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Lacto fermentation is a method of preserving foods that does not require hot processing. The food is preserved by lactic acid which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria.

In general, you will want to have enough salt suspended in a liquid to keep mold from forming while the lactobacillus (the organisms that produce lactic acid) take hold and begin to multiply. This salt and liquid mixture is called your brine. Lacto-fermentation enhances the digestibility of the food so that your body can better assimilate nutrients. As with other cultured foods, consuming foods preserved in this manner will help replenish the digestive tract with beneficial enzymes that help aid digestion and fight harmful bacteria.

The seasonings within the jar can be adjusted to suit the individual’s taste and used for many other types of fresh produce. Feel free to experiment with green beans, carrots, corn, beets and other vegetables. I prefer to use pint jars so I don’t have an opened jar sitting for a long time in my refrigerator until it is used up. If I need more, I just open another jar.

Ahead of time:
Boil your jars, rings and lids in water for 3 minutes. Sometimes, I just bring the water and jars to a simmer, turn off the heat, and cover the pot with a lid while I work on other projects. When you are ready to begin, remove the jars from the water and dry thoroughly.

To make about 5 pints:
Dissolve 3 tbsp sea salt in 2 quarts of warmed, distilled water. You can heat the water on the stove, but you don’t want it too hot. Make sure it has cooled to at least 100°F before you use it so that the lactobacillus in your whey is not killed.

When the water and salt mixture is cooled, place the following in your sterilized jars:

  • 1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried dill weed
  • ¼ tsp dill seeds
  • ½ tsp cracked peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Grape leaves (this helps keep things crisp)
  • 2 tbsp whey
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp of the distilled water & sea salt brine

Use a chop stick or the handle of a wooden spoon to stir and mix the seasonings.
Wash and dry enough cucumbers to fill the jars (3 to 5 or so) and slice them ¼ inch thick.
Pack jars tightly, stopping 1 inch below the rim of the jar. I just stop at the point the threads begin on the neck of the jar.

Add enough distilled water/salt brine to cover the cucumbers. This should leave at least ¾ of an inch between the brine and the inside of the lid. The cucumbers shouldn’t float if they are tightly packed.
Cover the jar securely with the lid and rings. Shake the jar to mix the seasonings into the brine. Sometimes, the jar’s contents may shift and rise above the water level. Repack and add more brine if needed.

Loosen the ring only slightly – just enough to let any gas escape, but not enough to let air inside.
Let the jars sit for 3-4 days at room temperature.
Transfer to cool storage.
If the taste is not as strong as you’d prefer, you may leave them at room temperature for a little longer.
The fermentation process produces its own vinegar taste that is pleasant without being overly harsh.

Here's a video demonstration of another variation of lacto-fermentation. This particular method takes longer and runs more of a risk of mold as it does not utilize a whey starter. However, if you wished to make a large crock of pickles, rather than just pint jars, you could do so and just add about 1/2 cup of whey (for a gallon-sized crock).


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