Linda Lou, help with fermenting, please.

cannondOctober 23, 2012

Linda Lou, if you're out there, can you tell me what you know about safe procedures to ferment salsa?

I've been fermenting salsa for a few years, but recently I read that listeria might be a problem.

My recipe calls for two tablespoons of salt for every quart of salsa, or;

1/4 cup of whey and one tablespoon of salt, fermenting three days on the countertop, then refrigerating.

What, if any, are the guidelines on this? My green tomatoes have ripened in the pantry and I'd like to proceed.



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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

What, if any, are the guidelines on this?

There are none. It is a do at your own risk procedure. They do address kefir:

Kefir is generally considered to be safe due to the lack of evidence of foodborne illness events related to it. Properly fermented kefir (pH less than 4.5) inhibits many pathogens, but not for Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., and Yersinia enterocolitica. Care therefore must be taken in the home fermentation of kefir to prevent the access or growth of these microorganisms.

Otherwise there are no approved, tested guidelines for fermenting salsa. Check out all the publications on both issues - fermenting and making salsa available on the NCHFP website. That is what Linda Lou teaches. Lots of "do NOT dos" in all those publications.

I know this is not what you want to hear and I'm sorry. And if you only want to hear it from Linda Lou you can email her directly via the contact on her personal page.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 1:15PM
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Dave, I didn't find the Kefir on their site, but I did find the yoghurt. I'm not certain I'm reading it correctly. Are they saying making yoghurt at home is dangerous, i.e. e coli, yersinia, etc.?

As far as the salsa goes, have they tested it and found it dangerous, or have they declined testing because of lack of interest?


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 3:24PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Linked the kefir info below. It goes into more detail about the safety aspects of using kefir.

Are they saying making yoghurt at home is dangerous, i.e. e coli, yersinia, etc.?

No, they aren't as long as their instructions are followed including the use of pasteurized milk and reheating it at home before use. Unpasteurized milk or improperly pasteurized milk is where the problems arise. But they are not recommending using kefir for yogurt making either. It isn't needed.

As far as the salsa goes, have they tested it and found it dangerous, or have they declined testing because of lack of interest?

I'd say it is primarily the latter - lack of interest when it comes to fermenting salsa. But salsa research was just shifting into high gear when all the federal funding was cut too so they has to settle for publishing general guidelines for salsa safety.

But general fermenting testing has been done on the most popular foods. Enough to determine recommended levels of salt required and fermenting times required. They stress the importance of the salt requirement ratio to produce weight, not volume, and they stress the importance of full fermentation times of a minimum of 7 days.

So if one was to hypothesize from all their published info on fermenting one would need 3 T of salt for every 5 lbs. of salsa, no added kefir, no substituting whey for salt, and it would need to be fermented for a minimum of 7 days at the proper temperature and then refrigerated. And that would assume that the salsa itself was first made from a tested and approved salsa recipe with the proper pH (they include added acid) rather than an unknown mixture of low-acid ingredients.

But that is all just a hypothesis. See the problems? :)


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP - Kefir Publication

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:29PM
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Does all this apply to Kimchi? Ziedrich's book has recipes for it that suggest three to six days ferment. Then there's South Korea...national dish and all that.

This is too bad. I'd like to see some testing. Perhaps with the increased interest in probiotic foods, fermentation will get a bump.

I have a relative whose medication compromises her immune system. Her physicians want her on probiotic supplements, but I've read studies indicating low probiotic count in these supplements, due, ostensibly, to poor handling (damp conditions or excessive heat).

I dare not give her my yoghurt or salsa. I'm hoping long ferments like sauerkraut will be safe. Any opinions?

As you can see, I'm worried, and fairly desperate to get some good probiotics in her.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:39PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Couple of different issues here Deborah and I think it is important to not confuse them.

First, a compromised immune system isn't something to experiment with, right? If this person's doctor feels they need probiotic supplements then I'd follow his advice.

With commercial supplements, as with everything else in life there are varying degrees of quality available. based on my readings, the dosage level (low vs. high counts) is often adjusted for body tolerance. In other words nothing is gained by inundating the body with high levels when the system cannot tolerate or even use them and excretes them causing additional digestive problems. So perhaps a consistent daily low dose apparently works better.

