The Health Benefits and Science Behind Lacto-Fermented Pickles
Lacto-fermented pickles have been around for centuries and are known to offer a plethora of health benefits. These pickles are brined in a solution of water, salt, and various flavorings, which is then left to ferment naturally using lactic acid bacteria. Here are some of the health benefits and science behind lacto-fermented pickles:
Promotes Gut Health
Lactic acid bacteria are crucial for gut health, as they can help balance the gut microbiome. This is because they break down lactose, the sugar found in milk, into lactic acid, which can produce an acidic environment in the gut. This acidity can help kill off harmful bacteria and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Eating lacto-fermented pickles can therefore help improve digestion, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Increase Nutrient Value
The fermentation process can increase the nutrient density of pickles. During lacto-fermentation, the beneficial bacteria can produce nutrients such as vitamins B and K2, digestive enzymes, and antioxidants. These nutrients can make the pickles more healthy and beneficial for your body as compared to regular pickles.
Help to Lower Blood Pressure
Lacto-fermented pickles are rich in potassium and have been shown to reduce blood pressure levels. In a study, 30 healthy adults added lacto-fermented pickles to their daily diet for 8 weeks. The results showed a significant reduction in their blood pressure levels. This shows that regular consumption of lacto-fermented pickles may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and associated health problems.
A Guide to Making Perfect Lacto-Fermented Pickles at Home
If you’re a pickle lover and want to try making your own delicious, tangy, and healthy pickles at home, then lacto-fermented pickles are the way to go! Lacto-fermentation is a traditional preservation method that has been around for thousands of years. In this process, beneficial bacteria break down the natural sugars present in the cucumber and produce lactic acid. The lactic acid gives the pickles their unique tangy flavor and preserves them.
What You’ll Need
- 2 pounds of cucumbers (pickling cucumbers work best)
- 2 tablespoons of sea salt
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled (optional for additional flavor)
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh dill (optional for additional flavor)
- A quart-sized mason jar with a lid
- Wash the cucumbers and cut them into spears or slices. Make sure they are evenly sized so that they ferment evenly.
- In a bowl, mix the salt with 4 cups of water until it dissolves.
- Place the garlic cloves and dill sprigs in the bottom of the mason jar. Now, pack the cucumber slices or spears tightly into the jar. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar.
- Pour the saltwater mixture over the cucumbers, making sure they are completely submerged and that the space at the top of the jar is filled with water. If the cucumbers float to the top, you can place a small weight (like a clean stone) on top of them to keep them submerged.
- Close the jar tightly and place it in a cool, dry spot, away from direct sunlight. The ideal temperature for fermentation is between 60-70°F. Check the jar every day or two to make sure the cucumbers remain submerged and to taste the pickles and monitor the flavor.
- After 3-4 days, you’ll start to see bubbles inside the jar. This is a good sign - it means the fermentation process is working! In general, fermenting pickles takes 5-10 days, depending on the temperature and preference of the taste. Once the pickles achieve your ideal flavor, transfer the jar to the fridge to slow down the fermentation process and enjoy your homemade lacto-fermented pickles!
Tips for Perfect Pickles
- The size and type of cucumber are important. Choose pickling cucumbers or thin-skinned cucumbers that do not contain many seeds.
- Use high-quality sea salt or pickling salt for best results. Do not use iodized salt, as it contains anti-caking agents that could affect the fermentation process.
- Feel free to experiment with different flavorings, like additional herbs, spices, or chili peppers.
- Make sure everything that comes into contact with the pickles (jars, lids, weights, etc.) is clean and sterile to avoid contamination.
Creative Ways to Use Lacto-Fermented Pickles in Your Meals
If you have a jar or two of homemade lacto-fermented pickles sitting in your fridge, you're sitting on a goldmine of deliciousness that you can use in plenty of ways to amp up your meals. Here are some creative ways to use lacto-fermented pickles in your meals:
1. As a condiment
Lacto-fermented pickles can add a tangy, salty, and flavorful twist to your favorite sandwiches, burgers, and tacos. Chop them up finely and sprinkle them over your food as a garnish, or mash them up into a spread or sauce to slather on your sandwiches or wraps.
2. In salads
Lacto-fermented pickles can add a zesty crunch to your salads. You can either chop them up into small pieces and toss them in with other veggies, or blend them into your salad dressings or vinaigrettes. They pair perfectly with bitter greens like arugula and radicchio or hearty greens like kale and collard greens.
3. In grain bowls
If you love making grain bowls, lacto-fermented pickles can be a great addition to add some flavor and texture to your bowl. Add them on top of your grains along with chopped veggies, proteins, nuts, and dressings for a tasty and healthy meal.
4. As a snack
Lacto-fermented pickles can be a tasty and satisfying snack on their own. Simply eat them straight out of the jar or cut them into spears and serve them alongside some hummus, crackers, or cheese.
5. In soups and stews
Lacto-fermented pickles can be added to your soups and stews to give them a tangy and savory flavor. Simply chop them up and add them to your broth along with your other veggies and proteins.
Lacto-fermented pickles are a versatile ingredient that can be used in plenty of creative ways to add flavor and nutrition to your meals. Use these ideas as a starting point, and experiment with your own unique ways to use lacto-fermented pickles in your recipes.