How Are Indian Pickles Made With Lacto-Fermentation? Read Here
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The process of fermenting foods using the technique of lacto-fermentation involves dunking food in a salty brine which creates an environment for the cultivation of good bacteria in food. As pickle season is upon us this summer, the traditional methods of drying and soaking seasonal produce like raw mangoes and lemons in oil and spices gains prominence as a practice. However, traditional pickling methods in India also adapted lacto-fermentation techniques to create pickles that were gut-friendly and a healthy source of probiotics.

The easiest way to explain the process of lacto-fermentation is to elaborate on the lactic-acid-producing bacteria, that are activated to break down the naturally-present sugars in ingredients like cucumber, carrots – both, black and orange as well as other locally available ingredients like gooseberries, chillies and even garlic. Unlike the pickles made with oil and spices that last an entire year, lacto-fermented pickles have a shorter shelf life of four to six months. Handmade pickles that were preserved in ceramic jars known as barnis, were also instrumental in keeping the contents cool and dark, in order for the bacteria to thrive.

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Another key characteristic of lacto-fermented pickles is their distinct tangy taste, courtesy of the salt present in the brine. The great benefits of lacto-fermented pickles along with a healthy dose of probiotics include fortifying the immune system, when consumed regularly. A great way to put this technique to use on a micro level is to use bits of vegetables that you wouldn’t be able to make a meal out of and make a salty brine infused with digestive spices like coriander seeds, cumin and black peppercorns and allowing your vegetable bits to sit submerged in the brine for a minimum of 10-12 days, before eating.

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Compared to most other Indian pickles, lacto-fermented pickles are lighter on the palette as well as versatile to add to other food items like sandwiches, salads and even burgers. A great example of this technique being put to use in an Indian context is when purple winter carrots are brined in a salty liquid which is then turned into the winter drink of kanji. Consuming the brine liquid which is lush with digestive bacteria in the form of sherbet or an afternoon drink is also a perfect way to stay hydrated during the summers.