Lacto-fermentation Class Notes

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These are the bullet point notes I use when I teach a beginner’s course on fermentation. I thought I’d share them here to reference to later.

• What is lacto-fermentation? Simply put, it is when lactic acid is converted from the sugars and starches present in fruits and vegetables, due to the numerous strains of lactic-acid producing bacteria. Lactobacilli are almost innumerable, hanging out on all living things. More plentiful on things growing near the ground.

• There is beauty within lacto-fermentation, as much as there is chemical change. Alex Lewin, author of Real Food Fermentation says it well, “Fermentation occurs because we seduce microscopic beings into doing our biochemical bidding, and they create sour acids that can preserve cabbage for many seasons.

• We can “seduce” microscopic beings into virtually any food. Dairy, vegetables, fruit, grains, meat, and even water, with a little help from sugar and some special bacterial yeasts.

• We have a conundrum, though. While Many foods can be fermented, and used to be, it is rare to find any lacto-fermented foods in the typical American household. Sally Fallon, accurately assesses this situation I the introduction to Sandor Katz’ book, Wild Fermentation: “Unfortunately, fermented foods have largely disappeared from the Western diet, much to the detriment of our health and economy. Fermented foods are a powerful aid to digestion and protection against disease. And because fermentation is, by nature, an artisnal process, the disappearance of fermented goods has hastened the centralization and industrialization of our food supply, to the detriment of small farms and local economies.”

• A few of the ways fermented foods can aid and heal the body are by boosting enzyme content, boosting vitamin content, preserving nutrients, removing toxins, breaking down food to be more easily digested, and adding beneficial bacteria and cultures to the gut – all of which benefits the immune system.

• In milk kefir alone, we find a plethora of beneficial micro-organisms, including over 10 strains of lactobacilli, a large handful of streptococci, 20 plus strains of yeast, and some acetobacter. (Dom’s kefir site)

• As to removing toxins, just a few examples are cyanide from the cassava plant, phytic acid in grains, and oxalates in nuts and seeds.

• All of this is doe through microbes, typically yeasts and bacteria, transforming foods by “eating up” carbohydrates. Yeasts eat up sugars and create alcohol. Bacteria eat up starches, sugars, and/or alcohol and create acid. The more acidic the environment, the more unfriendly to most microbes. If microbes can live long through an acidic environment, they are safe to consume. Botulism is often brought up when discussing lacto-fermentation, but this is an issue with canning. Botulism can come about through improper canning techniques, whereas lacto-fermentation has virtually no instances of botulism happening.

• Some ferments need air (aerobic), such as kombucha, while others need an air-limited environment (anerobic), such as sauerkraut.

Short end notes:

• Ingesting fermented foods can cause a flush of toxins from the body called detoxing, Herxheimer Reaction, or die-off. This is a healing, protective, building process all at one time. It can be almost violent, but the end results are fantastic. • Lacto-fermentation is extremely easy. Most recipes are faster than their cooked counterparts in terms of preparation time.
• Keep ferments 8-12 feet apart.
• Kahm yeast, essential oils cold diffused
• Some people with genetic conditions need anaerobic fermented only, and still others will not be able to handle fermented at all. (Yasko website)

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