You've might have heard about this term "Lacto-Fermentation" and think on something that relates to milk. Apparently No, it has nothing to do with milk. So let's have look.
Photo: Example of Lacto-fermentation products.
What is Lacto-Fermentation
Is a type of fermentation (anaerobic energy production) where bacteria (primarily from Lactobacillus genus) turns carbohydrate/ sugar into lactic acid.
On the fermented vegetables, bacteria found when the acidity is around 1% is Lactobacillus plantarum, and when acidity reach 2% (more aged fermentation) you will find Lactobacillus brevis, Lb. curvatus, Lb. sakei, etc.
The production of lactic acid causes an acidification of the environment that allows the elimination of other bacteria including pathogenic bacteria. This method therefore is used for the preservation of food.
Fermentation is one of the oldest practices in human history, dated back to 10'000 BCE, though spontaneously occurring fermentation predates the human species altogether.
Pickled cucumbers originated in the Tigris Valley, or modern-day Iraq, in 2000 BCE. While ancient Chinese cultures are known for championing vegetable fermentation, the pickling of cucumbers in the Middle East some 1700 years earlier, truly opened the door.
500 - 1000 AD, the cereal-legume fermentation become global. The diversity of cereals—wheat, rice, rye, oats, barley, corn, and sorghum—and legumes—beans, peas, and lentils—led to a variety of fermented products produced around the world. Alone, cereals and legumes offer an adequate source of nutrition, but when fermented, their nutrient density intensifies, making these crops excellent for achieving a nutrient-dense diet.
In the 1900s, Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian bacteriologist, discovered the bacterial strain Bulgarian bacillus in fermented milk. He named the strain after the Bulgarian culture he was studying for their long lifespan, though it was later reclassified as Lactobasillus acidophilus.
The 1970s saw the first ingestible probiotics hit store shelves.
Apart from preserving food, the lacto-fermented food as well can bring the following benefits
Intensifies the nutrient in the food. During fermentation, these bacteria synthesize vitamins and minerals, produce biologically active peptides with enzymes such as proteinase and peptidase, and remove some non-nutrients. (Source: PubMed)
Increase the bioavailability of the nutrient. For example iron bioavailability is higher in the fermented food compare to the non fermented ones. (Source: PubMed)
Promote a healthy gut as it contains good bacteria. Dr. Natasha Campbell in her book "Gut and psychology syndrome" use sauerkraut as the probiotic to cure gut problem. And as it is probiotic, it also has all the benefits of probiotic
Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammation, Anti-Allergic (Souce: PubMed).
Better blood sugar control Many fermented foods, such as kimchi, fermented milk, and yogurt, have been found to imporove insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control (Source: PubMed).
Lower blood pressure Yogurt and fermented milk have been found to modestly reduce blood pressure. (Source: PubMed). But I do not expect Kimchi and the vegetables lacto-fermented will have same effect considering the amount of salt used in the making.
Improve our Immune System (Source: SpringerLink)
Lacto-fermented vegetables is not only probiotic. It is also prebiotic as it contains fiber that nourish the probiotic/ gut bacteria.
Fermented foods are considered safe for most people however for some individuals may experience undesirable effect such as gas and bloating. It is due to its high probiotic content and as well in some vegetables due to its high fibre content.
The recommendation is to start with small portion and increase gradually. For Kimchi and lacto-fermentation with brine method, please kindly as well consider the amount of salt in it. So it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
How to make
There are so many lacto-fermentation product but I will discuss only the vegetables lacto-fermentation with brine method and kimchi as they are very simple to make.
There are other fermented products such as kefir, milk kefir, sourdough, etc that is also categorized as Lacto-Fermentation but the making is different. Hopefully I can cover those in other occasion.
Vegetables Lacto-Fermentation with brine method
What you need is vegetables, salt and water. Some spices that will enhance the flavour such as onion, chilli, lemongrass, ginger, curcuma, pepper, bay leaves, etc. And an air-tight jar.
The amount of salt that you need is 3% of total water. So if your jar is for 1L then you need 30 gr of salt.
On the vegetables to be used, it is best to use the vegetables that has strong structure and does not contain too much water. So salad leaves cannot be used. Tomatoes can be used but it requires a different technique. Please find below list of vegetables that are common to be used.
Plant of family Brasicaceae contains Glucosinolate which help our liver in their detoxification process.
Carrot contain beta carotene (pro vitamine A) which is anti-oxydant and as well can be turned to Vit A by our body when needed.
Careful, it turns all into colour red. Contain betalain, anti-inflammatory and beetroot can lower blood pressure.
Also part of family Brasicaceae.
Please remove the middle part. Cucumber is rich in Potassium.
All the goodness of garlic will come with it but without its pungent taste.
Part of Brasicaceae family
Part of Brasicaceae family
What you have to do is basically wash the jar thoroughly, wash and cut the vegetables. Prepare the salty water with correct amount of salt.
Arrange the vegetable in the jar and pour the salty water and leave about 2 to 3 cm for air. Close the lid properly. Keep 1 week in ambient temperature and 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Open it only at the 3rd week.
"Kimchi" / Spicy Fermented Chinese Cabbage
What I present here is not a Korean traditional Kimchi (Tongbaechu-kimchi). For Korean traditional kimchi you use Gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) and porridge made of glutinous rice powder.
What I present is a shortcut way using Gochujang which is Korean chilli paste. Gochujang is made of Gochugaru, glutinous rice flour and fermented soya. Unfortunately the ready packaged Gochujang sometime contains corn syrup and monosodium glutamate (E621).
If you have deep concern on food additives, then I would advise you to prepare a real traditional Kimchi. Some ready made Kimchi contain preservatives. You can find many videos that explain on how to make the traditional Kimchi. For example in the Maangchi website.
As it is not easy for me to find Gochugaru and I belief that under European food standard, there is only limited/ allowed amount of monosodium glutamate in the product, I then decides to make "Kimchi" using Gochujang.
What we need are carrot, chinese cabbage/ napa cabbage, white radish, ginger, garlic, gochujang, fish sauce, salt and water. And an air-tight jar.
First wash and cut the vegetables and spread salt and mix well. The purpose is to take water out from the vegetables. The amount of salt needed is 3% from the total vegetables weight. Leave it for 3 hours or more.
Throw away the water, taste. If it is too salty for you, you can rinse the vegetables and throw away the water.
For 1 Kg of vegetables you need 3 table spoon of gochujang, 1 or 2 cloves of grated garlic, 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, 2 table spoon of fish sauce. Mix them well - make sure all the surface of vegetables covered by the sauce.
Put it into the airtight jar and close the lid. Leave 4 days in the ambient temperature and open it. It smells nice if it is successful. You can eat it right away or put it in the refrigerator. The longer you keep, the more tasty it is.
Ideas of servings
Vegetables Lacto-fermentation and "Kimchi" are often served raw as the starter or accompanying main dish. This is the best as you preserve all the vitamins and all the good bacteria.
What I use to do is to prepare soup without salt and then before serving, I add these lacto-fermented vegetables and it's brine. Or I eat it with rice porridge.
Kimchi itself can be used in various of Korean dish such as Kimchi fried rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap), Kimchi stew (Kimchi Jjigae), Kimchi pancake (Kimchi Buchimgae), etc.