. Nourishing Traditions says L-F vegetables keep many months, and L-F fruits should be eaten within two months. So I think, Debbie, you can happily relegate that notion that the benefits of kraut end after 6 weeks to the compost pile! By the way, what are your family’s favorite recipes?
My family loves the NT recipes for Sauerkraut and Dill Pickles using whey. A couple of years ago, I tried the ginger carrots and pineapple/cilantro chutney – ummm… let’s just say, we weren’t fans. But I have been wanting to try a raw salsa with the 20# of organic tomatoes coming my way next week. I’d love suggestions!
I’ve finally gotten Sally Fallon’s book and I am ecstatic! All the things I’m learning are great and I need to shop around pronto for glass jars. Sauerkraut will be my first L-F experiment and I really hope it turns out. I also want to try homemade ginger ale. I wish I had a favorite recipe to share, but I’m still new at this and fascinated by what I’m learning.
I used to suffer from many digestive problems and after adding Lacto-fermented vegetables to my diet, I have felt a huge improvement. I try to have something cultured or fermented every day like Kefir, Kombucha, cultured carrots, or sauerkraut. Keep posting all this great information! I have two refrigerators but hope in the future to store some of the fermented goodies in a cold storage place (root cellar) like they did before refrigeration.
Cara @ Health Home and Happiness
It’s neat to see everyone’s experiences with fermenting! We love it, but it took me a while to get warmed up to it. It tasted weird at first to me. Now we have something lactofermented every day. I was just listening to a podcast with Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride (the author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and she said that fermenting makes the nutrients so much more available; you get 20x more vit C from lactofermented sauerkraut than you do from raw cabbage!
I just made my first ever sauerkraut. I followed the instructions in the “Wild Fermentation” book and it turned out great. Used 1 head of green cabbage and 1 granny smith apple (it was in the fridge and lonely). It was really simple, which I think was the hard part for me… my mind/expectations wanted something complicated for some reason. And the waiting was difficult for me. I’m used to the instant satisfaction of cooking, so being patient before I could try it was torment at times 🙂
I just picked up my own copy of NT, so I’m looking forward to trying the recipes in there. Does the whey really speed up the process? Using just salt, it was about 2 weeks for my kraut, but the NT instructions say about 3 days with whey… oh well, guess I’ll just give it a go 🙂
We just made some kimchi with some friends this weekend and I love it. I experiment with the recipes all the time but I found kimchi with a little of whey THE BEST. It gets this great sauer taste without using to much salt.
This is too funny. Today’s post on LF, and my NT book just arrived on the same day! I can’t wait to sit down with my book. Truth told, I’ve probably been following many of the ‘traditions’ most of my life. When I started reading this site, I remember the good sauerkraut my mom use to make. I decided to try making some and had great success. I’m on about my 4th try and loving it. I want to try pickles when I can get some pickling cukes.
I have a second fridge downstairs just for my ferments and extras!! At first, fermenting seemed daunting and overwhelming, but it is a process. So far this season, I have done a huge batch of kimchi. Each week I get cucumbers from my CSA and I have been doing quart-sized batches of sliced fermented pickles. I also did the NT recipe for salsa (YUM) and did the mango chutney. It’s so much fun! The most amazingthing is that at first, saurkraut and the like tasted so strange. Now I crave it! I have kimchi at breakfast! Have fun!
We like Kombucha but haven’t tried to make anything else yet. But I have been buying a LF salad dressing from Azure standard. Zukay is the brand name. I love the sweet onion basil. It’s so good over greens with an egg on top. I’d really like to try making ginger ale. I hope someone shares a recipe!
I love that dressing!
We have raw goat milk kefir every breakfast, and a glass of homebrewed kombucha every lunch. We’ve tried many of NT’s l-f recipes (salsa, chutney, krauts, kimchi, poi, gingered carrots, and dills) and our favorite is the dill pickle. I also turn many of my homemade condiments into l-f ones just by adding whey and leaving it out for a couple days. That way, no matter what we top our mains with, we are ingesting some l-f goodness. As far as storage goes, my refrigerator(S) are indeed full, but I’ve also mass “canned” bounty crops (like beets and cukes) and I keep them downstairs in our cooler basement– but not in a refrigerator. So far, we’ve had very little problems with them.
