Fermented foods are also known as Lacto-fermented, or cultured foods and have been enjoyed throughout the world for centuries. If you think I’m talking about rotten cabbages, think again. Fermenting is a process that brings an abundance of flavour to your foods, much like pickles in vinegar brine, but with a massive dose of good health that can be lost in the pickling process but found in fermenting.
Lacto-fermentation is the process that produces traditional dill pickles, kimchi, and real sauerkraut. It takes nothing more than salt, vegetables, water, a heavy weight and a proper vessel to keep the bad bacteria out. We have all the fermenting vessels and lids you’ll need to get started right here on Simple Living. My favourite is the “pickle pipe”, shown above, which is a simple little lid you place on a mason jar. It keeps bad bacteria from invading your jar so the good bacteria can do their magic! I use “pickle pebbles” which are made from non-iridized soda glass to weigh the vegetables down and keep them under the brine.
The simple process of lacto-fermentation works because bacteria that could be harmful to us can’t tolerate much salt, but there are good bacteria that can. Think of this process as the ‘bad guys vs. the good guys’. Lacto-fermentation wipes out the bad guys in its first stage, and then lets the good guys get to work during stage two. The good guys on the salt-tolerant team are called Lactobacillus. Several different species within this genus are used to produce fermented foods.
Foods are fermented when lactobacillus bacteria convert their sugars and starches into lactic acid. The proliferation of lactic acid aids in the natural preservation of whatever is being fermented, and results in an end product that’s exceptionally nutritious. The process of lacto-fermentation also makes foods more digestible than they were to begin with (which is why many people who cannot tolerate milk do just fine with yogurt, for example).
Fermented foods are healthy for everyone, but the high concentration of natural probiotics they contain makes them particularly beneficial for people who have issues with their digestion. I try to include at least one serving of lacto-fermented foods in my diet each day as part of my healthy living.
Unfortunately, most of the pickles, sauerkraut, and many brands of yogurt that you’ll find at the supermarket aren’t lacto-fermented, so from a health perspective they’re not very useful (most are made with vinegar and/or sugar, and they’re pasteurized, which kills off the beneficial enzymes).
Making your own cultured foods is a great way to add healthy elements to any meal. Adding a side of fermented chutney is a great way to spice up any dish. Rather than purchasing pickles at the supermarket, why not make them at home the old fashioned way through lacto fermentation? It’s easy to do and your family will love you for it!