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Lacto-Fermentation - An Overview

Lacto-Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases, and/or alcohol. Lactic acid bacteria breaks down a food and in the process lowers the pH of the food making it more acidic. Examples of this are cucumbers turned into pickles and milk turned into yogurt. 

Lactobacillus strains are the main microorganisms in fermentation with a few other microorganisms assisting. Lactobacillus are also referred to as lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Lactobacillus, when given a favorable environment, will convert carbohydrates – sugars and starches – into lactic acid. The lactic acid environment then prevents other microorganisms from colonizing the food and prevents further decomposition.  There are many different strains of lactobacillus.

Lactobacillus in conjunction with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast, will convert flour and water and give us sourdough bread. Yogurt is fermented with Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus

Why do we ferment food?

We do not have to use the process of fermentation to preserve food. We have dehydration, canning, refrigeration and freezing as good methods of keeping food safe. The main reason we practice fermentation today is to take advantage of the health benefits that are realized with eating fermented foods. Fermented foods add live cultures to our food - probiotics.

 How do you ferment vegetables?

Fermentation is managed by creating a favorable environment for the lactobacillus to grow. In most vegetable ferments, this is done with non-iodized salt. Limiting the exposure to air also helps this process and keeps undesirable bacteria away from the food.

Main Ingredients

Water - use non-chlorinated water. To remove chlorine, boil water and let it cool. Or use filtered water. Bottled water is fine but not do not use distilled water.

Salt - non-iodized salt without any anti-caking ingredients. It is best to weigh the salt for accuracy. See below for more information.

Containers - a large food-safe container with a way to keep vegetables submerged and a lid that will allow gases to escape. More on containers from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Read more:


Publication from Colorado State: 

Understanding and Making Kombucha