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Lacto-fermentation happens when some bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and starch in food, converting them into lactic acid . There are several types of fermentation, but lacto-fermentation provides us with the most health benefits.
Fermentation involves the metabolic breakdown of a nutrient anaerobically. This breakdown produces ethanol, acids, and other molecules that act as intermediate compounds in a chain of enzymatic reactions. Lacto-fermentation creates beneficial bacteria and various strains of probiotics, enzymes and vitamins while increasing the shelf life of food.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO FERMENT FOOD
Start with the freshest ingredients you can find, from your own garden or look for local producers when possible. Whenever possible the ingredients should be organic because they would contain inherent bacteria useful to fermentation.
The use of salt is possibly the oldest and most used way to ferment vegetables and some fruits. Salt plays a major role in preserving during fermentation, converting sugars into an acidic environment that prevent harmful bacteria from growing. Salt serves also to firm up pectin in fruits and vegetables, and keep them crunchy.
It is possible to ferment without using salt or using little, though the risk of mold and possibly harmful bacteria to develop is higher and the resulting texture may be mushy.
While not enough salt may lead to problems, too much salt will inhibit the growth of the beneficial bacteria. You may need some attempts to establish the correct amount of salt to your taste.
The only type of salt suited for fermenting food is non-iodized, unrefined sea salt.
Starters introduce specific bacteria and yeast into the environment where we plan to ferment our food. Their role is indeed to jump-start the development of beneficial bacteria, protecting the fermenting food from contamination.
There are fermentation recipes that call for the use of water or brine. Municipal tap water can contain trace of chlorine and other related chemicals. These are added to prevent the propagation of microorganisms of various sorts. A successful fermentation depends on the propagation of microbes too. For fermentation purposes, it’s essential to remove as much chlorine and chloramine as possible from the water.
This can be easily done by leaving the water in a open container for a day or half. Even more efficient would be to bring tap water to boil for few minutes in order to evaporate the additives. Still, the best way is to use a reverse osmosis filter.
Sea water has been the first ever used brine. Brining generally involves a solution of salt and non-chlorinated water where the food is submerged. Other types of brines can be used depending on the food and the desired results. Sometimes both dry salting and brining are called for, as in the case when the produce has limited inherent moisture.
Brine is very simple to make because it contains only two ingredients: water and salt. Salt tenderizes food and offer protection against pathogenic bacteria, while allows friendly organisms to take over and work their magic.
To make a basic brine is enough to combine 6 tablespoons of fine sea salt to 8 cups of filtered water.
Dissolve the salt in a few cups of warm water over heat, then add the rest of the water. Otherwise, you can make the brine in advance and store it in a glass jar with an airtight lid in the refrigerator where you can keep it indefinitely.
When you’re ready to use your brine, place the food you want to ferment in a jar, pour the brine over the food leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) space from the top, and seal the jar.
MAKE WHEY EASY
Whey is used as a starter culture for creating many recipes. Making whey is simple. What you need is some basic equipment: a colander, a bowl, some cheesecloth, along with some fermented dairy to get started. I personally like to keep a few jars on hand at all times. You can use store-bought yogurt or kefir to obtain your whey from.
- Take 1 quart plain probiotic-rich yogurt, kefir, or other low-temperature fermented dairy.
- Place the cheesecloth on the colander over a large glass bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth. Let it drip into the bowl for a few hours.
- Keep letting the whey drip down into the bowl, place it on the counter overnight, then pour the whey into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid. (The creamy remains in the colander is similar to cottage cheese, and can be spread over a toast)
- Store in the refrigerator for a month, discard any mold that might form during storage. Whey may also be frozen up to several months, but not indefinitely because micro-organisms would perish over time.
Whey can be used in many ways beside for fermenting. Add it to your salad dressing, smoothies, soup or homemade sauces to make them healthier, more tasty and add some probiotic too.