Monday, May 2, 2011

Preserving Food: Lactic Fermentation

Finished jars now they only need to ferment for 5 to 7 days.

Several months ago, I stumbled across lactic fermenting. Honestly, I had no idea what that was. I had been planning on canning this fall. I knew about freezing and drying food but other traditional methods of food preservation I really never thought about. My Aunt Sue kept telling me about fermenting and how wonderful it was. I should tell you that my family, especially my Aunt Sue, has long been followers of healthy "alternatives". Vitamins, avoiding white sugar, probiotics, filtered water via osmosis, mineral make up, sometimes trendy diets, etc. Some of it has gone by the wayside but most of it is a great way to live a healthier life.

Regardless I began to research fermenting and discovered that it is an amazing way to add probiotics, good bacteria, to your diet (without spending tons of money on a supplement). I was sold. I won't bother now discussing in depth why I need large quantities of probiotics but if you are a suffer of candida like I am (three strains of the stuff live in my unhealthy gut) you need LOTS of good probiotics to fix yourself. I simply don't have the money for the store bought fixes, supplements, doctors (alternative or otherwise), etc.

Once I discovered fermenting it was like my eyes were open for the first time and I saw it everywhere. More than likely you know someone who ferments food, you ferment food, you have read about fermenting food, you buy fermented foods, and on and on. I am not on the cutting edge here but if you are ready to take the plunge here is how...

My Aunt Sue gathered two of her sisters (my mother & my Aunt Kathy) myself and my baby (baby's go everywhere mom goes) for a "CV Party" (Cultured Vegetable Party). We were all new at this and it made for a fun afternoon.

The sisters! Sue, Kathy, and Mary (my mom).

You need jars. These lovely jars are from Weck and they are completely beautiful. You don't need these pretty jars though. All you need is a canning jar. The problem is pressure can build up in the jar and potentially explode it, so if you use a canning jar don't pack it insanely full and occasionally release the pressure. You will find tutorials for using your average canning jar all over the internet. I want to ferment in quantity so I may in the future invest in an amazing stoneware fermenting crock but in the meantime I will consider investing these airlock lids that fit any wide mouth canning jar.

Weck jars and culture starters.

You need a recipe but once you get the hang of it fermenting is like cooking. You can make up your own. Most often cultured vegetables are a combination of cabbage and other vegetables and you pack them into a jar. You leave them at room temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days or longer. Winter six or seven and summer as little as three or four. During the winter you can place the jars in a warmer place, inside a cooler chest (minus the ice), or wrap them in towels to keep things warm and fermenting. Once finished you place the jar in the refrigerator or some place cool to stop the fermenting. Properly fermented veggies can be stored for quite some time. Typically eight months and up.

The recipe we used:
3 heads green cabbage, shredded in a food processor (or shredded by hand)
1 bunch kale, chopped by hand
1 Tbsp. dill seeds

We used a combination of red and green cabbage. 
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Remove several cups of this mixture and put into a blender. Add enough filtered water (don't have filtered water or water without chlorine so I boil my water and let it cool to room temp) to make a "brine" the consistency of a thick juice. Add blended brine back into bowl with all ingredients. Pack mixture down into your jars using your fist or potato masher. Leave about 2 inches of room at the top for veggies to expand. Roll up several cabbage leaves into a tight "log" and place thme on top to fill the remaining 2 inches of space. Clamp jar closed (or screw on lid). Leave at room temperature for at least 3 days to a week and then refrigerate to slow down the fermentation (it never completely stops but will continue to age... like wine).  

To use a culture starter:
If you aren't fermenting with salt or whey you need a culture starter for a better culture. Culture starters can be purchased online or at health food stores. Dissolve one or two packages of starter culture in 1 1/2 cup warm (90 degree) water. Add approximately 1 tsp. of some form of sugar to feed the starter (Rapadura, Sucanat, honey, Agave, EcoBLOOM, or other). Let starter/sugar mixture sit for about 20 minutes or longer while the L. Plantarum and other bacteria wake up and begin enjoying the sugar. Add this starter culture to the brine mixture.

Culture starter in water with EcoBLOOM.

All ingredients in one pot.


Brine and ingredients.

Filling the jars and packing them down.

Cabbage roll.

Finished jars just need to ferment now.

Additional recipes and resources:
Body Ecology (I don't agree with her New Age beliefs but she has great recipes.)
Cooking God's Way


Welcome Barn Hop neighbors! Have you ever cultured veggies? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? Have you been thinking about fermenting as a way of food preserving? We would love to hear your stories. Thanks for stopping.


  1. to your blog...............this sounds so neat. I will have to try! Love the jars...........the colors of veggies look beautiful. I will be saving your blog to my favorites. I also join in on the Homestead Barn Hops.

    So glad I came to yours. I will spend some time looking around.

    Blessings, Linda
    Prairie Flower Farm

  2. I want to try this! And how fun that it was a family adventure.

  3. New to the blog and just fermented for the first time in mid-April. We used salt rather than a culture and did a traditional sauerkraut, kimchi and carrots & ginger. I think we fermented 3+ weeks before I put it in the fridge.

    I bought a book called "Wild Fermentation" that has tons of recipes in it as well as info on the tradition of fermentation. You might like it too!


  4. Welcome new comers! I am so glad you are here. Let me know how your adventures in fermenting.

    Dee - I am going to look for that book right away! Thank you!!!


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