Jun 26, 2011

Banana Peppers Lacto-Fermented

Before I share the how, you need to know the why.

Why I lacto-ferment banana peppers:
My family loves homemade pizza on Friday night.  In particular, my husband loves banana peppers on the pizza in place of nitrate laden pepperoni.  I can't bring myself to consistently buy pepperoni loaded with chemicals or artificially colored banana peppers.

Last summer on a whim, I grew banana peppers. Because we weren't eating them at the rate they were ripening, I decided to lacto-ferment a jar.  Oh my.  They are delicious.  This year I grew two banana pepper plants.

In a previous post, Lisa explains the benefits of lacto-fermentation:

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!

How I lacto-fermented banana peppers:

Start with about 15-20 banana peppers, one jalapeno pepper for heat, 3 cloves of garlic and half a sweet onion.  No artificial colors or flavors here.

For whey I used plain, full fat yogurt strained through a coffee filter/strainer contraption.  Whey drips out the bottom and you're left with a thick greek-like yogurt.

Slice peppers into rings.  If you'd like, poke out the inner seeds and make a smiley face.  This of course is not necessary but sure is fun.

Fill a jar with the rings.
Slice the jalapeno, onion and garlic and place them on the top.  The placement is not crucial - they can be mixed.  I just wanted to make sure all my banana peppers fit into the jar.  If I had more room, I would have added more onions and or garlic.

Add 4 T whey, 1 T Real Salt (or other sea salt without added iodine), and fill jar with filtered or non-chorinated water.  I actually used 2 T whey from the yogurt and 2 T of "juice" from a previous batch of kimchi.

Screw a lid on tightly.
Above: peppers immediately after slicing.

Below: peppers after 24 hours - you can see how the color has changed from green to yellow and the liquid appears murkier.  The pressure is building under the lid, too.  This tells me that fermentation is happening!
After 3 days of fermenting on the counter (yes, at room temperature!) I will store this jar in my fridge.  We will eat the peppers on salads, with Mexican food, and definitely on pizza.  In order to preserve the nutrients, be sure to add lacto-fermented foods and condiments after the main dish has cooled.

Recipe Recap:
all of these ingredients can be found currently at a central Arkansas farmers' market
prep time: about 30 minutes - it's easy people!

quart of banana peppers
jalapeno pepper or more
3 or more cloves of garlic
1/2 or more onion, sliced
4 T whey
1 T Real salt
filtered water
quart jar and lid

Let jar sit at room temperature for at least 3 days then store in the refrigerator.

EDIT 09/13: See also this post where I made relish with banana peppers.  Easier, space and time saving.  Win-win.

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  1. I have had the pleasure of enjoying Julie's lacto-fermented peppers on her homemade pizza and it is an amazing combo. So delish and an easy, time-efficient way to lacto ferment.

  2. Do you use a fresh "lid" or seal for the Ball jar? Since you are basically canning, just wondering if it makes a difference whether the lid is used or not.

  3. I used an old lid. The seal is not important when lacto-fermenting. The lacto-fermented jar will be stored in the refrigerator. When canning the seal is important because refrigeration is not necessary.

  4. I know your post is about banana peppers, but maybe you can help me with another lacto-fermentation question. I just attempted my first jars of lacto-fermented picked. I packed the cucumbers down into the bottom of the jar and covered them with liquid as directed in Nourishing Traditions. However, after about 12 hours, the tops of the cucumbers started poking out of the water. Should I open the jar and push them back down or just leave them alone. Or, are they just ruined?

  5. Kristin,

    Push them back down. I suggest you put something across the top of the opening to hold them down. I have used a long slice of carrot. Cut the slice a little longer than the width of the mouth of your jar and bend it just a bit so that the top edges of the jar will hold it in place. You can use a second slice and criss cross them. You can also use oak leaves to help hold them down or a big piece of onion. You want to put oak leaves (or grape leaves) in your cukes so that they will stay crisp. Soaking them in ice water before fermenting also helps with crispness. I can’t remember if NT tells you to do either of these steps.

  6. I am so happy that I found this recipe! I am also a HUGE fan of banana peppers on pizza. I used to buy those economy sized jars of them. This summer I have grown four small banana pepper plants and plan to make these really soon! I can't wait to try them!

  7. Any idea how long these will last in the fridge? Thanks! I can't wait to try these!

    1. I have some in the fridge that are approaching a year old and they're still yummy.

  8. haha bet your husband just longs for pepperoni but he's glad he's got you to protect him from the nitrates

    fascinating read though thanks, not sure I agree that the old methods of preservation are better though, salt is dangerous for your health we KNOW this, nitrates... well perhaps, in large quantities, but way less is used than salt

    1. Rich, I'll have to disagree with you about salt being dangerous for your health. In November 2011, I listened to salt expert Morton Satin, PhD., explain how healthy salt is - and how our generation eats considerably less than generations before WWII. His talk has been turned into paper form if you care to read it.


  9. awesome! I was wondering if the heat from hot peppers would prevent fermentation. Glad to know it doesn't. Now, I will ferment most of my peppers instead of canning them! Yay!

  10. Just wondering if the peppers are less crispy after fermentation than they would be after canning? I know that my cucumber pickles aren't as crispy as I'd like them to be, although I've been experimenting with additives like tea to help with this. Is this a concern with the peppers?

    1. sarie13 - my experience has been that the peppers are plenty crispy after lacto-fermenting them. If you read Lisa's response (above, on July 4) to Kristin, you'll see where she addresses crispy cucumbers.

  11. I'd love to make these without using whey. Any suggestions for a substitute?

    1. Kevin, you can use juice from Bubbies sauerkraut or dill pickles as a starter for a non-dairy substitute. Bubbies is a brand of traditionally fermented veggies sold at Whole Foods and other 'healthy' stores.



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