Secondly, kefir or whey or any other such additives are NOT recommended for use with compromised immune systems for the reasons already discussed. More importantly, they are not needed for safe healthy fermentation. They only serve to speed up the fermentation process and that is not necessarily always a good thing. Some recipes will say 3-5 days but that in no way means you can't let it go longer. It gets better if you do. Which is why NCHFP recommends a full 7 days for full fermentation. In other words it is possible to UNDER-ferment and risk some potentailly risky bacteria but it isn't really possible to OVER-ferment. :)

NCHFP does not recommend using kefir in any of its fermented recipes and millions of us ferment all kinds of fruits and vegetables (including kimchee) and benefit from the resulting probiotics without using it. So it's easy to provide good levels of fermented foods rich in probiotics without using it.

Check out the link below for more info, especially the peach chutney.


Here is a link that might be useful: Fermented food recipes

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 11:45AM
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That is a terrific site, Dave. Thanks.

Her medication (Remicaid) is wonderful for keeping her autoimmune disease at bay; its only serious drawback is that it suppresses her immune system. This is why I'm reluctant to feed her homemade yoghurt. (I've never made kefir and not much interested in it.)

Her doctor wants her on probiotic supplements and eating yoghurt. She (the doctor) even recommended homemade sauerkraut, which I'm now attempting. It will have been fermenting for six weeks on the 26th of this month. I hope it's good. I've been told sauerkraut is difficult. We'll see.

Thanks for your insight.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 2:26PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Deborah, sometimes your pharmacist is a best source of information. If you have questions about an over the counter supplement (or even your prescriptions), they are often more knowledgeable than the doctors. And could likely recommend a particular brand for being most consistent in product quality...just a thought.

My own pharmacist of many years is a godsend, his advice never fails :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:33PM
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The pharmacist idea is a reasonable one. Thanks.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:16AM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Linda Ziedrich's book is fine. Everything she proposes adheres to current USDA guidelines and is vetted by food science authorities.

With the appropriate ratio of salt to product and meticulous standards of cleanliness, fermented products are as safe as anything out there. That includes kimchee, and you will find a number of discussions and recipes for it on this forum (check alternate spellings).

I do have to say, regarding fermented salsa, that in my experience fermented tomatoes are just nasty. I don't find the texture or the flavor even remotely appealing. Fermenting is more appropriate for firmer vegetables. But that's just my personal take on it.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 2:21PM
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Carol, I don't agree with your statement about fermented tomatoes. Probably what you tasted was a failed fermentation. They can be very tasty. I do them every year, both green and red and they are very very good.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 3:06PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

No, I assure you it wasn't a failed fermentation. It was Bulgarian and prepared traditionally. But as I said, that's just my take on it and regards only ripe tomatoes, not green ones.

Tomatoes chopped up as per salsa would be very liquid and for me personally would not be appealing fermented.

To each his own. I'm not trying to convince anyone.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 4:52AM
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This is interesting. I asked L. Ziedrich (on her blog) for a fermented salsa recipe some time back, and she agreed with what Carol is saying. She made other recommendations as I recall. I've been impressed with her recipes, both fermented and canning. It's nice to know she's trusted.
She has some interesting things to say about lemon juice in canning, too, if anyone wants to check it out. Very helpful to someone like me who can't use bottled lemon juice with preservatives.

This is what I'd hoped for, different perspectives and ideas on fermenting.
When I first started fermenting I made a recipe including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cherry tomatoes. It was a three week ferment and we loved it, except for the cherry tomatoes, which were ghastly. They were fully fermented, but squishy, fizzy tomatoes didn't appeal to me.
I do like fermented salsa, though. It's true for me that it's generally more liquid (slightly) than cooked salsa, but we find it fresher tasting. We usually drain it a bit.

What is Bulgarian Traditional? Carol?

Also, about green tomato ferments, Olga, do you mean salsa with green tomatoes, like salsa verde? Is there a green tomato salsa recipe? If you have one, would you share it?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 9:53AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"I've been told sauerkraut is difficult."

Many of us would disagree with that. I find both kimchi and sauerkraut quite easy and reliable.

Tsukemono, quick Japanese pickles, may be something of interest to you also.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tsukemono

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 3:22PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The Bulgarian recipe was small whole red tomatoes and large pickling cucumbers with dill and garlic. So basically dilled red tomatoes+. The cucumbers were fine. The tomatoes I didn't enjoy.

But again, that's a personal preference. We all find there are things we like and things we don't.

Perhaps I would have liked a slightly underripe tomato better. I can see one on the pinkish side might be more enjoyable.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 3:43AM
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