Kraut each day keeps the Doctor at bay

When I was a kid I remember being baffled at the joy my mum would express as she pulled another batch of stinky kimchi from our fridge. Mum would giggle and clap if the pungent fermented cabbage met her approval. To me, the kimchi tasted alright, wasn’t a huge fan. I couldn’t seem to get past the heady aroma.

These days I’m exactly like my Mum. Except AMPLIFIED. My partner thinks I’m on the verge of starting a fermenting cult. I love all things fermented, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso. And now that ferments are trending on the foodie scene — it means that I can share my nerdy fermenty psycho babble with more people. Win!

So what’s the point. Just like fashions, isn’t this all just a recycled trend?

Fermenting connects you with food like no other cooking process. All you senses are engaged as you taste, test, adjust and repeat. Is there the right crunch? The right tingle? The right smell. There’s an art. A chemistry.

There are some fundamentally good reasons to eat fermented foods. More so — MAKE your own! (more on that — lactofermentation — later). So I’m convinced fermentation is more than a fad. It has the potential for a food revolution. The effervescent, tingly, zingy, tasty goodness of fermented foods first dance on your taste buds and then leaves a warm glow in your belly.

If you’re not convinced by the enticing flavours of fermented food and beverage, there are quite a few health reasons to get on board the fermentrain.

Here’s why fermented foods are more than a fad:

1. Promote good microbes in the gut. Supporting gut health and helping to avoid and remedy conditions like; IBS, immune disorders, allergies, metabolic diseases and perhaps even mental health.

2. Probiotics in fermented foods improve digestion, and support a good immune system function.

3. Increase vitamin A and C levels by making them easier to absorb.

4. Have cancer fighting properties.

5. Improve nutrient absorption. The digestive enzymes help you get the most out of the foods you eat.

6. Bonus — Tastes zingy and delicious!

It’s important to be aware of claims made of commercially produced ferments. Often commercially produced fermented products are pasteurised before hitting the shelves. In the process this kills all the good stuff that makes ferments healthful. Many products are made with starter cultures, so will have some specific strains of probiotics, so won’t be as diverse as a home made, lactofermented food. They still might taste great, but won’t have the spectrum and depth of benefits that you can achieve with wild fermenting at home.

So be wary of spending big bucks on fermented products. Take kombucha for example. Some commercial kombuchas are pasteurised and carbonated, negating all the benefits of the drink and effectively making it a soft drink.

Similarly with sauerkraut and kimchi, you can only be sure to be getting the full range of beneficial bacteria if its homemade. A wild lactoferment.

What is lactofermentation?

It’s the process of Lactobacillius bacteria converting sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. The process is what preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels in food, creating all the benefits listed above.

Want to give it a go?

Do a course. I was totally inspired by a visit to the Fermentary in Daylesford, Victoria. Sharon and Roger scaled up their home based fermenting adventures and kept the integrity of the fermenting process for our eating pleasure. Big respect — I wish I lived closer.

If you want an entry level fermenty project, I recommend starting with kombucha — it’s easy to brew and will save you big bucks if you’re buying it on a regular basis.

How to make Kombucha?

You need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast). Find one from a friend or shout out on Facebook — you’d be surprised how easy it is to get one. Or order one online. The Good Brew Co. sell SCOBY’s. I rate them because they are puritans and have fought hard to maintain wild brewing integrity.

Kombucha recipe

Make 1 litre of black or green tea and let cool.

1/4 cup sugar or honey

1 cup kombucha from a previous batch

SCOBY

Mix the above (straining out tea leaves or removing tea bags). Leave to ferment for 7–10 days. A new SCOBY will grow on the surface of the tea which you can add to your next batch or expand your brew.

Decant when the tea tastes slightly sweet still. The kombucha will taste like vinegar once the SCOBY has eaten all the sugars. Still safe to drink, just not as palatable.

Enjoy!

The flavour variations are endless and exciting once you get into doing secondary ferments. My favourite is kaffir lime and raspberry. Effervescent bliss.

If it’s all too much to get your head around but you want to enjoy more ferments see if you can find a ferment co-op in your local area. So you can swap fermented goodies without having to do it all yourself!

There are so many delights in fermenting it’s so rewarding to play around with flavours and textures. Frankly, you can’t claim to be a foodie unless you give it a go.

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