Jun 9, 2010

A Peck of Pickled (lacto-fermented) Peppers

Okay, maybe not a whole peck, which I think is somewhere between 12 and 14 pounds, but I did make a quart of lacto-fermented jalapeños peppers Monday. I went over to the West Little Rock Farmers Market and got some beautiful jalapeños and baby cucumbers from Josh Hardin of Laughing Stock Farm and some fresh garlic from Sam McCumpsey The Garden at Becky Lane. While I was there, I put in an order for 20lbs. of tomatoes from Kelly Carney of North Pulaski Farms. All three farms grow chemical-free food.

I used the jalapeños and garlic to make my pickled peppers. The cucumbers will be for lacto-fermented pickles, and the tomatoes are for salsa (some of which will also be lacto-fermented).

Lacto-fermentation is a traditional method of food preservation in which salt and/or a culture (like whey) are used to inhibit putrefying bacteria until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the food. The lactic acid is produced by lactobaccili (lactic acid producing bacteria). The process of lacto-fermentation increases the digestibility of the lacto-fermented food. Because digestive enzymes are increased it also helps to digest other food eaten in the same meal. In addition, lacto-fermentation increases vitamin levels and supports the growth of healthy flora in the intestines. Think of this as preserved super nutritious easily digestible raw food. As you can see, this is much more nutrient-dense fair than our modern pasteurized vegetables preserved in an acidic brine of white vinegar (Did you know white vinegar is made from corn and most of our corn is GMO?) Best of all, lacto-fermented vegetables are easy to make and taste great!

Here’s how I made my lacto-fermented jalapeños peppers with garlic and onions:

5-6 jalepeno peppers
1/2 a small onion
1 head of garlic
1 Tbsp. Real Salt
4 Tbsp. whey (from cultured dairy)

Slice the peppers and onions. I left the small garlic cloves whole and cut the larger ones in half.

Mix the vegetables together and put them in a quart jar. The jar does not have to be this full. It actually usually works a little better to leave a bit more space at the top. (Update: This was my first batch of peppers this year, and I'm notorious for not writing down my recipes, but I'm pretty sure I put 2 or 3 small oak leaves in the bottom last year to prevent the peppers from getting mushy. Just go pick a few fresh leaves off an oak tree and stick them in. I also do this for making LF pickles. The tannin helps keep them crisp. Grape leaves work too.)

I had some whey ready in the refrigerator which I drained previously from some of my cultured dairy. I don't remember if this whey came from kefir or yogurt, but either would work. To separate the whey from the milk solids, line a strainer with a dishcloth (not the terry kind), the thin kind and put it over a bowl to catch the whey. Put the cultured dairy in the strainer, cover it and let it drip for several hours or so. You can then tie up the solids in the towel. Tie the "sack" to a wooden spoon and hang across the top of a container to let more whey drain out until the bag stops dripping. The bag will now contain a type of "cream cheese" and the liquid that has drained out is your whey. Both can be refrigerated for later use. The whey will keep about 6 months. The "cream cheese" is good for about 1 month.

Put 4 Tbsp. of whey and 1 Tbsp. of Real Salt in a 2 cup measuring cup, filled the cup with filtered water to the 1 1/2 cup mark and stir.

Pour this liquid over the vegetables, then filled the jar with more water to cover the vegetables. It works best to leave about 1 inch of space at the top, because everything will expand as it ferments. (Mine was a little too full, so it might leak as pressure builds during fermentation.)

Screw the lid on the jar and set it on your counter at room temperature. I used a lid with an airlock to allow the gases from the fermentation process to escape while preventing oxygen from entering. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process, so oxygen is not desirable. The airlock helps prevent pressure from building up in the jar, but it is not necessary to use one. You can order jars with airlocks from here. (My husband has started making a limited supply of these also, so you can e-mail me to purchase jars in Little Rock a little cheaper and without shipping when he has them in stock. Realfoodlisa AT gmail DOT com.)

After 3 days on the counter, I put a regular lid on the jar, refrigerate and enjoy. These are a great condiment for salads and Mexican dishes. Remember to let food cool enough to eat before adding lacto-fermented vegetables, so that the good bacteria is not destroyed.

Check out what others are eating on Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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  1. Yummy! I have some whey leftover in the fridge and the hubby LOVES jalepenos. Sounds like a perfect union! Thanks for the idea!

  2. I was wondering if you could LF peppers. My banana pepper plant is going full strength and my others are coming up right behind it.

  3. Last year I did bannana peppers and habenero peppers. I did jars with a mix of whatever peppers the farmers were offering. I was trying to remember if I added oak leaves to help keep them from getting too mushy. I think maybe I did. I would suggest putting 2 or 3 small oak leaves in the bottom of the jar for better results. Grape leaves work also, but I have oak trees in my yard so that is convenient.

  4. Probably a dumb question, but are these peppers hot after they have fermented?

  5. Certainly not a dumb question. Yes, they will have the same heat factor as they started with.



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