Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Lacto-fermenting sounds a little mad scientist-esque and has nothing at all to do with lactose or dairy. Here, “Lacto” is talking about lactic acid. The very idea of fermenting seems tricky and intimidating, but getting started with lacto-fermented hard vegetables is pretty easy to pull off.
Transform foods into more nutritious, tasty versions of themselves. Just add salt!
Lacto-fermentation occurs in the absence of oxygen where good yeasts and bacteria can convert starches and sugars into lactic acid. What you’re left with is a pleasant pungent, tart tasting food somewhere between a pickle and sauerkraut.
There are three basic components of this simple fermenting process:
• Protect from spoiling organisms – Start with sterilized kitchen equipment and surfaces then create an uncomfortable environment for the bad bacteria with a 2-5% saline brine that still allows good bacteria to multiply and create probiotic medicinal food.
• Temperature – Ferment at about room temperature away from direct sunlight then store in the fridge.
• Time – Allow 9-14 days for sugars and starches to convert to lactic acid and taste to balance out.
Lacto-fermentation is said to be one of the healthiest forms of fermentation because lactic acid aids with blood circulation, prevents constipation, balances digestive acids, aids in pre-digestion and encourages good pancreatic function.
Lacto-fermentation is a unique process with delicious tasting results that goes way beyond sauerkraut. There’s no better way to introduce more of these probiotic foods into your diet. With so many vegetables, spices and herbs combinations, you’re really only limited by your imagination.
Like so many things in the kitchen, this leftover brine can be used in a completely different way to serve a wonderful new purpose. Here are 15 of my best ideas:
Create a perpetual pickle jar - Once you run out of the vegetable and are left with the brine, chop up enough vegetables to fit below the level of the brine, weigh them down, and ferment. Using brine from previous ferments can speed up the process as the bacteria are already at work in the cultured brine.
Salad dressings - This is a delicious choice, indeed! Treat it similar to vinegar, just add an equal amount of oil and Qspice to your taste. Boost tang with lemon or lime juice if brine flavour is mild.
Pickled eggs - This can get fun. If you've made a colourful sauerkraut, for instance, you can pickle hard boiled eggs in it to get pretty colours.
Cold soup base - Making gazpacho? Or cold cucumber soup? Add enzymes and probiotics to it!
Flavour warm soup - Pass on the salt, a little fermented brine has more flavour, anyways. Just make sure the soup isn't so hot as it will kill the good bacteria you want in your gut.
Deviled eggs - Use it in place of lemon juice when you're seasoning those yolks.
Mix into hummus - Make that olive oil go a little farther by using some brine, too.
Tuna and Egg salad - Add pizzazz while swapping out a little of the mayo.
Potato salad - Sprinkle warm cooked potatoes with brine and let absorb while cooling. I think your starting to get the idea?!
Drizzle on grains - A great way to spruce up rice, quinoa or other grains.
Use as a marinade - In a similar vein to vinegar, it tenderizes!
Culture a Bloody Caesar - Give it a go!
Add it to mayo - If you make your own mayonnaise, culture it.
Mix it into a dip for veggies - Add a fun flavour accent that will have guests wondering what your secret is.
Drink like a tonic- Dilute it with sparkling water for a fun, effervescent experience.