First, I want to apologize for my lack of posts recently. I’ve been visiting family out of state, and have taken a bit of a break. But here is a post that I promised I would write quite a while ago.
I was first clued into the term “lactofermentation” via the Traditional Foods threads on the Mothering.com forums. They are a treasure trove of information, so if you have more questions on this topic, head that way.
Lactofermentation is basically about getting bacteria to do the hard work of digestion for you. There are all sorts of bacteria everywhere, and lactofermentation uses the “good” bacteria to start breaking down the heavy starches in grains, fruits, and vegetables before you even get them to your mouth.
You can lactoferment (and therefore preserve) just about everything. All of the food items that you find in canned or frozen form now used to be preserved through lactofermentation. One of the most interesting aspects of this method of food preservation is that instead of destroying nutrients and enzymes in the food though high heat and processing, lactofermentation actually adds to the beneficial aspects of the food because it now is full of probiotics. Yogurt is not the only source of these industrious little organisms!
I have only taken lactofermentation as far as soaking grains. Grains are easy to soak, and they cook in the same way that unsoaked grains do. Also, since I rarely eat meat, I count on grains to give me a lot of my nutrients and trace minerals. These are most easily accessible when the grains have been soaked because the heavy complex carbohydrates that make grains so wonderful also make them difficult to digest thoroughly. When you can digest the grains thoroughly, you can then get all of the available nutrients out of them.
A diet heavy in grains tends to impede the abosorption of iron, but a diet rich in properly soaked grains does not have this effect. People who are sensitive to wheat (not Celiac’s disease, just sensitive) have found that eating soaked (or sprouted) grains lessens or even neutralizes the negative effects that wheat and other grains have on their bodies.
There are a few common solutions for soaking grains in. The most common one is simple water. For instance, I soak my dried beans in water for 12 – 24 hours before I cook them. So even water starts to work on those complex carbohydrate chains, but it doesn’t make as big of a difference as when you add whey.
I talk about straining yogurt to get both yogurt cheese and whey in this post. Whey is full of protein, minerals, and of course, probiotics. When you add whey to your soaking liquid (water or milk) you allow all those microbes to get work on your complex carbohydrates. They slave away on the counter, making your food even more nutritious, while you sleep, read a book, watch a movie, live your life, etc. It is important that you leave the mixture on the counter, not in the refrigerator, because cold temperatures decrease the action of the probiotics. If you don’t have whey, adding lemon juice works, too, but can leave a bit of a lemony flavor.
Generally, I use 1 tablespoon of whey per one cup of liquid in the recipe. So here are a few examples.
2 c. dry brown rice
4 c. water
4 T (or 1/4 cup) whey
Mix all ingredients in kettle/pot or mixing bowl. Cover. Let set on counter for about 8 hours, or overnight. Continue on as you normally cook rice.
1/2 c. oats (rolled, old-fashioned, or steel cut)
1/2 c. water
1/2 T whey
Mix together. Set covered on counter for 8 – 12 hours; even 24 hours is ok if your house isn’t too warm. I usually mix this up right after I eat my oatmeal in the mornings, so it is ready for me to use the next day. I add about 1/2 c of water and some cinnamon when I dump it in the pot to cook it. Unlike the rice recipe above, the soaked oatmeal cooks more quickly than unsoaked oatmeal, which I think is a great bonus for the morning when I am so hungry!
This recipe for Irish Soda Bread from The Nourishing Gourmet is really, really, really yummy and freezes well, too. It is the only soaked flour recipe that I have made so far, but my next adventure with soaked grains will be to do a soaked whole wheat yeast bread.
Also, if you want more information than I have given here regarding lactofermentation, this post from Nourishing Gourmet goes more in depth than I wanted to.