Setting Up Your Fermented Kitchen
At first, you may try making a few fermented veggies, or a sourdough starter, to supplement the fermented foods that you purchase in the health food store.
But pretty soon, you’re likely to find how FUN and EASY fermentation is! You may quickly expand into making all of your own fermented foods. Here are some things to consider when setting up your kitchen to make fermenting easy.
The four basics of fermentation are all interconnected. It actually becomes easiest when you include all of them in your culinary routine, as they each produce things that compliment the others. The four basics are fermented drinks, fermented vegetables, sourdough starter, and fermented milks.
Some tools you will need include the Volrath Redco King Kutter. This hand operated food grater makes cutting and grating vegetables really easy! You can whip out a quart of cabbage for cole slaw or sauerkraut in just a few minutes with this gem. It is easier to clean than any electric food processor, and way easier on the knuckles than a hand grater.
Covered Pottery Dishes
A nice thing to have, though not altogether necessary, is a pretty covered hand made pottery casserole or other covered ceramic dish, about 1-1/2 or 2 quarts in size. Make sure the cover is loose enough to let air in. This makes an attractive container in which to grow your sourdough culture.
You will need a supply of butter muslin available here. Don’t settle for cheap, fine cheesecloth like you find in the grocery or hardware store. You will get many more miles out of real butter muslin.
You can acquire some Ball brand jars (or Kerr brand) from the local Salvation Army or Thrift Store. During late summer and autumn seasons, you can also get them by the case in many grocery stores, and even in a big box store like Wal-Mart. You will want to start out with a couple of cases of 1 quart size, and maybe a case of pint size jars with screw on rings and lids.
A large sized strainer and bowl that will fit together, are really necessary the cheese making process, and producing the whey that is foundational for vegetable fermenting.
Wooden or plastic spoons are necessary, as lacto-bacilli and most of the ferment cultures you will find will react with metal. Don’t use it with fermented foods.
It is helpful to have a cookie sheet or a flat tray of some kind, to place on your counter during the first phase of fermentation. Jars will hiss and spit, and small amounts of liquid may come leaking out. This is normal during the active phase of fermentation, which may last a week or 10 days. The pan or tray will help to keep leaking juices off of the counter.
What is Fermentation
When microorganisms, such as bacteria, molds, and yeasts colonize and process foods, it is called fermentation.
There are many different kinds of yeasts, molds, and bacteria. Some of them are harmful, and will make food dangerous or unpalatable.
If the organisms are properly controlled, fermentation can create food that is highly nutritious, tasty, and long lasting.
One of the most useful types of fermentation is called lacto-fermentation. This process results from bacteria called lactobacilli. These bacteria convert sugars and starches into lactic acid, which acts as an effective preservative. They live everywhere, but are commonly found in milk and yogurt.
Other common fermenters are wild yeasts. They live in the air, and are found all over common household surfaces. They make fermented grain foods, such as sourdough culture for bread and pancakes.
- Fermented foods boost the immune system, helping us to remain free of disease. It supports recovery from all kinds of degenerative conditions and auto-immune diseases, including arthritis, cancers, diabetes, and more.
- Fermentation preserves food, without cooking all of the life force and nutritional value out of it. Many fermented foods can be stored for months, or even years.
- Fermentation increases the nutrient content of foods, especially the Vitamin B complex and trace minerals.
- Fermented foods increase digestibility, and more of the food’s nutrients are absorbed and assimilated. It can help support recovery from digestive ailments of all kinds.
- And best of all, fermentation enhances and improves food flavor!
How to Know if Your Fermented Food is Good
Properly fermented foods should be stored in a cool, dark place such as a basement, cool pantry or cupboard, or–if you are one of the lucky ones who have one–a root cellar.
Bad smells, slimy or stringy brine, and colored molds are all signs that the food has gone bad. White mold (called kahm yeast) is not harmful, and can be skimmed off the food before eating.
The Four Basics
There are 4 basic families of fermented foods, which all interact together to make a strong foundation for a health enhancing diet. They are
- Sourdough Culture
- Whey and Fermented Milks
- Fermented Drinks
- Fermented Vegetables
You may start out with just one or two of these families, but will eventually want to bring all four into your kitchen. These are the four cornerstones of fermented high frequency eating!
Some people have been known to spend lots of money for a rare, family heirloom sourdough culture, aka starter. The truth about sourdough, is that a locally grown culture with colonies of yeast that are native to the area will often perform better than century-old heirloom starters.
