Guest Post – Lacto Fermented Salsa

A few weeks ago reader Brook mentioned her lacto-fermented salsa which I zeroed right in on. I’ve done some lacto-fermenting this year, namely beet kvass, carrots and dill pickles. But when Brook mentioned she had made tomato salsa last summer that was still good after 6 months I knew I had to have her do a post about it. My goal this year is to can less and put up more. Lacto fermentation is a great way to do that. Without further ado, here is Brook’s post.

Enough About the Salsa, Already!

Adding something from your summer garden to your winter meal is a treat. Whether pulling blueberries from the freezer, or opening a jar of honey peaches, it brightens your plate and your day. I feel this way about the salsa I have sitting in the refrigerator. Last fall I decided it was time to try lacto-fermenting something and salsa was my first try – and a successful first try, at that! I always have something fermenting in my kitchen – from everyday sourdough to beet kvass. My husband lovingly calls it the hippie tower – the dinner plates covering bowls and then stacked on top of each other to save valuable counter space. But the salsa, it really knocked my socks off! It is March! How can I still be eating something that has been hanging out in my fridge since September?

Lacto-fermentation is centuries-old practice of preserving food. Whey from milk or yogurt, added to fruits or vegetables helps to produce lactic acid, a natural preservative. This lactic acid prevents harmful bacteria from growing, allowing the food to be eaten months later. And unlike canning that actually depletes fruits and veggies of intrinsic nutrients, lacto-fermentation adds significant nutrient value to foods. This process turns an already vibrant condiment like salsa into a super food – adding beneficial enzymes and thousands of friendly bacteria that aid in digestion and help to boost immunity.
The nice thing about this salsa is that you don’t need a specific recipe. You can use your favorite fresh salsa recipe and just add a step to ferment it. I didn’t really have a recipe going into this – I used what I had around – generally what Fall has to offer. I had a pile of tomatoes ripening on the back porch and the rest of the ingredients came from my CSA. You can follow this basic method:

To your food processor, add garlic cloves, onion, and a generous bunch of cilantro and process until the garlic and onion are minced. Slice the tomatoes in half and squeeze most of the watery juice into the sink or save it for another purpose, leaving the meaty part of the tomato and the skin. Then, add these to the food processor along with a seeded (or not) jalapeño, the juice of a lime, and sea salt and blend until the tomatoes are close to uniform in size but still a bit chunky. Transfer all of this mixture into a large bowl and add the whey. I used approximately 2 tablespoons of whey per 4 cups of salsa. Stir the whey into the salsa really well. Now, pour the salsa into very clean jars and cap tightly, leaving about 1 inch between the salsa and the top of the jar to allow for expansion of the juices. Let the jars sit on the counter for 2-3 days and then transfer to the fridge. That’s it! One extra step, and now you have salsa to last through the dark days of winter.

Knowing what I now know about lacto-fermentation hasn’t stopped me from expecting a foul smell or to see mold growing each time skeptically I open the jar. And I think my husband is half smiling, half rolling his eyes every time I say “Look at this, salsa. I made this way back in September! No, really, come look at it. It’s still perfect!” He’s heard it over and over again. This is a simple, yet tried and true way of preserving what nature has given us and it continues to amaze me. It’s led to experiments with fermenting many other things like sauerkraut, kimchi, and beet kvass. I’m down to the last half jar and it feels bittersweet. The salsa is gone but, I’m excitedly anticipating the arrival of my tomato plants from Territorial so that I can start the process all over again.

26 Responses to Guest Post – Lacto Fermented Salsa

  1. I really need to give fermentation a try! Sounds great and easier! Not to mention cooler when the house is already hot!

  2. Great post. Mmm, now if I just didn’t have to wait so long for home grown tomatoes. I first got addicted to lacto-fermented salsa a few years ago when our health store was carrying a few

  3. oops, didn’t get to finish… a few different flavors, they were similar just one was green tomatillo salsa and there was a mild and hot, anyway they were great but expensive. I started playing around with different lacto-fermented experiments and haven’t stopped. One of our favorites that we just ran out of was a dill brine crock with various veggies that are submerged and fermented like sauerkraut. I’m making a mental note to make extra lacto fermented salsa this coming fall!! Thanks!

