Fermenting food has numerous health benefits, in particular for gut health. We are still learning and experimenting with a variety of products, but so far so good! Like all our projects, we have researched and discovered, but also attended a couple of great workshops by Yoke Mardewi to learn hands on, and it was well worth it.
We have made:
Even using our own aquaponically grown red cabbages. This one was the best! Sauerkraut is so easy to make- just finely shredded cabbage and salt!! The trick is to work the salt into the cabbage with your hands to break down the enzymes, and also not to use too much salt. There are some great recipes on the internet, but we find the simplest ones are the best. This produces a lot of liquid at the bottom of the bowl and the cabbage is softer. Then it is packed into jars, so the liquid rises to the top to cover the cabbage. A whole cabbage leaf pressed down on top, with a glass weight on top of that, helps keep it all submerged. We then use a lid which we drilled a hole in, to insert an airlock (available from brewing shops). The length of time it takes really depends on the temperature in the room- in summer it is much quicker than in winter! Once it tastes good, we put a proper lid on it and place it in the fridge, where it lasts for months.
Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut but uses wombok (Chinese cabbage), carrots and daikon radish, and Korean chilli! The cabbage is worked with salt similarly to the cabbage in sauerkraut, until there is plenty of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. The carrots and radish are julienned, then added to the cabbage, plus a good dollop of chilli paste (made from Korean chilli, salted shrimp and fish sauce). Then it is packed into a jar as above. Again, there are some great recipes on the internet!
Yoghurt is so easy to make in the Thermomix! All you need is full cream milk and a small amount of yoghurt from a previous batch (or store bought if it is the first time). Follow the instructions in the book, leave in the Thermoserver overnight (in a cold oven, an esky, the dehydrator- anywhere where it is enclosed and won’t be knocked).
There is a lot of information available about water kefir (and all the other similar ferments), and the benefits to gut health. We experimented a bit to find what we liked and how we do it now is just using sugar (rapider or organic raw), a small bit of molasses, and filtered water. The water kefir grains sit in this (at room temperature) until the sugar has been used up (taste to check- in summer it is quicker than in winter- ours is about 24 hours). Then we strain the liquid into a jar, add chopped ginger and maybe some lemon slices, and place it in the fridge. The grains then go into a freshly made sugar/molasses solution to continue its great work! Once the liquid has taken on the flavour of the ginger and lemon, we drink it straight or half and half with some soda water- it is yum and so good for us too!!
Milk kefir is similar to water kefir (though it looks quite different!), but ferments milk instead of water. We place a good spoonful of milk kefir grains in a jar with milk, and leave it out to ferment. We don’t like it too sour, so about 10 hours is sufficient in summer. It is then strained. The thickened, slightly soured milk that results can be used in smoothies, added to cream to make a cultured butter (using the Thermomix procedure again), or can make cheese. To do this the milk is left out at room temperature overnight or about 10 hours or so until it separates into curds and whey, then strained through muslin. The curds collect in the muslin, letting the whey drain through into a cup or bowl below. Leave to drain for a while (overnight is fine) and the result is a slightly sour cream cheese that is great on crackers or for making into a dip! The why can be used in smoothies, for soaking grains, or for lacto-fermenting vegetables.
We make kombucha too, using a continuous brew method. The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) feeds on a sweet tea. We use green tea and organic raw sugar, and once cooled it is placed in the jar with the SCOBY and some of the original liquid, covered with a cloth secured with an elastic band, and left for about a week. The SCOBY feeds on the sugar, thus fermenting the liquid. This is then poured off (or in our case we use a large jar with a tap) into another jar. Fruit, juice, ginger etc can be added as flavouring and it can undergo a second ferment. We just put ours in the fridge ready to use in smoothies and fresh juiced. Always leave some of the previous liquid with the SCOBY, and add the fresh batch of sweet tea. We replace what we take out, i.e. if we remove a litre we add a litre of sweet tea.
There are certainly some documented health benefits of sourdough too, and we have become great fans. We make wholemeal bread, fruit loaf, pizza bases, crackers and even muffins! There are lots of recipes available, even for making your own starter. Once it is going, it just needs regular feeding and using to remain healthy. There is always plenty to share around with friends!
Using Sandor Katz recipe for T’ej in his Wild Fermentation book. We use our own honey, and in fact it has been a great way to use some of the honey that has crystallised. We just warm it enough to liquefy, then put it in the crock with water (1 part honey to 4 parts filtered water), add some organic fruit and cover with a cloth so the natural yeasts can get in but bugs can’t. Stir several times a day to agitate, and in four- six days it looks like this.