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If you’re like me, your first introduction to sauerkraut may have been through a delightful reuben sandwich. However, it took me many more years to hear of the term “lacto-fermentation” and the many benefits these foods provide. If you’re not eating these on a daily basis, you might start by the end of this article.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

A lacto-fermented food is one that has been fermented by bacteria that produce lactic acid. The bacteria break down the sugar and starch, leaving us with those sour tasting foods we’ve come to love. Sauerkraut and kimchi are common lacto-fermented foods you may have tried, but pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be lacto-fermented. You can also make beverages, such as kvass using this method. Before the days of refrigeration, lacto-fermentation was a go-to practice for many who wanted to preserve the produce of the season to last through the winter.

Why Lacto-Ferment?

The consumption of lacto-fermented products brings many health benefits. These include:

  • Increased HCl in the stomach (making it easier to break down food)
  • Boosts immune system
  • Produces natural antibiotics and anticarcinogens
  • Helps break down fat in liver
  • Perhaps the most well-known benefit: Promotes growth of healthy bacteria in the gut
  • And so many more!!

Fermented foods are our friends when it comes to having a healthy gut and immune system, and some would argue they are a non-negotiable part of any healthy person’s daily diet.

How to Lacto-Ferment

There are many blogs, youtube videos, internet articles, and books out there that can walk you through the steps, help you troubleshoot, give you ideas, provide recipes, etc. Don’t hesitate to do a quick search for what you want to make and see what you can find! I will walk you through the basics of what I did. Remember, I am no professional. I’m an average person who is just getting into this myself, and if I can do it, you totally can!!

Supplies:

  • Produce (such as cabbage for sauerkraut, or any other vegetable or fruit you want to ferment)
  • Salt
  • Mason jar with two-piece lid
  • Bowl
  • Clean hands
  • Purified Water (depending on what you’re making, you may need more liquid to cover the produce)
  • Starter (such as whey or a probiotic capsule – using a starter is optional)

The basic method is as follows:

  1. Chop or shred your clean produce. If you are doing something with a high sugar content, such as fruit or beets, do not shred super fine or your fermentation will turn to alcohol.
  2. Add salt and water (if water is necessary – if doing cabbage, the cabbage will provide enough liquid to cover it)
  3. Fill the mason jar with produce and salt water, leaving an inch or two at the top for it to expand. Make sure the produce is completely covered with liquid. If needed, you can place something in there to keep it submerged, like a cabbage leaf or fermentation weight.
  4. Tighten lid and let sit at room temperature for about a week, until the lid is taut. Make sure you do not open the jar before it’s done! Fermentation is an anaerobic process, which means it needs an oxygen-free environment.

About a month ago I made beet kvass. It was my first time making it and it turned out okay. I wanted to try using whey as a starter, but I think next time I will omit that and just use salt for a different flavor. Nevertheless, it worked! And it still provides all sorts of health benefits, despite the extra sourness. Here’s how I did it:

I sliced a large beet using a mandolin and put it in a 2 quart jar, along with a few cloves of garlic and some shredded ginger.

Next I added a couple tablespoons of Real Salt and a cup of whey.

Filled the jar to the shoulder with water, tightened the lid, and let it sit for several days. That’s it!

As you can see, it’s pretty simple and quick. What takes the most time is waiting for days for it to ferment. 

It’s also nice that you can include toddlers and children in the process. My son has always loved sauerkraut, so it was fun to make our own together a couple weeks ago.

For this one we went with green cabbage only and used salt with no other starter added. One cool thing about cabbage is that the salt will draw all the water it needs right out of it! In fact, you could just put the shredded cabbage in the bowl, add the salt, and then cover it for a few hours. When you come back, you’ll find a bunch of nice, watery cabbage waiting for you. However, if you want to speed up the process, you can knead it with your hands for ten minutes and that’ll do the trick.

After all the juices were extracted, we put it all in a mason jar, leaving an inch of space from the top. We folded up a cabbage leaf to put on top, holding everything down below the brine. Then we tightened the cap and set it on the counter for about a week!

We are going to try carrots next and perhaps a vegetable medley after that. It’s a good idea to use a variety of foods and try some different starters so you can get a variety of different good bacteria working in your favor. The more variety the better!

I would love to hear about your fermenting adventures! What have you tried? Let me know your best tips!

About the author

Hey! My name is Brittan and I live in Utah with my husband and one adorable toddler. I love finding holistic and natural ways to care for myself and my family. I particularly enjoy learning about nutrition, herbal medicine, the emotional, spiritual, and energetic aspects of health, and anything else that contributes to complete wellness. Thanks for joining me!

I am not a doctor. Everything I write about is from my personal experience and perspective. Consult a physician if you have questions specific to your health.

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