Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Cucumbers
Preserving our summer garden harvest has felt like a second job to me lately but I will be so grateful come mid winter when I have fresh tomato sauce and crunchy pickles. There are many ways to pickle vegetables but my favorite is to lacto-ferment them. Not only is this method simple and flavorful, but it is also the most nutritious.
Lacto-fermenting refers to the process of preserving food by allowing the sugars and starches to be converted into lactic acid by bacteria called lactobacilli. Lactic acid naturally inhibits harmful bacteria from growing, allowing produce to last indefinitely on the shelf. The high amounts of lactobacilli that proliferate in these fermenting veggies enhance their digestibility, increase nutrient content and promote a healthy gut flora, which we now know is linked to immunity, weight maintenance, blood sugar stabalization, mood and cognition amongst many other health benefits.
Commercially produced pickles do not contain these healthy bacteria, but luckily the method for doing this at home is easy. To lacto-ferment produce, all you need is washed and cut fruit or vegetables, any additional herbs and spices you would like, and salt. Some sources recommend using homemade whey for consistent results and to speed up lactic acid production. If you don’t have whey available, you can increase the salt content. Other sources recommend adding tannin rich leaves, such as grape leaves or oak leaves to enhance crispness, while many say this step is unnecessary. I personally just use salt and water, as those are things I always have around.
Your pickles may be ready in as little as 3 days but can also be allowed to ferment for several weeks, or even months before transferring to cold storage. You can taste them after a few days and decide how funky you want them to be!
This recipe, along with a lot of my knowledge comes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which is a wonderful resource for all things nutrition. Happy fermenting!
Makes 1 Quart
4-5 pickling cucumbers
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp fresh dill
1 Tbsp sea salt
4 Tbsp whey or 1 Tbsp additional salt
1 cup filtered water
Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart sized, wide mouth mason jar. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over 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 and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage.