Lacto-fermentation is a method of food preservation where lactic acid is produced by good bacteria. Not only will lactobacillus keep food perfectly preserved, but this process also increases the vitamin content, while promoting the growth of healthy flora in your intestines, allowing for ease in digestion.
Of all the organic acids, lactic acid is the one that best inhibits the proliferation of bacteria that cause putrefaction, but it does not bring about in the body the over-acidifying action of certain other acids….While other products of the fermentation process, like alcohol and acetic acid, must be decomposed and eliminated, lactic acid can in large part be used by the body…. Organic acids present in fermented milk and vegetable products play an important role in the health of old people as they aid a digestive system
that is growing more and more feeble…. After two or three days of lacto-fermentation, vegetables begin to soften and certain substances
in them begin to decompose. If the vegetables contain nitrates—often the case after a summer with little sun—they are broken down….If all goes well,
the lactic-acid producing bacteria take over and the process of acidification begins. New substances are formed, notably…choline and, above all, lactic
acid. This acidification ensures the conservation of the vegetables…but the fermentation of the aromas doesn’t come about until a later stage, during storage. Lacto-fermentation is not only a means of conserving
foods but also a procedure for ennobling them, as proved by their taste and aroma.— Annelies Schoneck, Des Crudités Toute L’Année
Several well-known lacto-fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles. Canned pickles, however, are not the result of lacto-fermentation since the bacteria is killed during water-bath processing. Also, the brine resulting from lacto-fermentation will become cloudy, canned pickles maintain a clear brine (unless you have added spices that muddy up the brine).
The following recipe is by far my absolute FAVORITE pickle. Ever. Last year’s batch lasted through February; so not long enough! This year I plan on making several gallons in hopes of stretching out their tasty consumption well into next Spring!
Cajun Pickles – adapted from the Pickle People
8 cups cold water
1/2 cup pickling salt
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons pickling spice
1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I have my own *special* blend)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning
3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
50 finger-sized pickling cucumbers (about 4 pounds) or 17 medium cucumbers, disked (I make both) **see bottom for note**
6 cherry peppers, thinly sliced (don’t seed)
6 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced (don’t seed)
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
Combine water, salt, vinegar, and seasonings; stir until salt is dissolved. Pack cucumbers, cherry peppers, jalapenos, garlic, and onion into a gallon jar. You can also use 4 quart jars, just divide peppers, onion and garlic evenly among them. Ladle in spiced brine, covering vegetables. Place lid(s) on jar(s) and let pickles ferment at cool room temperature for 3 days. Refrigerate another 5 days; for those who want it and want it now, the pickles are ready to eat. I always allow mine ferment for at least 1-2 months, so the brine can really develop.
The batch pictured above was made using whole cucumbers and my Chinese 5 color peppers. This is my first year growing that variety of hot pepper, so I am very anxious to taste them!
**When using whole cucumbers, trim the blossom end by 1/16″, since the blossom may contain an enzyme that encourages excessive softening.