Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lacto-Fermenting in warm weather

My good friend, Peggy Matthews, is guest posting today about lacto-fermented salsa. Read on!

I finally harvested my heirloom garden tomatoes (grown from seed!) which I planted very late in the season. They grew to be large, heavy, and funnily-shaped which I was glad about since hybrid varieties tend to be smooth, perfectly round, and tasteless. These babies had FLAVOR!

I don’t know why I grew tomatoes as I am not very fond of them. But I do like tomato salsa. So I decided to mince them up and make a large, half gallon jarful, of it.
After assembling all of the ingredients I realized that I had a dilemma: I needed to keep it at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit but we were having a bit of a late September heat wave and even the coal cellar in the basement was a balmy 75 degrees.
What to do?

After exercising my grey matter for a while on this problem, I came up with the idea of placing the jar in a large, flat-bottomed glass bowl that was first lined with refreezable ice packs on the bottom and then layered with a folded dish towel to diffuse the chill. I put the jar of salsa on top of that cold layer and wrapped another dishcloth around it all to keep out the ambient warm air.

It’s still early days yet (just 3 days into the fermentation) but I have a good feeling about this. I periodically feel the outside of the jar to be sure it’s not too cold and I let the ice packs warm up overnight before replacing them with new ones. Luckily the weather is now turning cooler so I may not need to babysit the jar this way, but I will definitely keep this method in mind for next year when I am in the mood to lacto ferment in the middle of summer!

Peggy’s Lacto Fermented Salsa
3 Cups filtered tap water, boiled and then cooled (to evaporate off the chlorine, which can kill the microbes I want to grow!)
¾ Tablespoon Pickling Salt added to the water and stirred until dissolved.

Into a clean, glass, half-gallon, wide-necked jar I added:
• 3-4 large diced Garden Tomatoes
• ½ large diced Vidalia Onion
• 6 medium Garlic Cloves, peeled (3 whole, and 3 smashed once with the flat of my chopping knife)
• Fresh rosemary from my garden, unchopped leaves
• Fresh parsley from my garden, unchopped leaves
• 3 garden-fresh Hot Red Peppers*, whole, with the top chopped off to expose the seed core
• 1 Tablespoon dried Basil
• 1 teaspoon dried Oregano

To the salt water brine above, I added one packet of Caldwell’s Starter Culture for Fresh Vegetables, available at Cultures for Health.
After the starter culture was thoroughly dissolved, I poured this brine-culture mixture over the vegetables in the jar (I had leftovers because the tomatoes took up so much room in the jar!)
I didn’t weigh the vegetables down; I just secured the screw-on plastic lid containing a water trap air vent so that gasses can escape but air can’t get in.

The instructions for using the starter culture say to keep the ferment at a steady 70 degrees for ten days, and to then cure it in the fridge, preferably for a few months. Actually, that was for their cabbage sauerkraut recipe so I think my salsa will be ready much sooner as the tomatoes have more readily available sugars for the microbes to feast on (and ferment) and they are much softer than cabbage leaves.

Fingers crossed that my salsa comes out yummy and perfectly fermented!

(*gift from Sharon’s garden)