Lacto-fermentation is a centuries old method for preserving excess vegetable yields at the end of the growing season. While lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut and European style dilled pickles resemble many other “pickled” foods, the process is quite different than the traditional hot canning method that involves preserving agents like vinegar and sugar. During lacto-fermentation vegetables are cut or shredded, and salt is added. The salt draws out liquid within the vegetables and the vegetables actually ferment within their juices for a short period of time, usually two to six weeks.
The probiotic health benefits of lacto-fermented foods are similar to that of other foods with live cultures, like yogurt and kefir. Eating lacto-fermented foods with high probiotic concentrations ensures the maintenance of high levels of probiotic bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract that help ward off harmful bacteria and intestinal and digestive sicknesses.
A pioneer of lacto-fermenting educational outreach in the Hudson Valley, Louise Frazier was a nutritional culinary specialist and author of Vegetables First, Home Lactic Acid Fermentation of Vegetables and Around the Calender with Local Vegetables. Louise regularly conducted lacto-fermentation workshops with fresh organic produce from local farms, and talked about how she learned the art of lacto-fermentation from Thomas Stenius while visiting Sweden. She often spoke of the nuances that affect lacto-fermentation including the necessity of organic vegetables in the process.
“Vegetables that are chemically fertilized or subjected to chemical insecticides do not have the capacity to produce the bacteria essential to lactic-acid fermentation” (Vegetables First).
Incredibly high in probiotic matter, organic cabbage is ideally suited for lacto-fermentation. Because of the high probiotic concentration, Louise was known to add a handful of shredded cabbage to other lacto-fermenting vegetables to kick-start the fermentation process.
As for the lacto-fermentation method, the process and ratio of salt to vegetables is very simple. For every one pound or cut of shredded vegetables, one teaspoon of salt is added. The vegetables are packed tightly into glass jars with rubber sealed clamp lids. The rubber seals allow bubbling and fermenting juices to escape. After three to four days of active fermentation in a room temperature setting, the vegetables finish fermenting in a cooler 50-60 degree location and are later stored in a cold storage area which stalls the fermentation process. It is not necessary to hot-water bath lacto-fermented vegetables and under ideal refrigeration the vegetables will maintain excellent quality for a year or more.
A tried and true sauerkraut recipe from Louise Frazier, nutritional culinary specialist and author of Vegetables First, Home Lactic Acid Fermentation of Vegetables and Around the Calender with Local Vegetables