The traditional method for preservation of milk, vegetables, and meat involves a process called lacto-fermentation. In the fermentation of raw milk, beneficial lactic acid-producing bacteria naturally present in the milk initiate the digestion or breaking down of milk sugar, known as lactose, and milk proteins like casein.
When enough lactic acid is produced by these friendly bacteria and fermentation is complete, milk is protected from spoilage for several days, weeks or even years as is the case with aged cheeses.
Meat can be preserved by lacto-fermentation as well. Hard, aged sausages, such as traditionally prepared salami, are lacto-fermented foods.
The process of lacto-fermentation works in a similar manner with plant foods, transforming cabbage into sauerkraut and cucumbers into pickles. While not traditionally lacto-fermented, fruit can also be transformed into chutneys and marmalades using the same process.
Lactic acid preserves food by inhibiting putrefying bacteria. This organic acid is produced by a beneficial bacterium present on the surface of all plants and animals – even our own skin! Traditional cuisines from around the world prized lactofermented foods and beverages for their medicinal properties as well as delicious taste. Most traditional cuisines included at least one fermented food or beverage with every meal, which worked to improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
Lacto-fermented foods are rich in enzymes as well as beneficial bacteria. Think of lactofermented foods as “super-raw” foods; the enzymes in lacto-fermented foods more than compensate for the enzymes lost in the foods that are cooked.
Now, we are seeing many bowel dysfunctions in our favorite feline or canine friends who can benefit from these living foods to add good bacteria to their gut.