The Wild Side: Lacto-fermentation & Fermented Salsa

This post is for those who are ready and able to walk on the wild side.  We’re grabbing the bull by the horns today folks, we’re talking about wild fermentation… and best yet we’re eating the results! Many, many foods are fermented and embraced by cultures world wide. Bread, wine and beer all are naturally fermented, yet are they forbidden foods? No, of course not Alcoholic fermentation is great, yeast converts  carbs (sugars) to carbon dioxide and alcohol. Carbon dioxide = air bubbles which makes bread rise, alcohol, well that one’s self-explanatory. Who doesn’t love beer and wine? Lacto-Fermentation or lactic acid fermentation is just another way of naturally fermenting something. You do it to produce a unique taste and flavor, or to produce good bacteria which lengthens an items shelf life. Somehow home preserving all but vanished here in America during the age of technology. Preserving foods such as sauerkraut used to mean putting cabbage in a pot with salt and leaving it go for a month. It naturally transformed plain cabbage into a beautiful thing. This saved it for use later in the year, and it made it taste pickle-y and yummy. At some point processing foods in a factory replaced home preservation, the age of technology brought us pasteurizing and sterilizing.  Grocery stores with processed foods became the only way. We left what food is supposed to be far, far behind.

Many foods such as pickles and sauerkraut were originally made by natural fermentation. Since then the process has been replaced with recipes that use manufactured vinegar to replicate the sour taste. Foods like beer and wine that have been naturally fermented for centuries began being pasteurized to suit the sterile American palate. (a good reason why beer here tastes different than beer in other countries) Bacteria became a naughty, naughty word. Although taboo it really is sometimes a desirable thing. There absolutely is such a thing as good bacteria. We’re seeing probiotics pop up everywhere in stores today, but what are they? They are simply live (but often dead from a past due shelf-life) micro-organisms. Good bacteria that promotes healthy digestion and boosts ones immunity. Manufactured bacteria? Although I’m not an expert, I can only assume its just not the same. Yogurts with “live cultures” are often pasteurized before manufactured cultures (probiotics) are added. Are we no longer trusting of what mother nature has to offer? Once people drank milk that wasn’t sterilized, we ate eggs still warm that came directly from the chickens, we ate raw cheese, and yes we even ate natural pickles.

Although man probably did not contemplate it, these foods were natural ways of introducing bacteria (good and bad) to our bodies. Pills, gimmics and sterilized non-sense is just not my thing. We’re being shoved away from whats natural. I’m not hoping to drop over from salmonella poisoning, I’m not wishing for botulism. I’m just saying the food on our tables is almost un-recognizable to what once existed. Natural foods fermented in a natural way are easy to come by and fairly harmless. I just recently  started fermenting my own foods at home. You can buy certain products that are “naturally fermented” in health food stores, or  you can man up and ferment things at home. For years I have made my own mead, beer and wine, and I do not sterilize it before drinking it. I would like to point out that I am not dead yet. So I decided to start experimenting with fermented foods. I’ve made salsas, relishes and a few sauces. This salsa so far is my favorite. Its tangy, spicy and delicious. Its perfect with eggs, chips or even tacos!

Fermented Salsa Recipe
You’ll Need-
+A jar with a tight fitting lid (canning jar with lid and ring)
  • 1-2 jalapenos diced
  • 8 cups or 2 quarts, around 2-3 pounds- diced tomatoes  (See Note) 
  • 2-3 small onions diced
  • 8-12 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons lime juice (fresh preferably)
  • 4 tablespoons whey (or an additional tablespoon of salt)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

Combine all ingredients. Place into sterile Fermentation crock, or into as many sterile jars as necessary. Leave at room temperature for 3-4 days. Good sour will smell almost sweet, and taste beery or vinegar-y. If by chance you end up with a bad fermentation it will be so foul and off smelling you will not be able to eat it. Longer fermented foods that go beyond 3-4 days can form a moldy film. This can be easily removed and should not affect the flavor or safety of the dish. Once the salsa has fermented place in the refrigerator until you want to use it. (It will last a pretty long time. 6 months and beyond) You do not want to process this in a canner or heat it up. The heat will pasteurize or sterilize the product. If you want an un-fermented salsa… simply don’t leave it out. Fresh salsa will last in the fridge for about a week.

Whey- Whey is the liquid separated from the curds when making cheese. You can use whey left over from my yogurt cheese recipe or you can substitute an additional tablespoon of salt. Many people make a variety of Lacto-Fermented goods by simply adding whey to it. Example if you want lacto-fermented ketchup or mayo, just add a few tablespoons of whey to the jar. If you don’t feel like making cheese, or want it dried and on hand, You can also purchase a powdered culture. 

Note: I have used a combination of canned tomatoes as well as diced fresh tomatoes. I find it important to look for the right canned tomato product. Something that does not have sugar and un-necessary additives. This is hard to come by, pretty much all canned tomatoes will contain some form of acid since tomatoes are not naturally acidic. There are rare cases where you can find tomatoes in jars or tetra packs. Some sort of acid is added out of necessity. This is so that the product will not spoil. Sugar, seasonings and salt are not necessary. Use mostly fresh tomatoes for best results.

This method and recipe is not government approved. Fermenting can have adverse affects, to educate yourself and to learn more about suggested fermenting and canning safety guidelines see the USDA’s guide to home canning.
“We’re live people. We’re not meant to eat only dead food!”
-Monica Corrado