Lacto fermentation is a good way to get good bugs into your gut! It’s the same process by which sauerkraut is made, and this salsa dip recipe is one of the easiest ways to get it done!
Now that the summer sun is blazing, you may be starting to get a bounty of tomatoes. Making this salsa dip (and preserving it via lacto fermentation) is a great way to use and save your tomatoes. Even if you don’t grow them yourself, there should be a good supply of fresh, affordable tomatoes at the grocery store and farmers market for you to stock up on.
If canning tomatoes or making sauerkraut have intimidated you to this point, this salsa dip recipe will be an easy introduction to the concept of both- preserving tomatoes and getting in some good gut bugs via lacto fermentation.
If you’re new to lacto fermentation, it’s an easy and effective way to get probiotics into your gut via food vs. a commercial probiotic (I think it’s great to do both!). Let’s dive in to why lacto fermentation is so wonderful!
What is lacto fermentation?
Fermentation is as old as life itself. At some point, humans learned to guide the process to repeat especially tasty results. These processes have been handed down and passed around, creating beloved foods and national dishes. The most familiar fermented foods are made using lacto fermentation.
“Lacto” refers to a specific species of bacteria called Lactobacillus. Strains of these bacteria are present on the surface of all plants, especially those growing close to the ground, and are also common to the gastrointestinal tracts, mouths, and vaginas of humans and other animal species.
Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid.
Beyond preservation advantages, lacto fermentation also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food. The lactobacillus bacteria are known as pro-biotic (PRO-life), which makes lacto fermented foods good for gut health.
It’s so important to eat a variety of fermented foods daily in order to get a wide variety of healthy bacteria into your gut. Because the gut hosts the majority of the immune system, a healthy gut means a healthy overall body and decreased sickness.
The gut is also known as the “second brain,” which means a healthy gut also means a healthy brain! Recipes like this fermented salsa dip, as well as pickles, are a great way to get some good gut bugs into kids as well.
How does lacto fermentation work?
Lacto fermentation involves submerging vegetables into a solution of water and salt (you can also add a “starter” from a previous batch of fermented veggies), then allowing them to sit for a period of time. The Lactobacillus bacteria will convert the sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid, which then preserves the vegetables, as well as increases the enzymes and probiotic content.
Are pickled and fermented the same thing?
“Pickling” often involves preserving cucumbers or other vegetables with vinegar. This does not create probiotics or any real health benefits. Lacto fermentation is a type of pickling that offers awesome health benefits!
What kind of vegetables can you ferment?
You can ferment just about any kind of vegetable. For instance, cabbage is turned into sauerkraut and kimchi; cucumbers are turned into pickles; tomatoes can be turned into a salsa dip. I’ve even fermented guacamole! Just get creative and try combinations of vegetables you think sound good together, or just ferment one at a time. Onions and carrots are also popular.
Why does fermentation help preserve food?
Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. By converting the sugars in vegetables into these beneficial bacteria, harmful bacteria are kept at bay.
How do you make homemade salsa dip via lacto fermentation?
I like to make a chunky salsa vs. blended, but you could blend the ingredients if you prefer.
To make this easy salsa recipe, simply chop up your vegetables, and combine in a jar with some type of starter substance (more on that in the recipe). Secure a lid and let sit for three days before enjoying. Store in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process (and avoid an exploding jar!).
Find the recipe below to make this super simple, fast salsa dip and start eating your probiotics in just three days!
Salsa Dip Recipe Made with Lacto Fermentation
Yield 1 quart salsa
- 5 medium tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 2-3 jalapeno peppers (increase or decrease based on how spicy you want your salsa dip to be.)
- 1/4 cup sauerkraut juice or whey* (you can save the juice from homemade or store bought sauerkraut, so long as the sauerkraut is refrigerated and contains active, live cultures and has not been pasteurized.)
- 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp salt
- Dice the vegetables and cilantro and mix together in a large bowl.**
- Press the garlic, then add it, the salt, and the whey to the vegetables and stir to combine.
- Place the salsa in a quart-sized canning jar and smash down until the vegetables are submerged in liquid. If you don't have any sauerkraut juice or whey, you can add a bit of water.
- Add an airtight lid and fasten tightly.
- Allow jar to rest on the counter for three days, keeping a close eye on the pressure, as the center of the lid will begin to bulge. Be sure to leave a couple inches at the top of the jar, so there is space as the fermentation process creates gasses that will press upward to escape.
*Whey is the liquid that drips off when you strain homemade yogurt or kefir. It is probiotic-rich and contains a variety of good bacterial strains.
**Alternatively, you can blend the ingredients in a blender to the smoothness or chunkiness of your liking.