When I first started Lacto-fermenting my vegetables at home, it was a little bit daunting. I was worried about cultivating bad bacteria or mold instead of the good ones that I need. Some of the recipes I came across suggested using Whey which I was not comfortable using because I avoid all dairy due to health reasons. After much research I found out that it IS possible to do Lacto-Fermentation without Whey! Plus, it is super easy too.
So what is Lacto-Fermentation?
It is a method of fermenting vegetables in an anaerobic environment like an airtight jar. This process produces strains of anaerobic Lactobacilli bacteria which converts the sugars & starches present in vegetables into lactic acid which in turn preserves the vegetables. Lacto-Fermentation is also a cost effective way to add gut healing probiotics back into our gut ecosystem. So far in my own experience I have not encountered any mold or fermentation that has gone bad using this method.
You can read more about Lacto-Fermentation here.
I use an airtight mason jar to ferment my vegetables. Cucumbers are my all time favourite fermies (Fermented vegetables) but you can ferment any variety of vegetables- cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and radishes are a few examples. To make your fermies flavoursome add in any of your favourite aromats- bay leaves, rosemary, mustard seeds and whole peppercorns to name a few.
Living in KL, Malaysia a tropical country the temperature hovers somewhere between 30-34°C every single day of the year. Fermenting in warmer climates requires lesser time than in cooler climates. I normally leave my jar of fermies to ferment in room temperature for a week maximum before transferring them into the fridge and so far I have not kept any fermies beyond 2 weeks in the fridge. After about 2 days in room temperature the fermies will start to get a little fizzy which is a good sign that the right bacteria is at work here.
As the bacteria starts producing gas, you will need to ‘burp’ the jar to get rid of the excess gas as long as the fermies are in room temperature. ‘Burping’ is basically opening the air-tight lid of the jar and letting the gas out for a few seconds before closing the air-tight lid again. If you see some froth forming on top of the jar, do not panic you can just skim it out with a spoon. Make sure your vegetables are submerged completely under the brine. Using a cabbage leave to press the fermies down helps keep them submerged. This will prevent any mold forming.
I can’t stress this enough in almost all of my food posts- please use organic vegetables and fruits whenever possible. Vegetables grown this way will already have the beneficial bacteria growing on them and this will facilitate the already beneficial bacteria on these vegetables to grow during the fermentation process. Another tip is to always use filtered or mineral water so no chlorine is present which might hinder the fermentation process. The brine used to make the fermies also acts as a deterrent for the bad bacteria from taking hold and encourage the Lactobacilli to lead the fermentation process.
So this is how I do Lacto-Fermentation without any Whey:
Lacto-Fermented Vegetables with Garlic
- 3tbsp of good quality sea salt (not table salt)
- 450ml of mineral or filtered water
- enough vegetables chopped to fill a 500ml airtight mason jar
- 1tspn of peppercorns
- a couple of bay leaves
- 5 cloves of garlic
- a couple of cabbage leaves
OK this is how you roll :
- In a large heat proof bowl or pot, sterilize the jar with boiling hot water. Remove the jar after 5 minutes to cool to room temperature.
- Mix the salt and mineral water into a brine solution, set aside.
- Fill the chopped vegetables and aromats into the jar, leaving an inch or two of headspace.
- Pour the brine into the jar, covering all the vegetables.
- Use the cabbage leaves to push the vegetables down to keep them submerged.
- Leave them to ferment at room temperature in a shaded place away from direct sunlight for up to one week. ‘Burp’ the jars everyday for a few seconds to let out the gas produced by the fermies.
- After one week, transfer the fermies into the fridge and they can be consumed everyday for up to 2 weeks. So far I have not gone beyond that so I can’t advise if they are still good after more than 2 weeks in the fridge.
You can omit or change any of the aromats above. Have fun with Lacto-Fermenting, it is easy to start and your gut will love you for it!