Food fermentation. It’s the highly nutritious digestion-aid that’s fast becoming the most popular food trend around.
But what’s all the fuss about? And, how easy is fermenting at home?
Bread, Cheese, Beer, Wine. All the Best Foods Are Fermented!
Chunks of bread. Cheese. A glass of your favourite wine or beer. These are some of our best-loved foods. And they all go through the fermentation process at some level to reach their heights of delicious wonderfulness.
Here’s a little known fact – fermenting is one of the oldest forms of food preservation there is. For thousands of years and across many cultures, the process of fermentation has helped preserve food.
But what exactly is involved in the fermentation process?
Essentially, it uses salt or a ‘starter culture’ to kill off the bad bacteria in food. The yeasts and good bacteria left behind then turn sugars into acids, gases or alcohol. This results in a longer shelf life and a transformation of tasty flavours.
The Science Behind Food Fermentation
Hanging out in your intestines are hundreds of bacterial species, that we call our gut flora.
Eating fermented foods floods your gut with good bacteria, or ‘probiotics’. These help you to maintain the balance of your good vs bad gut flora. This in turn rewards you with a whole host of health benefits. These include a healthier digestion, a boost to your immunity and a generally happier gut!
Simply put: fermenting is an easy, tasty way to preserve food, and it has added health benefits.
What Foods Can I Ferment at Home?
If you’re new to fermenting it’s best to start with vegetables. Once you’ve nailed those, there are many other well-known foods that you can try your hand at. Believe me, it gets addictive!
Check out some of the best-loved fermentation creations below:
- Pickled Vegetables
- Fermented Juice
- Fermented Ketchup
- Sourdough Breads
- Drinking Vinegars
How Do I Start Fermenting at Home?
It’s surprisingly easy to start fermenting at home. All you need are some sterilised jars, the food you want to ferment, your fermenting agent and a whole lot of patience.
Start by choosing your jars. You can buy special jars for fermenting. But why not save some cash and recycle some old jars if you have any lying around. Any wide-necked jars will do.
Next, pick your vegetables. The beauty of fermenting vegetables is that pretty much any veg will work. You can ferment a single carrot or a big, vibrant combo of all sorts of different varieties. To make sauerkraut, grab a white cabbage. For Kimchi, pick up some Chinese leaf (another type of cabbage). You could pickle some cucumbers or onions. Feel free to experiment with spices too!
Armed with your glassware and veggies, the next step is to decide on your fermenting agent. This will be salt, whey or a starter culture.
The Fermentation Process
Combine the fermenting agent with water to prepare the brine. For the best tasting vegetables you’ll want to use water that is as uncontaminated as possible. This might mean digging that water filter out from the back of the cupboard.
Place the vegetables into jars and cover with the brine. Weigh the vegetables down so that they stay submerged. This keeps them in an anaerobic environment during the fermentation period which is a necessary part of the process of fermentation. Cover your jars to ensure the liquid doesn’t evaporate and expose your veg to oxygen.
Find a cool, secure place to store your fermenting vegetables and leave them alone and let science do its thing.
How will you know when they’re ready? When you see bubbles forming in the liquid and smell a sour aroma, that’s a very good sign.
Remember, this is a live product and needs maintenance. Make sure you are keeping an eye on your jars of veg and wipe away any mould that appears. If you see a white film layer forming on the top of your ferments, don’t panic! This isn’t mould. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process called Kahm yeast.Even though Kahm yeast looks a little strange, it’s not harmful to you or your fermented food.
Help Reduce Food Waste with Fermentation at Home
Each year in the UK, 7.2 million tonnes of wasted food ends up in landfills. It’s sad and shocking, but very much true.
Bear in mind that at the same time, 8.4 million families in the UK alone are struggling to put food on the table.
Something doesn’t quite add up, right?
The good news is that all of us can make a difference – even if it begins with fermenting at home. Instead of throwing out veg that might be nearing the end of its life, ferment instead! Leftover veg is perfect for fermenting. If it’s not been used, then get chopping and put it in a jar with some salt – it’s as easy as that.
Through the magic of the fermentation process you can really extend the lifespan of food. Fermented food that’s lovingly kept in a cool spot can be kept for up to a year!
Every little helps and if everyone jumped on board, it could help reduce food waste dramatically.
So, grab some jars, some salt and some vegetables. Chuck it all in and sit back and wait for the tasty health benefits. Once you’re more confident, the fermentation-world’s your oyster!