First off, I know for many of you, your very first question will likely be “Why?” Why would you ferment salsa? Well, I suppose that could be asked about many things. Why ferment? Admittedly, fermentation and cultured foods is something I am newly interested in and I am still learning a lot about. So, I will just share some of what I have learned about why fermented foods are so good for us.
There is so much more to having a balanced and happy gut than we realize. It is now estimated that over 500 species of bacteria are present in our intestinal track with reports of 50 – 75% of our immune system activity residing there. In our modern world filled with antibiotic drugs, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap and pasteurized foods, we are killing off all of the good bacteria we need to maintain good health and digestion. If we don’t actively replenish this good bacteria that we need, we won’t get the proper nutrients out of the foods we are eating.
There are so many healthy enzymes that flourish and live cultures that are created when vegetables are fermented, creating an environment full of probiotics, enzymes and minerals which are important in maintaining healthy digestion and a healthy body. These live cultures, usually bacteria or yeast, that fermented foods contain, help balance the microflora are a little city of tiny organisms in our large intestine that, when working well, help digest fiber, protect us from things we’d rather not absorb like carcinogens, and keep the bowel healthy.
The probiotic good bacteria and enzymes in fermented foods help to populate our gut and intestines with Lactobacilli which are really important for healthy digestion. They also help to eliminate toxins from our body, so eating them will allow your intestines to detox, which is a really good thing! All of this beneficial bacteria (or probiotics) have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and improve immunity! I am a huge proponent of taking a daily probiotic, which has changed the way my gut feels on a daily basis.
Besides improving digestion, restoring the proper balance in our guts, and helping us to pull more nutrients from our diet, fermented foods last longer in storage. This salsa can be stored in the fridge up to a couple of months. The lactic acid is what keeps it from spoiling. Lacto-fermentation is a popular option for fermenting and although I didn’t have any whey, I opted to just increase the sea salt, which works exactly the same and get it fermenting. If you wish to use whey, take the sea salt down to 1 tablespoon and add 2 tablespoons of whey. FYI there are even ways to make your own whey (say that 10 times fast) at home, just search around online for different recipes and how-tos.
Cultured raw vegetables that are created just by leaving them in airtight jars at room temperature for several days to ferment, this might just be one of the easiest and cheapest things you will ever come across to help use up those veggies and get some additional health benefits from, while you are at it. A common vegetable used for this is cabbage, to make homemade sauerkraut, but you can also add other vegetables like carrots or beets or radishes, etc.
This fermented salsa is simple to make and you can make the recipe your own, based on how you like your salsa and maybe what you have growing in your own garden. I had some great peppers from our garden and some fresh herbs from the farmers market, so I went to town making a spicy salsa, just like what we love. Feel free to tweak the herbs to what you like, add additional dried herbs and spices and other veggies, as you desire. This same recipe would work great unfermented, just add less salt or skip the whey. The differences in the taste of the fermented salsa versus the regular stuff are pretty subtle, you will notice the fermented salsa is a tad bit of tang and fizziness, almost a tad hint of an alcohol-y flavor, that I really like. I have served it to quite a few people, and it was well received by all, jars of this have disappeared fast around here. I have to thank Tasty Yummies reader Jaya Lila Ramey for her tips on fermenting salsa, she made it so much easier for me to just dive into this fermenting process, unintimidated.
Other examples of fermented foods are miso, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, pickles, etc. If you are looking to experience some of the many benefits of what we’ve discussed, it is important to eat fermented foods regularly. This fermented salsa is a wonderful way to do just that. It is great with your favorite chip or cracker, on top of a salad, eggs, steamed veggies, soup, etc. Heck this salsa is so good you can just eat it with a spoon. A good tip to keep in mind too, fermented veggies are particularly good to eat with starches and proteins, as it will help you to digest these foods better.
What are your experiences with fermented foods? What benefits have you noticed? If you like fermented foods, what are your favorites?
[print_this]Fermented Salsa – Gluten-free + Vegan
- 2 – 3 lbs of organic tomatoes of your choice, I used heirloom cherry tomatoes from my garden
- 1 large onion, I have used both red and white, both are delicious choices
- various, chile peppers – quantity and types, your choice. We like spicy so I went with 2 serrano and 1 jalapeño (you can also use bell peppers if you like your salsa mild)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro (If you don’t like cilantro add in oregano, chives, etc)
- Juice of 2 limes, or 1 lime and 1 lemon, or 2 lemons
- 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons sea salt*
- Dried spices to taste, if you’d like – I added some cumin, chipotle and chile powder
Add the tomatoes to your food processor and pulse them a few times until they are broken down to the size you like. I prefer my salsa a tad chunky. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the roughly chopped onion, peppers, fresh herbs and dried spices to the food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is chopped to the size you like. Add these to the large bowl. Obviously if you don’t have a food processor, you can just chop all of this by hand.
Add the fresh squeezed lemon and/or lime juice and sea salt to the vegetables. (Add the whey now if you are using it.) Toss everything around until it is well mixed. Pour into quart sized or smaller clean mason jars. Leave some room at the top, don’t fill it all the way up. Cap tightly. Leave on the counter for 2 to 3 days. Transfer to the fridge or cold storage.
This salsa will keep up to a few months in the fridge. I have read up to 8 months, actually. The flavors will actually intensify over time.
* If you are using whey use only 1 tablespoon of sea salt and add 2 tablespoons of whey. [/print_this]