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Natural Fermentation: Salt vs. Whey vs. Starter Cultures
When making naturally cultured vegetables, fruits or condiments, recipes will often call for a variety of ingredients including salt, whey and salt, or even just a freeze-dried culture. How do you choose the best culturing medium for your project?
Purpose of Salt and Starter Cultures
Salt can promote the fermenting process by inhibiting the growth of undesirable microorganisms, favoring the growth of desired Lactobacilli.
Starter cultures such as whey, brine from a previous ferment, or freeze-dried starter cultures can add bacteria to the culturing process to get things going more quickly.
The combination used is a personal choice.
Vegetable Fermentation Methods
Salt-only Vegetable Fermentation
Historically, salt was used to preserve foods before refrigeration. We recommend salt-only fermented vegetables at CFH, for many reasons:
Salt-free Vegetable Fermentation
Salt-free ferments, while often more bio-diverse, can result in mushy vegetables and mold. For a salt-free ferment celery juice or seaweed may be substituted, but they will not prevent a mushy texture. This salt-free sauerkraut recipe uses herbal seeds in place of salt.
Salt Plus Starter Cultures
Using some form of bacterial starter is said to speed up the vegetable fermentation process. While we recommend a salt-only ferment for vegetables, the following may be added in addition to salt, if desired.
Making Substitutions in Recipes
No matter what the fermented vegetable recipe calls for, substitutions are always possible.
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