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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Success! Lacto-Fermented Leeks and Yellow Peppers

A Lovely Jar of Lacto-Fermented Leeks and Yellow Peppers

Probiotics has made such a big difference in our health that I just had to master fermenting. Fermenting is different from pickling. In pickling, you immerse foods in vinegar. In fermenting, you are supposed to use only salt and water. The salt (supposedly) retards the growth of bad bacteria, until the lacto-bacillus (naturally found on the surface of vegetables) starts to grow and produce lactic acid.  Click HERE for more on lactobacillus.

I cheat.

Starter Culture, Salt, Filtered/Mineral Water
I use a starter culture, salt and water. Being super kiasu, I decided that mere salt to retard the growth of bad bacteria was not safe enough. It appears that bad bacteria cannot survive in an acid medium. The starter culture is acidic. The starter culture is also full of lactobacillus (i.e., the good bacteria) and these apparently (somehow) crowd out the bad bacteria. I guess it is germ warfare in a bottle? Since I eat that stuff, I wanted to make very sure that the good germs win!

Use filtered/mineral water. Tap water has chlorine/chloramines and the good bacteria will die, leaving the door wide open for yeasts and fungus (which can be toxic).

I really am a novice at this fermenting business. There is really a lot to learn. For example, different strains of lactobacillus grow at different temperatures, so if you want a particular taste or texture then you have to adjust the temperature. I don't. I just plonk the jar on the countertop and whatever temperature the weather is at, will be the temperature it cultures at.

This is my starter culture. It is the leftover whey from making kefir cream cheese. I also use the already fermented liquid from the previous pot of ferment to start a new pot of ferment.

Little Green Porcelain Dish Weighs Down The Vegetables

Use Up All The Starter Culture and Top Up With Salt Solution
I fill the jar with cut vegetables. I pour in the whey till it reaches halfway up the sides (at least). Then, I fill up the rest with filtered/mineral salt water. If I have more whey, then I fill it up high up the sides. Sometimes, I have enough whey to fill up the whole jar and if so, I skip the salt solution altogether. I add salt directly to the whey instead.

It is hard to estimate how much filtered/mineral salt water and whey are required because it depends on how packed the jar is. Vegetables like sweet baby corn and garlic cloves do not pack well. There is a lot of space in between. This requires more liquid. So I measure out 2 teaspoons of salt to 250ml of filtered/mineral water and use it to fill up the jar after all my whey has gone in. Whatever filtered/mineral salt water is not used, I just throw.

It is important to submerge every single shred of vegetable. If any bit of vegetable pokes out, kahm yeast develops and you have to throw the whole jar away. Some people just scrape off the yeast and eat the ferment anyway. I don't. Yeast surely leaves spores in the ferment. I am so not eating yeast spores. They might grow in me!

I use a little green porcelain dish to push the floaty vegetables into the water. 

!!!!Use Lead-Free Porcelain!!!!
I bought these small green dishes from Daiso and made sure that they were made in Japan. I don't trust the porcelain that comes from PRC. Some of those have lead in their glaze. The acidic medium will leach the lead out into the ferment and one might die of lead poisoning.

Fido Jars Are Placed In A Vacuum Dome Away From Direct Sunlight

Fill Up the Jar As Much As Is Practical To Ensure As Small An Air pocket As Possible
The beneficial bacteria like an anaerobic environment (i.e., one where there is as little oxygen as possible). The bad stuff (whatever they are) like oxygen. Hence, I fill up the Fido jars rather full (but not too full) so that there is very little air left inside the jar. Fermentation produces carbon dioxide which pushes out whatever oxygen is inside the jar. Many of my Fido jars are not really air tight so I depend on the carbon dioxide produced to push out the oxygen. 

I also keep the jars inside a vacuum dome. It is a plastic dome with a mechanism that sucks air out from inside the dome. The vacuum function is automatic. Whenever it detects too much gas inside the dome, it will begin to expel gas.

!!!!Burp The Truly Air Tight Jars!!!!
I have 1 or 2 Fido jars which really are air tight. I make sure I burp those jars to release gas. Else, the glass jar might explode and cause injury. I have seen photos of such injuries. They are quite horrific - deep cuts along forearms and blood everywhere. If a glass shard should fly into one's eyes, then one could go blind for a jar of ferment.

Non air tight Fido jars do not require burping. Air does not get in, but the gas does escape. You can just leave the jars alone. Never burp a jar until 3 days have passed. This allows enough carbon dioxide to build up to push out the oxygen.

How Long To Ferment For?
It depends on the vegetable. When vegetables are cut up small, more surface area is exposed to the bacteria. They ferment faster. Chopped up cabbage, cucumbers, leeks and peppers need 7 days. When vegetables are in large chunks, like cloves of garlic or chunks of baby corn, then they need 28 days.

Botulin is a deadly bacteria (even a little bit can kill you) that also grows in anaerobic conditions. However, it cannot survive in an acidic medium. Some websites will tell you to pour a layer of olive oil on top of the water. This cuts off air exchange between the under water and the above water. Do NOT do this. Botulin can grow in the olive oil because it is not acidic.

!!!!Sterilise EVERYTHING!!!!
Make sure that the vegetables are clean. Make sure that they did not come into contact with manure or other dirt. Make sure your jars are properly boiled in hot water. Every spoon and fork that you use in the process needs to be sterilised.

1 comment:

Malar said...

Oh Petunia you have really master the good bacteria. Oh, yes, I got kefir started from my neighbour. Thanks for your help!