When you have an abundance of vegetables from the garden or a farmer's market in the summertime, you want to somehow preserve all that homegrown goodness so you can eat well during the cold months of the year too, right?
Fortunately, there is a technique that has been around for centuries that has enabled farmers to preserve their produce without canning or freezing. And this method not only retains the vegetable in it's healthiest raw state, full of vitamins and enzymes, but it also enhances the nutritional value even further, and provides the body with beneficial bacteria. How cool is that?
What is this old world preservation technique? Lacto-fermentation. When I discovered this for the first time, I thought, "Wow, I cannot believe we have gotten away from this health-promoting technique of food preservation!". Canning has so many drawbacks: loss of nutrients due to high heat used in cooking and processing, as well as the unpleasant process of handling all those jars in hot water baths, making sure the lids sealed properly, etc….
But with this fermentation technique, you can put up your produce in jars, add seasonings to it, and store it in a cool cellar or refrigerator where it will stay fresh for months and sometimes even years! This process is what is used to make sauerkraut, kimchi, old-fashioned pickles, and more. Nearly all of the pickles and sauerkraut at grocery stores are cooked and canned, not fermented. But long ago, these foods were only fermented.
We need to return to these techniques of food preservation to not only learn how to save our produce for cooler months, but to maintain our health. Lacto-fermentation uses lactic acid as a natural preservative to prevent putrefication. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid producing bacteria. This process has multiple health benefits as described by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:
“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
Wow! Those are some amazing health benefits! It only makes sense to learn how to revive this lost art of fermentation.
Here is a good recipe for beginners to fermentation. One of the keys to successful fermentations is to make sure all the jars are very clean and all the equipment used to make the recipe is very clean.
- 2 small onions, sliced
- 8-9 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 jalepeno peppers or cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 bunch cilantro
- the juice of 3 limes
- 3 Tbsp. sea salt
- 9-10 cups of tomatoes, chopped
Put the onions, jalepeno pepper, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Place it in a large bowl.
Chop the cilantro and add to the bowl of vegetables. Add the lime juice sea salt, and tomatoes.
Stir well and place in a glass 1/2 gallon jar or 2 quart sized mason jars. Make sure to leave an inch of space at the top of the jar so that if it bubbles up, it will not bubble over and out of the jar. Wipe the inside lid of the jar to remove any pieces of vegetables. All the salsa ingredients need to be submerged in the juice.
Put the lid on and let sit at room temperature (68-70 degrees) for about 2-3 days. There will be bubbles forming in the salsa- this is a sign of fermentation. If it bubbles a lot, you need to unscrew the lid and let any pressure that has built up be released.
Store in refrigerator or a cool root cellar for up to 3 months.
We offer classes locally on lacto-fermentation, and will be offering online classes on this topic soon as well, so stay tuned!!
Becky Mauldin, N.D. is a Naturopath, teacher, speaker, and author. She has authored two gluten-free cookbooks, Vibrant Health and Recipes for Life. Her story of recovery from an incurable illness has inspired many people around the world. She is known for making a healthy diet achievable for real people and real life.
Connect with her on Facebook and let her know what you think of this post.
This post is linked to:
- Barn Hop at the Homestead Revival
- Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist
- Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free