I’ve found myself really involved in the Lactobacillis species of bacterium lately and what follows is strictly a reading lay person’s take on a popular subject.
Lactobacillis is a wildly popular subject today, mostly due to Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” (with which I find much commonality.) In just a few years a multitude of experts has surfaced touting the final word on fermentation. I myself have an antique buffet whose top is filled with interesting kitchen experiments and lovely old mason jars awaiting more experiments. I believe in lacto-fermentation in its many and varied forms, I really do. I’m mostly Czech, you see, and we love saurkraut and sour cream and farmer’s cheese and all that stuff. That’s where the problem comes in.
Miscegenation. No, I’m not talking in racist terms, but in practical ones. Some stuff works together and some stuff doesn’t. There are numerous, multiple, many, many species of Lactobacillis and each does wonderful, God-ordained work. I wouldn’t doubt that the one that makes my sourdough rise might be compatible with my fermentated beets, both substrates being starchy vegetable carbs. But, the one that makes my cheese seems to be a bit more separatist. And it seems there are some that are inclined to only meat or even beer.
I’m suddenly back into raw milk, having been blessed with two newly freshened healthy Lamancha does, so naturally I’m doing milk things. Almost everything I read online says “Go for it! Add that whey to your pickles. You must!” But it’s just not working. I knew it for sure when I gave my granddaughter a taste of some lacto-fermented cabbage I made with whey, and she loves lacto-fermented veggies and I generally make good kraut with simply salt. She said, “It smells aweful” and to the chickens it went. It wasn’t just that. Most of my ferments this year, the year of whey, aren’t up to snuff. Some might blame it on that fact that I live in the heat of the southern plains without air conditioning so it must be some other warmth-loving beasty that’s causing the problems, but I don’t think that’s the entire problem. I made lovely ferments last year, a so far much warmer year, a couple of which lasted stranded all last fall, winter and this spring in very “organic” conditions with only a bit of fading as their fault. That’s when the fact of cultural diversity in the lactobacillis family hit me squarely. We don’t use sourdough starter or kraut juice to make our cheese. Why are we using whey to make our veggies when they work out just fine without it and seem to have done so for generations??? And by the way, what exactly is being fermented in the lacto-fermented mayo craze?
I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that they abandon a technique that works for them, only that they might consider options if it’s not. Whey’s not always working out for me.
Next up for a gentle rant: Yeast.