Do you think salsa will be okay in our basement? about 69 degrees?? I didnt think about the fridge space and when I first read “cold storage” I thought it just meant the basement… uh oh! Hubby is not pleased and I dont want can it and kill all of the good stuff. Advice?
I have a crock full of cabbage, with some carrots and beets added fermenting right now. I use a crock with a water seal. It is so nice to hear the occasional “glub” as the gas escapes. I also have two quart jars of cucumbers on the counter fermenting. I am using airlocks on those. I also made fermented beets using Body Ecology’s starter culture. They are pretty good. By the way, about the airlocks, one was purchased(too expensive), the other was homemade using a plastic jar lid and an airlock from a winemaking shop.
Barbara you sound like a pro at this fermenting. I was wondering how you fermented your beets. Did you leave them whole or cut them up?
I would appreciate if you could let me know. I am trying a homemade airlock right now on some pickles but I don’t know if I did it right. Maybe you could send me some pictures of your ferments.
I would cut them up. I like the juice and you get more by cutting them up. I cook them whole, peeling is easier and then cut up and use the juice and add the whey and salt.
Do you cook your beets first or ferment them raw? And where can I find info on making an airlock?
How do you introduce lacto-fermented stuff to kids? My kids like sauerkraut, a bit at a time, but I can’t get them to drink kefir. I’ve mixed it with fruit but nothing. I want them to get the benefits before the goats milk we get runs out for the season.
I’m just a beginner at lacto fermenting as well but have gotten hooked and have 3 things on the go. Sauerkraut started 3 days ago and smelling yummy. Fermented blueberry soda that I just bottled tonight in mason jars and will hopefully turn out and rejuvelak (water and wheatberry sprouts) that sounded interesting from the Wild Fermentation book. I’d love to try root beer but will have to wait until I can order the flavorings in.
I’m still working on soaking grains, and trying to get the hang of it so people around me won’t think I’ve lost my mind. I have a couple of questions. This lacto-fermentation can’t cause some kind of food poisoning? And how do you eat this stuff once it’s made?
Yeah, I know, I sound like a fuddy duddy, LOL! I grew up hearing that saurkraut was bad so I’ve maybe had it a couple times in my life, like a bite.
Also that any food left on a counter will give you botulism or some such thing.
I suggest you read the book, Wild Fermentation, that several people have already mentioned here. It gives you a great explanation of the history and science behind fermented food, along with a ton of awesome recipes. I have already tried his sauerkraut recipe and it came out awesome (took 2 weeks). A lot of people in our culture believe that any bacteria is bad, but the truth is that we cannot live without it.
What are air locks and where do you find one? I would like to try one. I’ve been fermenting for more than a year now and love it. I have been making Kombucha for 2 years. I am also a fan of Sally Fallon and NT and love her process with wide mouth quart jars. When I tasted my first successful batch of sauerkraut, it was like coming home. The lactic acid “felt” so much better than vinegar. I’ve always like pickles, but the vinegar was just too harsh. I have fermented beets both raw and cooked and we like the cooked version…easier to chew. The salty, lactic acid beet juice is said to be a liver tonic. Well, just look at it. Love the fermented beets, cabbage and Kombucha. I also have been making a spelt sourdough bread that is really good. So happy to find other “fermenting fools”. I have only 1 fridge and it is always full. Thanks for fermented salsa recipe, can’t wait to try that.
I’m still new to all of this but I grew a ton of cabbage in my garden this year to make sauerkraut, can I make the sauerkraut by LF and then “bottle” it? Actually sealing the cans and everything?
Although I have read excerpts and been around several who tout NT philosophies, I don’t have the book myself. I keep reading and hearing about Kephir, starters and such but what I can’t figure out is where one gets those particular things. I haven’t seen them at the 2 health food stores I shop at. Could someone point me to the : first thing I should do. ( read the book? : ) ) or where exactly to start with a different food mindset. Sourdough bread? Again, where to get or make starters. I have looked on line but feel there must be a simpler,” here is how to start” way. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance! Laura
NT saved our sons life… literally! I was loaned a copy of the book when our 3rd son was dying – he was 1 1/2 years old weighed only 17 pounds and was still a limp noodle. Though he may never be ‘normal’ we are ecstatic to report that he is thriving and gaining ground every day. He will be 7 this fall and is able to crawl and stand with assistance. He has therapy 6 times per week with 2 each PT, OT, and speech.
