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How to Lacto-Fermentation Foods and Their Benefits

Updated on October 31, 2016

What is Lacto-fermenting?

Fermented foods do not have to be intimidating, once you learn what exactly it is and how they only do you good instead of hurting you. These foods contain friendly bacteria for your gut. Most people are very familiar with pickles, sour cream, yogurt buttermilk all of which are fermented.

The process of lacto-fermentation date back centuries ago in different parts of the world from South Korea where kimchi was born to Russia sauerkraut and Kombucha tea are born, Middle Eastern kefir, Latin America Furtado, and much more other fermented foods from other parts of the world. Also, these countries I listed have much more other fermented products, not just the ones I mention.

Lacto in lactose-fermentation refers to the specific species of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus. Which get their name from the way they turn lactose and other sugars into lactic acid. Also, the name Lactobacillus came from the first study in milk ferment.

What does the word ferment mean? The word is a term use to describe the process of creating an environment where the Lactobacillus bacteria can grow and multiply while inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.

Now that the terms "Lacto" and "Fermented" have been addressed, let go into depth of the process and why you should add these type of foods to your diet.

How Does Vegetables and Fruits Ferment?

Lactobacillus bacteria begin by metabolizing the sugars and carbohydrates and producing lactic acid and carbon dioxide on whatever vegetables or fruits are fermenting. The carbon dioxide guarantees that the environment stays anoxic (oxygen-free) and lactic acid lowers the pH of the ferment, both inhibiting the growth of undesirable organisms.

In the end to have a successful fermentation you need high salt content, low oxygen content, and low pH. These three environmental factors work against the growth of molds, yeasts, and undesirable microorganisms in your fermentation.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative that hinders the growth of harmful bacteria. Also increase and preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food.

Ferment Cumber A.K.A. Pickles
Ferment Cumber A.K.A. Pickles | Source

The health Benefits of lacto-fermentation

Loaded with Probiotics–Eating fermented foods will introduce your digestive tract to good bacteria found in these foods, which help to balance bacteria in your digestive system. The good bacteria also known as probiotic have also been shown to help slow or cure diseases, improve your bowel health, aid the digestion, and improve the immune system.

The Body Absorb Nutrient Better– Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes helps you receive more of the nutrients in the foods you eat on a day to day basis. Keep in mind real whole food have to your diet to be able to absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat. Another add-on benefit is you'll not need as must supplements as you used to take.

Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut | Source

How Can I Make My Own Ferment Foods

Making your ferment foods is always better than buying. For the main reason, a lot of the store bought ones are pasteurized and do not hold the wealth of benefits as homemade ones.

Extremely budget friendly if you are making your own. It is an inexpensive type of healthy foods you can incorporating into your diet. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.

What you need to know before Starting Fermenting

What is a Starter?
Vegetables themselves have enough bacteria on them to begin to ferment. However, you can use whey as a starter if you desired. You can buy whey from the store or get it from your yogurt; it is the water you see inside the container after it been open and use some.

Sign of Successful Lacto-fermentation

  • will start bubbling within a day
  • smell sour
  • vegetables are crunchy and taste pleasingly sour
  • There will also be some sediment in the bottom of your jar; this is just a byproduct of the fermentation and not to worry.

Sign of Bad Fermentation
An unsuccessful ferment may be slimy, smell bad or turn a different color.

How to Ferment Vegetables and Fruits

Almost any farm-fresh vegetable can be fermented. You can ferment one vegetable alone or mix different kinds together, along with herbs and spices. The more different vegetables you mix, the more, various strains of good bacteria, you will have. The same goes for fruits.

Lacto-Fermentation
Lacto-Fermentation | Source

Equipment You Will Need

  • Good chopping knife or food processor
  • Pickle pebbles fermentation weights
  • Mason jars- range from wide-mouth glass jars to ceramic crocks, use ultimately depends on what vegetable you're fermenting and your personal preferences,
  • Pickle Pipe Fermentation Airlock- How you cover your fermenting vegetables matters. An ideal cover will allow the gasses produced by fermentation to escape and keep oxygen away from vegetables.

Airlock lid reduces the chance of mold or kahm yeast formation, and no burping required. What is burping? It is when you release pressure from the jar. Although the disadvantage is the jar requires more attention. Meaning burping the fermenting jar daily. As vegetable ferment, carbon dioxide can build up. The carbon dioxide can lead to overflow or explosions if you do not burp the jar to release excess pressure and avoid these problems.

Avoid plastic containers as plastic can be damaged, and scratches in the plastic can harbor foreign bacteria. Second, undesirable chemicals are often found in plastic (even food-grade plastic), this can affect the vegetables.

When preparing the vegetables for fermenting, it all your choice on rather you: grated, shredded, chop, slice, or leave whole. It is up to you how you prepare your vegetables. Deciding if you will use salt, whey, or a starter culture-method chose also depending on personal taste.

Cucumbers Pickled
Cucumbers Pickled | Source

What About Yeast and Mold

It is typical to notice a white layer forming on top of the liquid after a few days. The white, relatively flat film is usually a type of yeast known as kahm yeast.

Kahm yeast is not harmful, although it may appear unattractive or even smell a little odd to you. You should remove it from the ferment, so it does not impart a bad odor, but if there a little bit left in the jar is not harmful to the vegetables or you. Skim the yeast off the surface of the liquid and discard any solid matter that has it.

Your senses will not fail you: if it smells and tastes okay, it most likely fine to consume. And a sour aroma is normal, but an unpleasant, spoiled or rotten food smell is not.

What Went Wrong

Notice your batch of fermentation does not appear as it should? Here may be the reasons why.

  • Your batch is barely acidic.
  • Not enough salt in the brine.
  • Culturing temperature, where you place it, is too warm
  • The batch is over-exposed to oxygen.
  • Good hygiene is not recognized during preparation

Mold is a rare occurrence. A different substance on top of the vegetables green, pink, red, or black, fuzzy spots, there no need to panic. While those spots are mold, there is a possibility of disposing of this layer and having excellent fermented vegetables below the brine.

Exposure to oxygen encourage and allow mold or yeast growth, but as long as the brine has enough salt, then everything below the brine should still be culturing in an oxygen-free environment.

Pickles Foods
Pickles Foods | Source

Use Quality Vegetables

You want to use only fresh produce in your ferments; these are homegrown, or organic and Non-GMO vegetables and fruits. Using old or heavily sprayed vegetables may not ferment well.

Control Fermentation Temperature

Vegetables ferment well in cooler temperatures. Find a cool place with the temperature of 65° to 70°F to ferment your vegetables. A reminder if you home is warmer it will ferment faster, and the opposite is true for if you home is colder, it takes a longer period.

Salt, whey, and starter
Using salt is traditional for making these type of foods, and the proper amount in each batch of vegetables will keep mold at bay.

You can choose to use starter cultures such as whey or freeze-dried starter cultures if you want to add bacteria to the culturing process to quicken the process.

There is much more to learn about lacto-ferment, these were just a quick look into what it is, how it can benefit you, and how to start making you own fermented foods.

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