Updated: Oct 21, 2019
For thousands of years, people used fermentation as their main means of preservation of their food. Since canning was not invented until the late 1700s and refrigeration invented in the early 1800s, people prior to that relied on the workings of natural microorganisms to change their fresh harvests into storable ones.
Many countries still do!
Folks made and ate fermented sauerkraut, kimchee, grains, milk, fish, meat, and assorted vegetables, fruits and drinks like Kombucha and Kvass. Fermenting preserved their foods as well as created digestive enzymes, probiotics and made the vitamins and minerals in the foods more bio-available to their bodies.
The ferments that we do enjoy in our culture such as coffee, beer, chocolate, cheese, and wine, are commercially made and usually pasteurized which again depletes the benefits.
This may be a dire missing category in our diets.
It is harder for our bodies to to digest our meals and maintain the probiotics that fermented foods give us. Our gut needs at least 6 pounds of good bacteria to be healthy and all disease starts with an unhealthy gut. These good bacteria need to be fed properly to be healthy. You do not need to eat large amounts ferments, but it is helpful to eat them often such as a condiment with each meal.
Below are some very easy, delicious ways to start fermenting your foods to preserve them and help your body to function more efficiently.
I like to use whey as a starter culture to jumpstart a number of my ferments, to add protein, and not a lot of overbearing flavor like some of the saltier brines.
Whey also contains probiotics that are good bacteria that is beneficial for your health, especially your digestive system.
A simple way to get whey is to strain a container of plain yogurt made simply with milk and bacteria only. Here I used a tea towel and strained the yogurt overnight. The liquid in the jar is the whey.
To the strained yogurt, I added a teaspoon of salt and mixed well, then rolled the balls of now yogurt cheese in dried herbs and submerged in a good olive oil. These will sit on the counter ready to eat for months. Just fish one out and serve.
Now that we have the whey to start our other fermented cultures, let me show you how easy this is.
Fruit Kvass is naturally flavored water. The finished drink ends up being light, fruity, and very refreshing.
In a ½ gallon jar.
1. Add 2 cups of any fruit you like, roughly chopped
2. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of good quality salt (gray sea or Himalayan pink). Not table salt with iodine.
3. Add ¼ cup whey
4. Fill the jar with pure filtered water that has no chlorine or fluoride, leaving two inches of headspace at the top.
5. Cover tightly. Place on the counter under a towel.
6. Shake several times a day and let the gases out by loosening the cap quickly at least once a day.
7. After two days in a warm kitchen or three in a cool one, strain out the fruit Refrigerate the liquid.
To enjoy, put a tablespoon or two in each glass of water that you drink throughout the day.
NOTE: If you are not used to ferments, start slow. Try just one tablespoon for a day or two, and then do a bit more.
If, for some reason, your kvass looks bad, smells bad, or tastes bad, DON’T DRINK IT!
Turmeric is in the ginger family and is known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. It is said to promote balanced moods, speed wound healing, relieve joint discomfort, inhibit ulcers, aid rheumatoid arthritis, conjunctivitis, digestive disorders, chicken pox, and inflammatory bowel disorders.
It grows very well here. I like to slice turmeric and ginger to add to my kvass.
Mayonnaise is something that can be made easily and fermented at home.
· Hand blender or food processor
· 3 egg yolks
· ¾ cup avocado oil (or olive oil if you don’t have this)
· ¼ teaspoon turmeric
· ¼ teaspoon cumin
· ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
· 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
· 1 Tablespoon whey
· a good dash of salt
1. Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, and whey in a bowl or food processor.
2. While beating, add the turmeric, cumin, salt and dry mustard.
3. One drop at a time, add the oil. Many food processors have a very small hole in their tops specifically for this purpose. It is very important that you add the oil slowly or the mayonnaise might not set and it will be runny.
4. As you add the oil, the mayonnaise begins to thicken.
5. Once all the oil is in, place it in a clean jar.
6. Cover tightly and leave on the counter overnight, then refrigerate.
In this picture, you will see several items that I used the following process. Very simple and made according to your tastes.
From the left is a cabbage salad, the yogurt cheese, cherry tomatoes with basil and garlic, boiled eggs with garlic, pepper flakes and bay leaves, in the back is fermented apple slices and a fresh batch of apple cider vinegar starting.
Make a simple brine:
· 4 cups filtered (unchlorinated, unflorided) water
· 2 teaspoons of good quality salt (gray sea or Himalayan pink). Not table salt with iodine.
· ¼ cup whey
1. Fill your jars to the shoulder with your fresh produce or boiled eggs. Add herbs, spices, and seasoning to your tastes.
2. Know that the flavors with be amplified in fermenting.
3. Add your brine, making sure that you cover your produce or eggs completely. You may add a cabbage leaf or a weight to hold down your items if they float.
4. Set your jars on the counter for 2 to 3 days, checking for the taste that appeals to you. Setting them in a dish is a good idea; the bubbles from the fermentation and the salt from the brine sometimes cause the liquid to increase.
5. Give them a jiggle from time to time and loosen, then retighten, the lid to burp them.
6. Refrigerate to stop the process and enjoy your ferments. They will last anywhere from 2 to 6 months in the fridge.
Fermenting with Honey
Honey is antimicrobial because it has a low water content. When you mix honey with water or whey, it ferments very well. That is how traditional honey wines like Mead and Ethiopian T’ej are made. The addition of honey in this recipe for fermented berries helps to speed up fermentation by providing a source of carbohydrates to feed the beneficial bacteria. The honey sugars that remain after fermentation give a nice balance to the tartness of the berries.
Berries have a short fermentation, only one to two days. Like the items above. This keeps them intact, and stops the fermentation before they turn alcoholic. After the first day, you will see little bubbles appearing at the surface of the jar. Open the jar, spoon out a berry and taste it. If it tastes tart and faintly effervescent, your berries are ready to eat. Put the jar in the fridge, and use the berries within a month.
Some berries soften during fermentation, transforming into a thin jam or thick syrup texture while thicker-skinned berries like blueberries plump. You can enjoy them with yogurt or ice cream, add them to your smoothie, or eat them with your breakfast.
Honey Fermented Berries
With a lovely tartness and a beautiful effervescent sparkle, fermented berries are simple and quick to make.
· 2 cups berries
· 2 tablespoons honey
· 1/4 cup whey
· 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
· Filtered water
1. Put the berries in a pint jar. Pack them tightly with your clean hand or a wooden spoon.
2. In a bowl, mix whey, a few tablespoons of water, honey, and salt.
3. Pour the liquid ingredients over the berries, and then fill jar with filtered water, leaving 1 1/2 inches of headspace. Press down with wooden spoon to be sure the water has filled all the air pockets. Add more water if necessary.
4. Be sure the berries are below the waterline, using a weight if necessary. Put lid on and leave at room temperature for 1-2 days.
5. Store in refrigerator and use within 1-2 months.
Once you realize the benefits of fermenting both to your body and to your budget (by storing your foods for a longer time) you will be looking for more recipes. Join us on Facebook to let me know what you would like to know about.
Below is the finished yogurt cheese with crackers and the next picture is the fermented tomatoes with basil, fermented boiled eggs and fermented cabbage salad. Let's see what you come up with!