Lactic vegetable fermentation introduction and recipes

Lacto-fermentation is a natural poetic food preservation method that enhances the life in the vegetables and the eater.  This method of natural pickling is done with no added water or vinegar.

Studies have shown that regular consumption of lacto-fermented vegetables helps in reestablishment and maintenance of beneficial intestinal flora, aids immune function, and may contain some anti cancer factors. These raw fermented vegetables aid digestion, relieve constipation and are associated with decreased allergies and infections.  Fermented vegetables are a source of vitamins, as well as enzymes, acetylcholine, many beneficial intestinal flora, and is an excellent source of a protective factor called DIM, which is lost by standard cooking methods. Raw unfermented cabbage and its relatives depress thyroid function.

Lactofermentation is the process where lactobacilli organisms (naturally present on cabbages grown in fertile, organic well mineralized soils) convert the sugars and starches in the cabbage into lactic acid.  Lactic acid is the natural preservative present in sauerkraut and gives it its pleasantly tart flavor.  By adding high quality sea salt (we use Celtic sea salt) at 2% by weight of cabbage and excluding air, you create a favorable environment for the lactobacilli organisms to convert the sugars into lactic acid.

In order to get a good quality fermentation, the quality of the vegetables and salt is critical, as is the correct assembly, packing and sealing of the container.  If you are new to fermentation, we recommend you start with cabbage and make sauerkraut to begin with.  After you have mastered basic cabbage fermentation, you’ll be ready to move onto the other vegetables, which can be a little more tricky to ferment.

To start with, use a late season white cabbage grown in a fertile, well mineralized soil.  Non organic cabbage or cabbage from poor soils will not ferment well, and often result in a whole bucket of stinky goo.  If you use commercial salt you may have to use less than 2% or it will taste salty.  Don’t wash the cabbages, just peel of outer leaves, and cut out any spoiled areas.  Chop it to the texture you prefer (creativity is encouraged), mix in the salt and then pack it very tightly into the bucket.  Most people use a wooden pounder to pack the cabbage down.  Seal the mixture so that gasses can escape, but air cannot enter by putting a layer of food grade plastic over the cabbage and a heavy bag of water over that.  Store it at 68 to 65 F for 3 days, then move to a cooler 54 F for at least 10 to 20 days.  After this primary fermentation stage is finished, it can be stored at a much lower temperature (32 F) for 6 to 8 weeks while the flavor develops.  It will store at around freezing for years, as long as air cannot leak in around the edges.  Don’t get overly concerned about exact temperature for home operations.  Remember to start warmish, age much colder and store very cold.

You can make your kraut in quart or ½ gallon jars, but you will get better results in a large crock, where you can have a weight and airlock on top of the cabbage.  The Kraut will also store longer in large containers than in the smaller jars.  Food grade buckets and barrels are cheap and handy.  There is a method of using beeswax to completely line the interiors of plastic containers.

As you decide to ferment other types and mixtures of vegetables, you’ll find that each requires slightly different handling and many require different temperatures during fermentation.  Cabbage is the ideal carrier for other vegetables, so we suggest mixtures be dominated by cabbage until you are skilled.  You can also ferment juices & teas (kvaas and kombuchu), milk (yogurt and cheese) and other good food.


10 lbs cabbage
3.2 oz sea salt
chop up cabbage, put it in a bucket and mix in the salt.  Pound it with a big block of wood (maple firewood works well).  Once juice comes up on top of the cabbage, you can put a weight on top (oak board cut to fit with bricks on top, or a bag of water (well sealed so it doesn’t spill water into the cabbage!!!).  This ensures that liquid is always above the solids.  other optional ingredients include caraway seeds, and whole apples were traditional in a few places, as were as small amount of juniper berries.  If your seal isn’t good, and scum forms on top, skim it off periodically.

7 lbs shredded cabbage
1 lb shredded carrot
1 lb diced onion
½ lb shredded daikon radish (don’t use too much unless you really like its very strong flavor after it ferments)
3 cloves garlic – peeled and chopped or minced
2 cayenne peppers – can use whole or diced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (don’t overdo this one either)
3 oz seasalt
Mix all the ingredients together with salt in a large bucket. Follow same steps as in sauerkraut recipe above.  The sky is the limit on creativity with vegetables in Kimchi!