What the Heck is Lacto-Fermentation?

I’ll give you three guesses.

  1. No, lacto-fermentation is not when your ice cream melts into a milky pool on a hot day.
  2. No, it’s not when the glass of milk you left out for Santa turns curdled.
  3. Nope, lacto-fermentation does not mean there is any chance that you will ever get drunk off of dairy milk.

Give up? Well I’ll tell you. Lacto-fermentation is actually a super healthy form of pickling. Yes, pickling!

If you recall from a couple weeks back, I blogged about the many different vegetables that my wife and I love to pickle. Yellow squash, okra, asparagus, and radishes name just a few. But here is the issue with pickling: Many people hate to do it in the summer, because it involves spending time over a hot stove. I don’t blame you. Traditionally, I have always thought of pickling as a bit of a fall activity as well, when cooler temps mean I don’t mind spending time in the heat of the kitchen.

Now, what if I were to tell you there is a very nutritional method for pickling certain vegetables that does not involve any heat or stove? You can still get crisp, delicious pickled veggies such as green beans, peppers, and cucumbers without using any heat at all. This method of pickling is… lacto-fermentation!

Many people see the word “lacto” and assume that it has to do with “lactose”, or dairy. But it doesn’t. The word “lacto” actually comes from the natural, beneficial bacteria that this method uses called lactobacillus. Remember, not all bacteria is bad, and this type of bacteria is a particularly friendly one. Lactobacillus converts the carbohydrates from the vegetables into lactic acid. And while it’s at it, it actually produces extra nutrients such as thiamin, fatty acids, B vitamins, biotin, and niacin. Yes, lacto-fermentation can actually help make your veggies even more nutritious. The presence of lactobacilli also increases digestibility of vegetables, and encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines.

Is lacto-fermentation safe? Yes, I can assure you it surely is. In fact, people have been using this method in many cultures for hundreds of years because it is safe, tasty, and cheap too, since it doesn’t require many ingredients or supplies. It’s likely that your ancestor used lacto-fermentaion.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Excellent! I like to use my White Wonder Cucumbers from my Survival Seed Bank for this recipe. They are ideal for pickling. If you’d like, you can use a variety of cucumber that is actually labeled as a “pickling cucumber” such as the Bush Pickle Cucumber, or the Homemade Pickle Cucumber. These grow to be about 3 inches and 5 inches, respectively, so they’re smaller than your average cucumber. Regardless of the type you use, make sure you select cucumbers that are firm and not overripe. When you cut it open, you should not have fully developed seeds. White Wonder cucumbers can grow to be up to 9 inches in length and have a gorgeous ivory-white color. However, when I pickle them, I prefer to pick them at 6-7 inches. Here is my tried-and-true lacto-fermentation cucumber pickle recipe.

 Pickled Cucumbers

4-5 pickling cucumbers (3-5”), or 2 full sized cucumbers (6-7”)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons fresh dill, snipped
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey
1 cup filtered water

Wash cucumbers well, and either leave them whole, or cut them into your desired shape. Place all of them in a quart-sized wide mouth jar. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the liquid over the cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers. The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly this tightly with the jar lid, and let it sit at room temperature for 3 days before transferring it to your refrigerator. *Tip- to preserve the crispness of the pickles, add a few grape leaves to the jar before covering it.

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2 comments so far

  1. […] can also check out my previous blogs, How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables Without Sulfites, and What the Heck Is Lacto-Fermentation for more information on preserving your garden […]

  2. […] the process to memory. You may find instructions online for refrigerator pickles, such as in my Lacto-Fermentation blog. It is important to note that these methods are for quick consumption, not long-term storage. […]


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