There are hundreds of varieties of yeast floating around in the air of any home. Nothing more is needed to start a sourdough culture than the yeast-filled air, a little pure water (without chlorine), and some whole grain flour. A helpful ingredient is whey, which is not completely necessary, but will give your sourdough a jump start and get the fermentation going quickly.
And sourdough is not just for bread! I have used it to make moist and delicious chapati breads, corn tortillas, pancakes, waffles, blueberry muffins, and biscuits.
I no longer use store bought breads or baked goods for anything, as the self-rising sourdough is both easy to make and tastes so much better. Not to mention the health benefits of thousands of lacto-bacillii in every bite!
The Truth About Store Bought Yeast
There are many different kinds of yeast. Different yeasts do different things, and make different textures and flavors. Store bought yeasts are isolated mono-culture colonies that have proven to make extra fluffy bread textures, and to rise very quickly.
Because of their speedy growth, commercial yeasts can not break down much of the less digestible parts of the flour. They also produce a lot of alcohol, which bakes off during cooking.
By eating these mono-cultures of yeast instead of the hundreds of varieties that we would normally be consuming if we were eating sourdough bread, it is my belief that our digestive flora can become severely out of balance. In my opinion, commercial yeast is one of the main causes of “candidiasis” and internal yeast infections.
Wild yeasts, on the other hand, are broad ranging colonies of hundreds of different varieties. They take longer to do the work.
During this long fermentation, new flavors are formed, and the flour is broken down to be more digestible.
Make Your Own Sourdough Culture
You can use a clean quart sized Ball jar or a glass or ceramic bowl covered with a loose lid or cloth napkin. It is important for the culture to breathe, so don’t use a tight fitting lid.
Mix a few Tablespoons of whole grain wheat or spelt flour, with a few Tablespoons of water, to form a thick paste. Not necessary, but often helpful to get the culture started faster, you can add 1 Tablespoon of whey.
Leave mixture in the jar or bowl, covered with cloth, paper coffee filter, or a loose fitting plastic lid. Avoid metal which can react with the fermentation process.
Let it sit on the counter for a day or two. Feed it every day or two with another 2 Tablespoons each of water and whole grain flour, and stir.
Within a week, it should begin to develop bubbles. If it does, you have succeeded. If it does not, just start over.
Feeding Your Sourdough Culture
Once the culture is fermenting properly, you will need to feed it every day (sometimes you may get by feeding it every other day). You can add as much flour and water, in equal parts, as you need to create the volume you want.
If you are using a lot of sourdough, you can double the volume of the culture every day, adding up to 2 cups each of water and flour. If you are using it less often, you will do better by just adding a Tablespoon or two, so the sourdough culture does not grow beyond your needs.
Watch your culture to know if it is being fed properly. It will smell sour but okay, and will produce lots of bubbles about an hour after it is fed, when the culture is healthy.
How to Use Your Sourdough Culture
Always set aside some sourdough culture before using the rest in your recipe. This will keep the culture growing on your counter.
Pancakes, waffles, and chapatis are more forgiving than bread when it comes to sourdough. If your culture is not very strong, make these things first for a few days before making bread. This can restore your sourdough and get it ready for making bread again.
Some Sourdough Tips
- Cultures need to be moved into a clean container every few days to a week.
- Cultures are fussy about their food! Fresh ground whole wheat flour is best. If you don’t have a grain mill, find a brand of whole grain flour that works and stick with it. If you must change brands, try mixing the old and new together for a few days, and gradually change.
- If you have a grain mill that heats the flour too much, the sourdough may not grow well. This is the sign of a low quality grain mill, and you will want to replace it.
- A culture that has been neglected can often be resurrected. Scrape off the top layer of slimy or bad-smelling culture, and carefully remove some of the still viable culture underneath.
- Cultures must be kept warm to be active, so store it on the counter when you are using it frequently. If you go on vacation, put it into the fridge. zit will go into a dormant state, which can be reactivated when you return by warming it again.
- For added nutrition, and to help strengthen a weak culture, add a few drops of Concen-Trace Mineral drops when you feed the culture.
- If you are gluten intolerant, you will need to experiment with other kinds of flour. We would love to hear from our gluten free readers if you have success using gluten free flours!
Whey 2nd Basic of Fermentation
Whey is a basic ingredient for starting the fermentation process in vegetables, and sourdough culture. It is loaded with many varieties of lactobacilli that help jump start fermented vegetables, and increase the digestibility and nutritional value of cultured milk products, such as yoghurt and kefir.
