Friday, January 17, 2014

Sauerkraut Saga - Part 2 - The Definitions

Lacto fermented means that bacteria are used to convert the sugars in the vegetables to the organic acid, lactic acid.  Organic acids are usually sour to the taste.  This is the "sauer" of the sauerkraut.  These bacteria and the resulting acids are compatible with human digestion. This 'preserves', 'pickles', or 'cures', the cabbage or other vegetables and prevents other bacteria, yeasts, or molds that are incompatible or poisonous to us from growing.

Probiotic, means that the bacterial cultures in the food are still active when consumed.  Think of yogurt, the most common probiotic food.  The right bacteria in our intestinal tract are very beneficial to our human digestion.  If the bacteria in the food are to be active the food must be fresh and not pasteurized.

As a final point, many vegetables can also be 'pickled' by the addition of vinegar. In this case the bacteria has acted on a different host, usually apple cider or grape wine to produce acetic acid. This is added to the cabbage or other vegetables for taste.  This is usually described as quick or easy pickling.  This can be very good, but it is not the same as the traditional lacto fermenting pickling process and it is not probiotic.

I urge you to try fresh fermented sauerkraut, Asian kimchi or the Central American version, Curtido, versus the pasteurized or the 'quick pickled' versions. The fresh fermented version is different and it is the real, authentic way to make the food. Try it.

Next post: some theory and history of lacto fermentation"

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