The San Jose chapter of Holistic Moms Network was excited to have Lisa, founder of Lisa’s Counter Culture teach us more about fermentation and how to ferment properly at our March meeting. Fermented foods are a wealth of nutrients and probiotics. For centuries, fermentation was the only way to preserve fruits and vegetables to last throughout the year. Though fermenting is still simple, modern day technology has made fermentation almost a science, with knowledge of how foods ferment, how CO2 is released, and how to keep fermentation safe from outside bacteria and organisms.Lisa spoke a lot about anaerobic fermentation, the absence of oxygen during fermentation, which is how she mostly ferments. For vegetables and fruit, an anaerobic fermentation is preferable to ensure that the food reaches the proper ph. The only ferments that need an aerobic fermentation are those that require oxygen to ferment, such as vinegar, wine, and beer.
The most common way to ferment and the one that is showcased in Wild Fermentation and Nourishing Nutrition utilizes an aerobic fermentation process. The reason for this is because, until relatively recently, there was no low cost way to anaerobic ferment in the home. Due to food safety, companies that make and sell traditionally fermented foods are required to utilize anaerobic fermenting equipment, but most of this was too bulky and expensive for the home cook. According to Lisa, now that there are affordable anaerobic ways to ferment, both Sally Fallon, Author of Nourishing Traditions and Sandor Ellix Katz, Author of Wild Fermentation have both discussed the benefits of utilizing this system.
The biggest reason for an anaerobic fermentation process is the reduction of potential harmful bacteria and organisms from developing in the food. Also, anaerobic fermentation reduces the potential for molding, which may commonly occur with aerobic ferments. Though you will find many notations to simply scrape the mold off fermenting food, Lisa does not encourage this. Mold has “roots” that are unseen and develop deeper than the surface of foods. It is impossible to scrape away. If your ferment develops mold, it is recommended to not eat it.
Though, fermentation sounds difficult, it is really an easy process. Lisa brought several amazingly simple, but amazing foods for us to taste – from fermented diakon, carrots, ketchup, mayonnaise, to kombucha to drink. Lisa shared an easy recipe for carrots that may be utilized with almost all vegetables, except cabbage, squash, and asparagus. According to Lisa, squash and asparagus did not make good ferments because they become too soft during the fermentation.
In fermenting, it’s all about the salt brine and time. She highly recommends weighing your salt rather than relying on tablespoon/volume measurement. Different salts may have different volume measurements – based on how fine they grind is. By utilizing weight measurement, you will get a more accurate salt ratio in your brine.
The demonstration that Lisa did for us was so simple! She gave us a great salt chart so we would know how much to use in our brine. It is very important to use a NON-iodized salt when fermenting. It is also best to use a very fine grind, as you want the salt to dissolve in the water to create a good brine. For the seasoning, a great tip from Lisa was to lightly score the garlic to allow the oils and flavors to be released easier in the brine. She puts all the seasonings in the bottom of the jar, with the vegetables on top, to prevent them from floating to the surface. You can try a variety of spices – from chili peppers, garlic, to dill, and cumin. It’s all up to you. When fermenting, keep your ferment in a dark place. Fermentation occurs faster in the dark. For some great recipes, check out the recipes from Pickl-It, the anaerobic fermenting jars Lisa recommends, and from Lisa’s Couter Culture.
Bon Appetit and Happy Fermenting!