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lacto fermentation

Back in the days before refrigeration and processed foods, folks preserved their vegetables through lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a pickling process that uses beneficial bacteria to keep food from rotting. Believe or not you’re probably already acquainted with this process. Lactobacilli are used to make make yogurt and sauerkraut. Remember these guys from a few posts back?

lactobacilli

So it goes down like this:  you soak vegetables in salty water or you cover them with salt and this creates an ideal environment for lactobacilli. The lactobacilli do their thing, consuming sugars and producing lactic acid as a by product. This creates an acidic environment which kills off the bacteria that spoil food.  These bacteria are pretty good for you too; they help you digest the vegetable and promote a healthy flora in your intestines.

Lately, I’ve really been getting into lacto-fermentation. Since I’ve joined a CSA, I’ve had an abundance of veggies in my fridge and making pickles has helped me save them for later. This is essentially what our ancestors did whenever they had a harvest. So far, I’ve made diakon radish pickles, kimchi, preserved salted lemons, and yogurt.

veggies and milk

You can use this process to preserve any firm vegetable or fruit that doesn’t have too much water. So radishes and carrots are in; watermelon and tomatoes are out. You can add any spice you want, or throw in garlic and ginger if it strikes your fancy.

The kimchi and diakon radish pickles are wonderfully tasty. I’m really looking forward to trying the preserved salted lemons. They take a few weeks to ferment. I’ll let you know how they turn out!  In the meantime, if you want to make some for yourself here’s the basic guidelines:

Preserved Salted Lemons:

  1. Gather enough thin-skinned lemons to fill the jar you’re going to pickle in. (Citrus is ripe here in the Bay Area – I foraged the lemons I used from trees on my walk to work.)
  2. Wash the jar and clean the skins of the lemons.
  3. Quarter the lemons and liberally coat them in sea salt.
  4. Smash the lemons into the jar, sprinkle more salt between layers.
  5. When the jar is full, squeeze additional lemon juice into the jar to cover the slices.
  6. If you want to spice it up, add a cinnamon stick or a few peppercorns. Heck, why not both?
  7. Screw the lid on tight and sit in dark space for about a month.

preserved salted lemons

When it’s done, you eat the rind and use them like olives. Check out the Sprouted Kitchen’s beautiful post about preserved salted lemons. She has a more detailed how-to and links to recipes.  Happy Pickling!

 

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cup of yogurtMaking homemade yogurt is surprisingly simple and requires no special equipment. After reading about the advantages of homemade vs. store bought  I decided to give making yogurt a try. Fresh, organic yogurt is cheaper to make than to buy and it doesn’t leave you with an unrecyclable plastic container. Homemade yogurt doesn’t have any additives, sweeteners, or thickeners like many store bought brands and it has more pro-biotic cultures which are good for digestion. Plus its fun and satisfying to make!

Convinced? Lets make yogurt!

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of high quality milk. (Use local and organic if possible. I used whole milk but you can you 2% if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with active cultures, or one teaspoon of powdered yogurt starter.

Equipment:

  • Candy thermometer
  • One quart mason jar
  • whisk (or fork)

Step One: Pour the milk into a sauce pan and put on medium-low heat. Heat it slowly and never let it boil. Bring up to about 185 degrees F. Stir occasionally as it is heating; it should take about 15 min.

yogurt

Step Two: As the milk is heating up, sterilize your mason jar and lid in boiling water. Let them air dry. Warm a large pot of water to incubate the yogurt in. The water should be 90-100 degrees F.

Step Three: Once the milk has heated to 185 degrees F, hold it at this temperature for five minutes. Then remove from heat and cool to 115 degrees F, stirring occasionally.

Step Four : Put the yogurt or starter in the bottom of the sterilized mason jar. Add about 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and whisk to blend.  Add the remaining milk and stir well.

mason jar and yogurt

Step Five: Fasten the lid and place the jar in the pot of warm water and place the whole thing in the oven. (The light should be left on if it is an electric oven, or the pilot light if it is a gas oven.) Incubate the yogurt for 8-10 hours. Then remove from the water and refrigerate.

yogurt

Step five is the most important step in the whole process. This is when the bacterial fermentation takes place which transforms the milk into yogurt. All of the prior steps were intended to kill off any other bacteria which may interfere or give the yogurt strange flavors. What you are doing is growing the bacteria lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. These bacteria ferment the lactose into lactic acid. This gives the yogurt its tart flavor. The bacteria also coagulates the milk proteins and gives yogurt its creamy texture. Its a little gross but ever so interesting. Enjoy!

Bacteria in Yogurt

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