  4. I’ve seen Brook’s “hippie towers” (they deserve a picture in this post) and I love walking into her kitchen to see the latest food adventure, usually residing on her kitchen counter.

    One of the great treats in my life is your endless generosity of sharing the wealth of information you have about eating and feeding our families real food.

    Maybe there is lacto fermented salsa in my future . . .

  5. Meg – it also keeps the nutrients alive and creates new enzymes that improve gut flora. There are lots of numbers out there about how much of the nutrients are destroyed when you can but a rule of thumb is 35% with water bath and 60% pressure canning. So freezing and lacto-fermenting are great. Drying is good too but because things are at room temp they lose nutrients quickly when stored.

    Emily, I’d love for you to share your recipe! I need to get more lacto-fermented stuff on this blog. Or post on your blog and we’ll link into it. A lacto-fermented carnival would be fun!

    Debbi, I hope you try it and come back and post. And Brook, do you have a picture of your hippie tower? I do the same thing but it’s fun to see others. Maybe we can have a “show us your tower” gallery. ;p

  6. I’ve been meaning to make a post on lacto-fermented foods for a while now. I’d be honored to write a guest post in the next week or two on the subject…you’ll just have to tell me how that all works.

  7. Emily, emailing you now…. :)

  8. I’m new to your blog and like it very much.

    I love making lacto-fermented fruits/veggies and am planning a few posts soon…for a ruby kraut and/or a pineapple mango salsa…a lacto-fermented foods carnival would definitely be fun!

  9. We love lacto-fermented foods! My 2 year old son always digs into the sauerkraut first, when he sees it on his plate. :) He also loves kombucha and water kefir.

    Recently I tried spicy carrots, a recipe from Alyss at Real Food My Way, which I originally saw here:

    http://realfoodforlessmoney.blogspot.com/2010/01/lacto-fermentation-hits-and-misses-our.html

    They are SO GOOD!!! I’m getting ready to try cortido next. Interestingly enough, my only failed lacto-fermented food has been salsa. Believe me, you will know by the foul odor and mold that is is bad. :) I still don’t know what went wrong, but I’m not easily deterred. I will try again this summer.

  10. It’s so nice to see that so many people are already doing this, or interested in trying! I don’t have a picture of my hippie tower but, next time I have a good one going, I’ll definitely take one.

  11. Winnie, let’s do one! I’ll shoot for next Friday to give anyone time to buy supplies and/or begin experimenting.

    Jen, thanks for linking in to Millie’s blog. She did a great job summarizing everything up in 1 place. I was just going to start cortido tomorrow with my overwintered cabbage, too!

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  13. Wonderful post! I will make this salsa with the first local tomatoes. Hopefully the farmers near the coast (the NH coast, that is ;) ) will have them in a couple of months.

    Such an easy thing to do and so healthy. Thanks a lot Brook and Annette for sharing this.

    SustainableEats rocks!

  14. Auburn – you rock too! ;p

  15. i totally want to try this! i froze fresh salsa last summer with sad results. one question– does it need to be fresh whey, or can i use whey that’s been frozen for a while?

  16. Angela my guess is that it would work fine with frozen. I know when I freeze my cheese cultures they still work once thawed.

  17. Can you use anything else besides whey in the fermented salsa recipe. I can’t do any dairy products, but really want to try it. OR, does the dairy allergy get negated when it is fermented?? Thanks!

  18. kristin I think Wilderness Family Naturals sells a starter culture that would act like the whey does but I’m not sure it’s dairy free. You may want to google “fermented foods starter culture” and see if you find anything. Good luck!

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  20. I tried making lacto fermented salsa for the first time. I made it with roasted veggies rather than raw. I noticed (after 2 days of sitting) that it has these white/ translucent bubbles forming on the top. Is that normal? Is that mold? Do you think it is safe to eat? If anyone has any insight I would really appreciate it.

  21. Olivia it should have bubbles coming up as it begins to ferment. If they don’t pop then it might be mold and you just scoop it off and eat what’s below. Y ou can begin tasting and eating anytime but it will continue to get more effervescent over time.

  22. Thank you for that. I will enjoy it.

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