How-to Lacto-Ferment Fruits & Veggies
Lacto-fermentation is a time-tested method for preserving and modifying foods. These techniques will show you how to pickle vegetables using only salt and a little time, to encourage healthy bacteria to take hold and convert starches and sugars into lactic acid, a natural and delicious preservative!
- Clean and cut vegetables and fruit to your liking
- Pick a non-reactive container that can be sealed off from free airflow
- If necessary, use a non-reactive weight to keep food below the level of the liquid (mold growth only happens in the presence of air
- Remember: this process is exceptionally safe as long as your salt level is between 2-4% and your food ferments below a brine!
When fermenting vegetables in a brine, a good rule of thumb is to use 2% salinity. The easiest way to find out how much salt it will take is to weigh all the fermentables and any additional water and multiply that weight by .02
Some ferments don’t need a brine added to them; they provide all the liquid they will need. When fermenting slaws, or sauerkraut, or chutneys, using a similar target of 2% salinity will yield great results.
Glass jars with lids are pretty great at allowing some gas to escape, while preventing exposure to wild elements. You can find great tools out there like 1-way valves, and heavy stoneware, but don't forget, a finger-tight mason jar lid will work amazingly!
Different types of fermentation take place at all temperature ranges. As far as vegetable ferments go, room temperature is ideal. After a ferment is 'done,' which really only has to do with your preference, cooling it down in a refrigerator will slow down its development, almost to a halt! Most sturdy vegetables take between 5 and 14 days to ferment.
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Looking for a specific recipe? Try this classic, or "not-so-classic," depending on who you ask, approach to an amazing summer salsa!
Lacto-fermented Hatch-Tomatillo salsa
- 3-4 Hatch chilis (cut into long strips, seeds, and membranes removed if you'd prefer a mild sauce)
- 1/2 of a spring onion, tops included
- Enough tomatillos to fill about half of your vessel (4-16 depending on size)
- 12 sprigs cilantro
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 6 whole black pepper corns
- 1/2 tsp whole cumin
- 1/2 tsp dry oregano
Process: (all measurements were done in metric for accuracy):
- Weigh all of your clean and cut-up ingredients (write down this number)
- Starting with the smallest spices working up to larger ingredients, load your vessel strategically, attempting to lodge everything in as tightly as it will go (the goal is to use as little water as possible)
- Place your now full vessel on a kitchen scale and 'zero' out your scale; weigh how much water it will take to fill up your container by filling it to just above the top of the ingredients (write this number down, too)
- Combine the weight of the water and the weight of the ingredients. Of this new total weight, we will determine how much salt we need: which is 2.5% or 0.025 multiplied by the total.
1000g (veg + H2O) x 0.025 = salt needed or 25g
If you are using a glass jar, feel free to add the salt to the top, screw on a lid and gently swirl it around to dissolve.
With a mason jar, a finger-tight lid will do a great job allowing some pressure to escape while preventing anything from getting in--it is a myth that a ferment like this requires air-flow, quite the contrary actually.
At room temperature, this lacto-fermented salsa will be ready to be processed in about 7-10 days. Go by taste, the brine will begin to thicken and become tart. When it tastes nice, you are done! Buzz it up, coarsely or smooth, your call. After it is processed it should live in your refrigerator, that is, if you would like it to remain close to its current state; otherwise it will continue to shift in complexity and funk. Like free-form jazz.