Lacto-fermentation: Salsa, Whey and Sour Cream

| 8/22/2011 11:23:00 AM

Tags: lacto-fermentation, canning, salsa, preserving, tomatoes, Becky and Andy,


Above, Liam sits and exudes joy for everyone. He's a good kitchen mate. It's a good thing, too. The family spent a good deal of time in the kitchen on Saturday. We had half a bushel of very ripe tomatoes needing to be processed and in our minds, there was only ONE THING we could do with them.

Lacto-fermented salsa. It's probably our most favorite home-preserved product out of everything we've ever tried canning.

We discovered this technique while reading a book called Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. In a sentence, this book changed the course of our very lives. Click the link. Buy it. Be forever changed...for the better!

Tonight, I'm going to give you our recipe, which is built for a sliding scale of quantities based on the harvest you are bringing in. The first time we made lacto-fermented salsa, we had our dining room table full of ripe, heirloom tomatoes and about two, 5 gallon buckets full of bell peppers.


9/18/2011 4:55:59 PM

I ended up trying a few jars with kefir, and the rest with doubled salt. I'll let you know how it went when I try the finished product. I ended up with almost 6 quarts of tomato juice after squishing out the seeds from the tomatoes and letting them drip in a colander. I couldn't bear to waste it, so I strained out the seeds and am attempting to make lacto-fermented tomato juice. I'll have to keep you posted on the outcome of this experiment also. I really appreciate you introducing this wonderful world of fermenting to me. I just picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions from the library and am completely fascinated by it.

becky and andy
9/16/2011 3:47:07 PM

Ginger, our first year making this salsa, 2008, offered us no access to raw whey (or the milk to make it from). So we doubled the salt. The salsa preserved very well, though it was admittedly more salty than we were used to. However, we discovered that if we mixed up the jars in a bowl prior to serving/using, the saltiness would incorporate much better and became very pleasant to the pallet. I hope this helps you make your decision. I talked with my husband Andy on this and he said to try it with the kefir, but he is much more adventurous culinarily than I am! :-)

9/16/2011 1:15:48 PM

Thanks for your response, Rebekah. I'm just worried that the salsa will be too salty if I double the amount of salt, though I am quite a salt fiend. Has anyone tried doubling the salt, and if so, does it end up being too salty?

becky and andy
9/16/2011 1:09:24 PM

Ginger,I don't know if kefir will work. My advice to you is to make the salsa without the whey. You can simply double up the sea salt in each jar. The salt acts as an inhibitor of bad bacteria and gives the lactobacilli a chance to proliferate before spoilage occurs. Lactobacilli live naturally on the veggies you are going to process and therefore will lactoferment without the use of whey. It will just take longer for the transformation. Since I have never tried using kefir, I just can't recommend it. I would hate you to lose all those tomatoes! Thanks for thereat question!

9/16/2011 10:22:11 AM

I have 2 bushels of tomatoes that need to be processed right away, so I can't wait 4 days for my milk to sour. Can I use homemade kefir made from raw milk instead? My kefir always turns out watery, kind of like whey (I must be doing something wrong), but it takes less than a day to finish. If kefir will work, do I need to be careful about getting out all the fat from the kefir? I always use whole raw milk to make it, but I can probably skim the cream off, I just don't know if I'll be able to remove it all.

becky and andy
9/7/2011 3:32:40 PM

Etta, that's a great question. I didn't know the answer, so had to return to good ol' Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. According to her age-old advice, it is important to keep the lacto-fermented veggies in cool-storage for long term use. She defined "cool-storage" as ideally 40˚. Well, definitely not the 65˚ I mentioned in the article, but we didn't have a problem with batches going bad. Her recommendation for folks without access to a cool cellar (or even a cave!) was to keep a seperate fridge with it on the warmest setting. If that's not an option, keeping the jars on the top shelf of your regular refrigerator will do. I can understand if this is an energy inconvenience for your location and you may find that the normal canning will treat you better. However, if you don't have a lot preserved, it makes for a nice and convenient side dish all ready to go in your refrigeration unit. Hope that helps!

etta from wtc farms
9/7/2011 9:56:20 AM

We are located in you have any suggestions for cold storage as we dont have root cellars or basements and no room in the house stays 65 degrees for more than a couple days a year.Thanks.

etta from wtc farms
9/7/2011 9:56:03 AM

We are located in you have any suggestions for cold storage as we dont have root cellars or basements and no room in the house stays 65 degrees for more than a couple days a year.Thanks.

becky and andy
9/7/2011 9:38:58 AM

I do not know if probiotics from capsules will work. Part of the lacto-fermentation process is that the bacterial organisms come from milk. I suppose if your probiotics have a raw milk origin, it might very well work. However, I wouldn't do a whole batch. Maybe test one or two jars first to be sure. Again, I wouldn't know how much to put in each mason jar either. If you are the adventurous type, give it a try! Then let us all know how it turned out!

