Summer is a bountiful time of year. Whether you are growing your own or buying from a grower or farmer’s market, you may experience ‘produce glut’. What I mean by that is you have more fresh produce on hand that what you can reasonably use before said produce begins to spoil. But before you worry about tossing out your produce, do what our great grandparents did, preserve them through fermentation. (Any of you remember those 20-gallon crocks of pickles stored away in a cool basement or cellar)? Lacto-fermentation can be applied to just about every vegetables out there which means you can preserve your bounty to enjoy later. And in this case; specifically, I present to you, Lacto-fermented spicy beets.
Lacto-fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation. It allowed our ancestors to preserve food long before the days of refrigeration. And for many people, Lacto-fermented foods is what fed them through the long winter months.
Benefits of Lacto-Fermentation
- does not require freezing or refrigeration
- provides a great source of probiotics
- increases the digestibility of the preserved food
- increase certain nutrients in the food (depends on the food that is preserved)
- prevents surplus produce from going to waste
- preserves more nutritional content of foods compared to traditional canning methods such as pressure canning or water bath canning
- inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria
- does not require an expert level of preserving … a beginner can do Lacto-fermentation
What is Lacto-Fermentation?
While certain yeasts are used to create fermented foods and/or beverages (beer anyone)?, Lacto-fermented foods are created from bacteria. Now before you worry about bacteria as being a bad thing, in this case, it is good. Very good. The main bacteria species responsible for Lacto-fermentation is Lactobacillus. This bacteria is capable of converting sugars into lactic acid. (One word of advice: just because it is Lacto-fermentation does not mean that dairy products are used in this form of fermentation).
In a nutshell, Lacto-fermentation is the process of preserving food (such as raw produce) through the growth of beneficial microorganisms in an aerobic environment, resulting in tasty and easy to digest food. Foods and beverages that are Lacto-fermented will have a slightly tangy flavor.
In the recipe that follows, not only will it be tangy, but the Lacto-fermented spicy beets will have a kick of heat to them.
Types of Lacto-Fermented Food
- Pickled vegetables including but not limited to: cucumbers, cabbage, onions, garlic, radishes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and grape leaves
- Naturally fermented sauces (nonpasteurized)
Items Needed for Lacto-Fermentation
- Food grade container (such as crock or glass jar) large enough to hold the produce as it ferments)
- Fermentation weights (to keep food submerged in the liquid as it ferments)
- Covering for the container (such as cheesecloth or a lid with an airlock, what is important is to keep things like insects out of the fermentation containers)
- Cutting board
- Bowl to combine ingredients
- Knife, mandolin, or shredder (if you want small pieces of fermented food)
- Salt (non-iodized)
- Non-fluoridated water
- Herbs and/or spices of your choice
- Produce to ferment
Once you have assembled all of the items needed for fermentation, please sterilize the fermentation container, weights, and lid with airlock (if using).
In order to help ensure success, use recipes from trusted sources and/or books. After you gain confidence in your skills, the process, and what lacto-fermentation looks like, you can then begin to experiment with recipes such as changing out spices for something different or adding other types of produce to the mix.
Now let’s get to the recipe!
Recipe for Lacto-Fermented Spicy Beets
- 4 medium beets
- 1/2 large onion
- 1 large jalapeno
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2″ fresh ginger
- 3 sticks of cinnamon (broken in half)
- 1 Tsp. cloves
- 2 Tsp. fennel seeds
- 4 C. water
- 1 Tbs. + 1 Tsp. salt
Wash and peel the beets. Cut off the top and root end. Uniformly slice on a mandolin directly into a bowl. Or use a knife. Cut onion into uniform slices using a mandolin (or knife). Wash and slice the jalapeno. (If you wish to have less heat, remove as many seeds as possible).
Peel the papery skin from the garlic. Cut into fine slices.
Combine water and salt into a small bowl. Stir to dissolve the salt.
Place all vegetable slices into the jar (or small crock). Add spices. Pour in brine (water/salt mixture). If brine does not cover the vegetables, create more brine at a ratio of 1 teaspoon per 8oz. cup of water.
Place weight on vegetables to keep them submerged. Top jar with lid and airlock. Leave the container out on a countertop or table so you check the fermentation process. Allow to sit for at least four days at room temperature.
Taste your ferment on day five. Not tangy enough? Allow to ferment at room temperature for another day or two. After that, replace the lid with airlock with a solid lid and set the container in a refrigerator.
Lacto-Fermented Spicy Beets
In a world where sauerkraut is king of the lacto-fermented foods, it is great to have variety. These lacto-fermented spicy beets truly offer up unique, but tasty flavor. They pair well on the side of a green salad or snack tray next to a cheese platter. But regardless of what you serve them with, won’t you add this recipe to your lacto-fermented list?
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