One of the first recipes that I wanted to try was Lacto-fermented salsa. I do have a hot water bath canner but almost never pull it out as it 1. requires a large amount of produce in order to put up a big batch and 2. it is a lot of work to sterilize and get everything ready for canning. Lacto-fermenting can be done in small batches and does not require any special preparation.
Lacto-fermenting is how our ancestors preserved foods and there are several health benefits to it. I'm sure you've all heard the health benefits of sauerkraut and pickles, which were once lacto-fermented. Because of the new canning process, which undergoes pasteurization, those products now do not hold the health benefits they once did, when store bought.
Similar to the fermentation of dairy products (yogurt, cheese, whey, keifer), lacto-fermentation not only preserves a product (lactic acid is a natural preservative) but also has many health benefits. It produces good bacteria, similar to the awesome bacteria found in yogurt. These organisms produce helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances ("Nourishing Traditions", pg. 89)
Keeping these prepared recipes at room temperature for 2 to 4 days will ensure a lactic-acid fermentation. You can then move the product to "cold storage"...which often was a root cellar or cave but a wine cellar or small refrigerator turned to the "warm" setting will do. Or the top shelf of your refrigerator is fine, which is what I do. The flavor will increase with time but the recipe is can be eaten immediately after the initial fermentation. The lacto-fermented vegetables will keep for several months in cold storage.
My husband's co-worker gave him a bag of homegrown tomatoes at the perfect time so I was able to try out a batch of the salsa right away! We love salsa in this house, but lacto-fermented vegetables are meant to use as more of a condiment and not eaten in large quantities. This salsa is wonderful with eggs, to top tacos, or as a side to many dishes. This is by far the freshest and yummiest tasting salsa that I have ever tasted and everyone in the family agrees!
Salsa ("Nourishing Traditions", pg. 103) Makes 1 quart
2 small onions, finely chopped
3/4 c. chopped chile pepper, hot or mild
6-8 coves garlic, peeled and finely chopped (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 t. dried oregano
juice of 2 lemons
1 T. sea salt
4 T. whey (more about this in the future) or - which is what I used- an additional 1 T. sea salt
1/4 c. filtered water
Mix all ingredients and place in mason jars. Press down lightly with a spoon, adding more water if necessary to cover the vegetables. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 2 days before transferring to cold storage.