9/7/2011 12:03:31 AM

Can you use raw probiotics from capsules?

becky and andy
9/6/2011 5:47:15 PM

Jo and Joanne, I would not use yogurt whey because almost always, the milk has to be heated to 190˚ or more in order for the specific yogurt bacteria culture to flourish uninhibited. What is it inhibited by if it's not heated? Beneficial bacteria of course! :-) Raw whey is necessary for this to work. However, as I mentioned in a comment below, if you don't have access to raw whey, you can double up the sea salt and get the same results from the natural bacteria found on the veggies themselves. Whey just helps "pump up the process." About the 'maters. You can leave the skins on if you wish. We had a friend do this and skip the skinning step in our recipe. However, it made her salsa much less watery than ours and she needed to add water to cover the veggies once they were packed in the jars. I recommend doing this if you don't peel the tomatoes. I'm not sure that the few seconds the tomatoes are in the hot water really makes them less nutritious...unless you are thinking of the benefits found in the skins themselves. This I don't have an answer for...but if you are in doubt, but all means, keep them on! It's YOUR salsa, after all! That's the beauty of canning at home; your way, the way you like it with whatever you've got fresh. :-)

9/6/2011 4:56:35 PM

Hi I was wondering if you could get the whey from plain yogurt? Would it work the same as raw milk whey? I am anxious to try this salsa! Thank you! Joanne

jo bergin
9/6/2011 3:26:11 PM

Thanks for a great sounding recipe. I am looking forward to trying it out. I was wondering - if one does not mind tomato seeds and skins in the salsa is it necessary to remove them to make the salsa? It seems like removing them may remove some of the benefits of tomatoes.

becky and andy
8/26/2011 12:22:29 PM

You do not have to stir it, but I forgot to mention that all the veggies need to be under liquid, be it the juices from the veggies themselves or added water. This will allow the bacteria to "climb" to the top of the jar successfully. I didn't mention this on the post b/c our salsa is always so juicy that we don't have to worry about it. But someone had the same question and I needed to tell them that. The whey and salt are just like "starters" and once the process of lactofermentation is initiated (in that two day period), everything will incorporate naturally. I hope that helps! Thanks for giving this a try! Let me know how it turns out. Also, you'll want to wait about two weeks in cold storage before giving it a try. The process will be complete then.

robert blackburn jr.
8/26/2011 11:37:46 AM

Once you add the salsa to the jars on top of the whey & salt, do you stir it up? Thanks!

becky and andy
8/23/2011 1:37:24 PM

Nebraska Dave, the bulge will not go down until you open your jar again to consume the salsa. I know this is foreign to conventional canning wisdom, but the bacterial activity is what makes the canning complete. We heat treat in a pressure canner to sterilize the contents of the jar. In lactofermentation, everything is still alive and well. That's the benefit, besides being energy efficient. Live, cultured food will keep naturally for a good long time. Also, if you don't have the ability to make whey, this recipe can be adapted for that as well! I forgot to mention this in the post, but all you do is double up the sea salt and away you go, the salt acts as a preservative until the beneficial bacteria build up enough numbers to kill off any bad bacteria that may be present. So, adjust the recipe to what you have from your garden and have fun! We made about 6 quarts with the numbers above. Nothing overwhelming. And about the milk....sigh. Someday this will be the land of Real Milk and honey once again. :-)

nebraska dave
8/22/2011 10:45:56 PM

Becky and Andy, I'm intrigued with this method of preservation. Do all the lacto-fermentation recipes not require any kind of canning procedure? When the fermentation process finally stops does the lid bulge go down and seal the jar? This is the first I've heard of this method of preservation. Very interesting technique. I definitely would not have enough jars to handle 20 gallons of salsa but I am slowly accumulating jars every year. Some day maybe I too will be canning 20 gallons of salsa .... naaa maybe not. Unfortunately, this whole process hinges on the finding of raw milk. As you well know, it's getting difficult to find raw milk short of having your own cow. However, I did do a search in Nebraska and it is allowed to be sold only from the farm that produced it and the milk must be regularly tested. The closest one to me is 40 miles west in a small town. It's all kind of out of my reach cost wise with the price of gas and all. Maybe some day folks will wake up to the benefits of raw milk and not put so many restrictions on it. Have a great salsa making day.

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