What did NT do for him? I used the gelatin and whey recipes and then went from there to yogurt and kefir and on to kombucha. Considering that he has three possible Dx. Congenital MD, Spinal Stroke, and Mitochondrial disorder. All of which are totally un-treatable by the medical community… unless you consider vitamin therapy. I was already working with vitamin therapy using food sources when I found the greatest Dr. who is now at Vanderbilt University training more pediatric Neurologists/Geneticists. He gave me a list of vitamins to use with our son and I found that I could use food to do the same thing! This way, he is getting something his body can assimilate easier than a pill without making his liver overwork.
I can not tell you enough how much NT and fermented foods have helped him.
I am just now getting into sprouting— don’t know what took me so long!
And I am starting to experiment with other fermented veggies as well. Thank You so much for this site! It is really encouraging to have found a community of like minded people that are willing to share their successes and failures.
Thank You Everyone!
I am new to L-F, so far have made a successful batch of sauerkraut and failed miserably on ginger carrots (I think they were too dry). I like NT’s punch and apple cider recipes too. My question to everyone out there is, why do we need refrigerators for all our LF products when people have been doing this long before electricity? There must be a way to do it. I wonder if maybe everyone had a cool root cellar? I know the Koreans buried their Kimchi in a hole in the ground to keep if from getting too hot or frozen, but I don’t know if I want to dig a hole every time I am in the mood for sauerkraut.
did you ever get an answer to this question? It is my problem as well…
Cellers, it’s what houses are missing today. 🙁 Some people buy small fridges to keep their lacto-fermented veggies in (though if you have a large family, I think you could fill a large one!).
I just found this sight today. Great. I have just been introduced to Lacto-fermented foods this last week. The only recipie that I have made is Kvass and can hardly wait to try it. Would someone put the Kimchi recipie on the site? Our son was in Japan and loved the Kimchi. He would realy like to eat it again if I would make it. Thank You. Jane
The first time I skimmed through Nourishing Traditions, I thought all the fermented foods were weird! But now that I have had a chance to research the benefits, I am excited about making it a staple in my home. I made a batch of ginger carrots a couple of months ago and love adding them to vinaigrettes. This weekend I tried out the L-F Escabeche, Roasted Tomato Salsa, and the cortido from NT. And I’ve been drinking beet kvass every morning for the past couple of weeks. I actually saw a ton of toxin die-off from using that!
Depending on where you live, I’ve heard that a basement or garage is perfectly fine for the fermented jars during the winter-as long as they are not going to freeze.
@ Laura: I felt the same way about getting started. There’s just too much info sometimes, or blogs assume you already know the basics, when you are totally lost. http://www.culturesforhealth.com is a great source for starters and tools. Also, try going to http://www.gnowfglins.com and signing up for her fundamentals ecourse. It’s pay-as-you-can, and gives a great foundation.
I tried lacto-fermented Dill Pickles from NT last year with disastrous results. But we were doing it for home school in October, so I chalked it up to old, wrong cukes. This year I tried the following recipe, adapted from a recipe on http://www.cheeseslave.com and it worked beautifully, but is too salty for me, so I am cutting the salt by one-third and trying it again. The most interesting part of this recipe was the addition of the oak leaf, to keep the pickles crisp and crunchy, and I have to say it seems to have worked. Using the right cukes at the right time probably helped as well!
Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Cucumbers, pickling type
Dill, fresh (2 tablespoons) leaves or flower heads
2 tbsp (I’m trying 4 teaspoons) Sea Salt (Real Salt is the brand I used)
Oak Leaf or grape leaf (1 per quart)
Optional: peeled garlic, mustard seeds (1 tbsp.) I didn’t try the mustard seeds, but the garlic was good.
Water to within 1-inch below the top of the jar, and enough to cover the top cuke.
Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized wide-mouth jar. Rinse an oak or grape leaf and add it to the jar. Add salt, dill and optional mustard seeds or garlic. Cover the cucumbers with filtered water, leaving a 1-inch head space but covering all the cucumbers completely. Cover tightly and keep at room temp from 3-7 days before transferring to the fridge. Larger cukes take longer to ferment than smaller ones.
Lower salt worked well! Recommend the books: Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by Chelsea Green Publishing Co., and Wild Fermentation, and Yes! You Can! and Freeze and Dry It, Too!
Using a grape leaf will work as well for those who have grapes but not oaks.