If you are sensitive or allergic to milk, it is possible that your body may not react to whey and cultured milk products, This is because fermentation breaks down the parts of milk that many people are allergic to. It is worth experimenting to see if you can consume these fermented foods without a reaction.
Whey is super easy to make. Because I have access to a local certified, unpasteurized goat dairy, I often use my own gallon of unpasteurized milk to make yoghurt, to produce for the whey.
Sometimes I use Mountain High brand or another brand of yoghurt from the store as a starter to make my own. Be aware that you need to get plain yoghurt with nothing added; no sugar, fruit, or any other ingredients. And somewhere on the package look for a mention that the yoghurt is unpasteurized and full of live cultures.
Another concern is the flavor; if you start with a more sour tasting yoghurt, (like Nancy’s brand or Bulgarian) you will have lots of good cultures in the whey. And–anything you make out of the strained yogurt (also called Farmer Cheese) that is left over when you strain out the whey, will taste really sour. I prefer a less sour culture for my Farmer Cheese.
For those who do not eat milk products, Farmer Cheese will be an appreciated gift to anyone who does. It is also a good addition to the compost pile, as it adds lots of healthful bacteria and minerals to the soil. What is normally considered the by-product (whey) will be your main focus, and the cheese will become the by-product.
Start with natural, unpasteurized yoghurt that you made yourself with a purchased culture, or from the store. A large (16 oz) container works best.
Use a large strainer and a large bowl. Set a piece of butter muslin into the strainer to cover.
Pour the container of yoghurt into the butter muslin covered strainer, set atop the bowl. In a few minutes, whey will begin to separate and drip through the muslin into the bowl.
Cover the strainer with a napkin or cloth, to keep insects and foreign objects out.
Let it sit and drain overnight, on the counter for 6 to 12 hours.
Pull the butter muslin out, and empty the Farmer Cheese that is left into a bowl, glass jar, or tupperware container.
Pour the yellowish whey left in the bowl, into a glass jar or bottle and store in refrigerator. It may be clear or a little cloudy.
Use a little whey in every bottle of fermented vegetables, beans, etc. to jump start the fermenting process. It will make your veggies softer, and add great flavor to the ferments. It will also speed the process of fermentation.
Easy Farmer Cheese Dip
Use Farmer Cheese in place of cream cheese in any recipe. It is a perfect substitute for cream cheese with one big advantage: It has way fewer calories and fat, and lots more nutritive value, with lots of live cultures for supporting digestive health.
This recipe has become a favorite in our house, for those who eat dairy foods. It will store for a week or longer in the fridge. Use it to dip fresh veggies and chips, or spread on a sourdough chapati or tortilla for a filling snack.
First make your whey and naturally cultured Farmer Cheese.
Put one cup of Farmer Cheese into a bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s brand Green Goddess spice blend. Stir well, and serve with any of the dipping foods mentioned above.
Add 1 to 2 drops rosemary or basil essential oil
Add 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt or other natural salt.
Options: You may like to replace the Green Goddess blend with another spice blend, such as Balti, Sweet Curry, or Creamy Peppercorn blends. The possibilities are endless!
Remember that heavy feeling you can get in your tummy from eating pancakes? Typical pancake recipes are not the most health supporting foods you can eat.
By adding the sourdough culture, pancakes become much easier to digest, and do not leave a heavy feeling–try it out, and share a comment on your results!
Simple Sourdough Pancakes
Use your favorite whole grain pancake mix.
Replace 2 tablespoons of liquid (milk or water) with 2 Tablespoons of sourdough culture. If you want it to taste more sour, add more sourdough culture; for less sour taste, add less culture.
For more healthful cultures, digestibility, and nutritional value, mix the pancake mix together (omitting eggs) and allow it to set overnight on the counter. In the morning, add the eggs just before cooking.
Cook your pancakes as usual, on a hot griddle.
Super Scratch Pancakes
- 2 cups whole grain flour
- 3 Tablespoons sourdough culture
- 1/2 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
- 1 beaten egg or 1 “vegan egg”
- 1-1/2 cups water (or more if you want thinner pancakes)
Mix all ingredients together and cook on a hot griddle.
Serve with real Maple Syrup or with fruit preserves. As above, if you want to add more probiotic cultures, greater nutritive value, or more digestibility, mix the batter the night before (omitting egg), and allow it to set over night on the counter.
In the morning, add egg and cook as usual. You may leave the baking powder out if you use this method, as the sourdough will raise by itself.