Excerpt from With Love from Grandmother’s Kitchen: Traditional Cooking Techniques for Well-Being (Monica Corrado, 2011) by Monica Corrado, a Real Food Chef, Certified Nutritional Consultant and Certified GAPS Practitioner. Monica is a member of the Honorary Board of the Weston A. Price Foundation, which is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism. For more information and to order Monica’s cookbooks, visit simplybeingwell.com.
Lacto-fermentation was originally developed to help preserve foods. To lacto-ferment a food, add and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, lactobacilli. The lactobacilli give off lactic acid, which is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria.
In the process of lacto-fermentation, wonderful things are added to the food to make the food more nutrient rich. It maybe considered one of those “value-added processes.” While canning kills the enzymes in the food, making it “enzymatically dead”, lacto-fermentation adds enzymes to food, making it more alive. Lacto-fermentation can also be used to “re-activate” foods that have been canned.
Why do we love lacto-fermented foods and beverages? Lacto-fermented foods and beverages help kick on the digestive process, contribute additional enzymes to it, increase the amount of Vitamin C in the food, produce natural antibiotics and anti-carcinogenic substances, help maintain regular blood pressure and heart rate, help break down fats in the liver, help promote the growth of healthy bacteria throughout the intestine, as well as maintain a healthy level of acidification in the body.
You will need the following to lacto-ferment a food or beverage:
- Time: Usually 2 – 3 days or more
- Room thermometer: Temperature is best between 68–72 degrees F
- Sea salt: High quality and finely ground
- Whey: From whole milk, plain yogurt, or raw milk
- A wide-mouth mason jar, quart size, with a two-piece lid (or a 2 two quart jar for beverages)
- Vegetable or fruit you would like to ferment
- 1 cup liquid measure
- Measuring spoons
- A cutting board and chef’s knife
Here’s how to lacto-ferment stone fruits and apples (additional recipes in cookbook for vegetables, berries, beverages and whole grains; also many helpful and informative tips such as how to peel fruit, why add whey, etc.):
- Cut up enough fruits and spices to fill a quart jar. If you are using stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums) then score, core, and peel them first.
- Fill the quart jar with the fruit, up to the neck.
- Mix 4 tablespoons of whey and 2 teaspoons of sea salt with about 1 cup of water. Stir.
- Push the fruit down with your clean fist or a meat pounder.
- Add the whey and salt mixture. Be sure the liquid covers the fruit.
- If liquid does not cover the fruits/ add pure water at room temperature to cover.
- Be sure to leave about 1 inch of room between the top of what you are fermenting and the lid of the jar.
- Put the lid on tightly.
- Place the jar on the counter out of direct sunlight and away from any heating or air conditioning vents, in a place where the temperature is consistently 68–72 degrees. (Your room thermometer will help you determine this.)
- After two or three days at room temperature, check to see if your fruit is “done” by pressing down the center of the lid. When the lid is tight, the process is done and you may place the jar in the refrigerator.
- Fermented fruits and preserves should be eaten within two months of making.
“While canning kills the enzymes in the food, making it “enzymatically dead”, lacto-fermentation adds enzymes to food, making it more alive.”