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Lacto-fermentation: The Methods

Many people when starting out with lacto-fermenting think that “whey” is needed in the process, but this is not the case.

How Lacto-fermentation Happens

The process of lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars found within vegetables and fruits are converted to lactic acid by friendly bacteria. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria.

The term “lacto” in lacto-fermentation refers to this production of lactic acid.

There are two methods of lacto-fermentation. Both can produce good fermented foods.

Whey Ferments

This method is the one most used in Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions” – and the one I started out with. It is the easiest, or at least seems the most comfortable, to start out with for the super beginner. The whey helps “jump-start” your ferment, since it already has the “good guys” in it. If using whey in your ferments you can reduce the amount of salt used.

You must make sure you have “good tasting” whey, or your ferments will not taste so good. And those that are dairy intolerant may not be able to use the “whey method”.

Salt Ferments

This simple method uses pure salt for fermentation and is the traditional way ferments were made. The salt inhibits the growth of “bad” bacteria, allowing the “good guys” to take over.

 Salt ferments make for a very tasty product and helps keep the vegetables crisp (not mushy and soggy).

Some people find that salt ferments are too salty. Salt ferments also take longer to culture.

When should I use Salt and when should I use Whey?

This is mostly a personal preference. But there are some instances when it is definitely a good thing to use whey. For example: lacto-fermented condiments such as, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc. where using extra salt would make for a “too salty” product.

Below are some examples of when I use Whey and when I use Salt.
  • Salsa
  • Corn Relish
  • Bean Dip
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Fruits (must use whey)
  • Pickles (cucumbers)
  • Cabbage (sauerkraut)
  • Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Radish

Make lacto-fermenting easy with our Lacto-fermentation Air-lock System.