Fermentation Advice from a Local ExpertJan 31, 2022 09:32AM ● By Tanya Jarret
WHAT IS LACTO-FERMENTATION
As a nutritional therapist, I have taken a strong interest in learning simple ways to use “food as medicine” which has led me to learn more about this easy method of preservation that is loaded with health benefits. Lacto-fermentation of vegetables has a unique process of using the beneficial bacteria that naturally occurs on vegetables and converting them to lactic acid. The prefix “lacto” refers to lactobacillus bacteria which naturally live on the outside of vegetables. Not only are lacto-fermented foods delicious, but they are packed with a nutritional punch and rich in probiotics.
From Korean kimchi to traditional German sauerkraut, to the pickle, civilizations have been crafting up lacto-fermented foods for centuries. By using only salt, water, vegetables and optional add-ins like fresh herbs and garlic, one can create an environment where only the good lactobacillus bacteria can survive.
We know vegetables are good for us in many ways but let them sit and ferment for a week or so and you have an even healthier food that levels up your nutrition game in many ways. Lacto-fermented foods are rich in beneficial microorganisms, aka probiotics that help maintain a healthy gut. For this reason, many people try to sneak these fermented products into their daily routines.
· Enhances Nutrient Levels: Lacto-fermentation is unique not only for its preservation properties but for the way it enhances nutrient levels. Yes, you read this correctly! Lacto-fermentation increases the vitamins and minerals in food (especially B Vitamins, C Vitamins, magnesium, zinc) making them more available for absorption.
· Aids in Digestion: Digestion is a complex process, so the more help you have with breaking down the food, the better your body can utilize the nutrients. By supporting digestive health, you can say “goodbye” to constipation.
· Supports Immune Health: Our gut houses 70% of our immune cells, so by maintaining a healthy gut, we can effectively support the immune system. Fermentation has a wonderful ability to increase the antioxidant activity in foods which leads to protection of immune cells.
· Improved Mood: An astonishing 90% of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut and changes in those levels can affect your mood significantly. By ensuring that your gut health is in check, you can have a positive effect on your daily mood.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FERMENT
Choosing vegetables like cabbage, carrots, hot peppers or cauliflower are a great way to get started with fermenting. Vegetables are quite forgiving and produce a tasty, tangy result.
1. Create high quality brine with or without a “starter” culture. While you do not need a starter culture to ferment vegetables, using one does decrease the fermenting time by ensuring there is enough of the right bacteria in the brine. My favorite starter culture can be purchased on CuttingEdge Cultures and each packet can ferment up to 5 lbs of vegetables! For the brine, I use 1 TBSP of Himalayan sea salt per cup of filtered water.
2. Use clean equipment: To prevent any unwanted bacteria from for spoiling your food, it essential to clean and sterilize the surfaces and glass fermenting jars/lids. The best way to do that is to submerge your glass jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
3. Avoid air exposure and ferment in a cool place: When your ferment is exposed to air, this can prevent proper fermentation from taking place and put the fermentation as risk of developing mold. All of the vegetables should be submerged in the brine. This can easily be achieved with a glassfermenting weight. Vegetables will ferment quicker in a warm kitchen and more slowly in a cool one. I like to ferment mine in a cooler spot that is around 68 F.
4. Smaller containers work best: In my experience with fermenting vegetables, I have found that four small jars work better than one very large one. If one of the jars experiences a fermenting issue, you won’t have to throw away the entire recipe, just the one jar.
5. Once you open – refrigerate! As tempted as we are to open up the jar and take a big whiff, I am encouraging you to not do that. Opening the lid inserts a break in the fermentation process by letting in oxygen. As soon as you open it (fermenting time is anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks), place the jar in the fridge and it will keep for several months.
ADDING FERMENTED FOODS INTO YOUR DIET
Fermented vegetables have a mild tangy taste. My recommendation is to add them to your meals as a side since they are salty and will add some flavor to your dish. I love adding them to my salads, avocado toast, wraps, bowls, burgers, and soups. This is the perfect time to get creative!
BEGINNERS RECIPE TO GET STARTED
Fermented Hot Sauce – recipe adapted from Homestead and Chill
· 1 TBSP Himalayan Salt
· 2 cups of filtered water
· 1/2 lb. organic jalapenos
· ½ lb. organic red bell peppers.
· 3-4 garlic cloves
· ½ medium sweet yellow onion
· Large bunch of fresh organic cilantro
· Starter culture (optional – prepare according to the packet)
1. Sterilize your glass quart jar, lids, and glass weight in boiling water for 10 minutes.
2. On the stove top, prepare the brine by whisking the salt into the water until dissolved. Do not overheat the mixture. If using a starter culture, prepare the brine according to the packet instructions. Set aside to cool.
3. Wash the peppers and herbs and chop into small to medium pieces.
4. Peel and dice the onion into small pieces.
5. Peel and crush the garlic cloves.
6. Pack the jar by layering the herbs, onions, garlic, and peppers. Be sure to lightly pack the down as you layer the vegetables and herbs so that this reduces the air space. Continue layering until the jar is full about an inch below the rim.
7. Pour the cooled brine into the jar until the vegetables are completely covered. Push down the mixture and add more bring if needed.
8. Place a glass fermenting weight on the mixture to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine. Place the lid on firmly but not too tight.
9. Set the ferment aside to ferment for 10 days. The ideal temperature for fermenting is 68-70 F. If the temperature is too warm, your ferment could develop something called kahm yeast, which is not harmful, but can change the flavor profile of the ferment.
10. After 10 days, drain the brine with a fine-mesh strainer and reserve the brine. Transfer the fermented vegetables to a blender, add ¼ cup of brine, and blend. Continue to add brine until your hot sauce has reached your desired level of thickness.
11. Transfer the sauce back into the glass fermenting container, place on an airtight lid, and store in the fridge. This will last a few months if you don’t eat it all!
Tanya Jarrett, MPH, NBC-HWC is the founder and owner of Live Fresh LLC, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and the creator of the 28-day Ultimate Whole Foods Refresh. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Health Management Systems, a Master’s degree in Public Health, is Board Certified in Health and Wellness Coaching and is a certified group fitness instructor. She is on staff at Firefly Hollow Wellness Center, 200 Farm Lane, York. For more information call 717-814-9136 or visit LiveFreshWellness.com.