Just recently I was inspired to look into fermenting food and beverages after reading The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates and Conscious Eating by Dr. Gabriel Cousens.
You may be asking, why ferment?
"Fermentation makes foods more nutritious, as well as delicious. Microscopic organisms transform food and extend its usefulness. Fermentation is found throughout human cultures. Hundreds of medical and scientific studies confirm what folklore has always known: Fermented foods help people stay healthy." Wild Fermentation www.wildfermentation.com
"Cultured (fermented) vegetables and kefir contribute immensely to healing and restoring your inner ecosystem." Donna Gates, The Body Ecology Diet
"Fermented foods aid in digestion, promote healthy flora in our digestive tract, produce beneficial enzymes, offer us better nutrition, and allow our bodies to absorb important nutrients like vitamins (in particular vitamin C, and B12), minerals, and omega 3s more effectively. They regulate the level of acidity in the digestive tract and act as antioxidants. As an addition to a diet already rich in fruits and vegetables, fermented foods do a lot to help us maintain a strong healthy body." Nancy at Healthlady.com
Fermented lactic acid foods, such as sauerkraut and fermented vegetables, are good ways to increase the amount of raw food in the diet and a convenient, viable way to store food during the winter. Raw cultured vegetables are rich in lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria, via enzymatic processes, convert the sugars and starches in the vegetables into lactic acid and acetic acid. This acid environment is excellent for a healthy colon, where these same bacteria grow." Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Conscious Eating
Top 8 Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods: (info obtained from a blog) http://www.cheeseslave.com/got
1. Fermented foods improve digestion
2. Fermented foods restore the proper balance of bateria in the gut.
3. Fermented foods are rich in enzymes.
4. Fermenting foods actually increases the vitamin content.
5. Eating fermented food helps us to absorb the nutrients we're consuming.
6. Fermenting food helps to preserve it for longer periods of time.
7 .Fermenting food is inexpensive.
8. Fermenting food increases the flavor.
There are many common foods and beverages that are fermented....cheese, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, sour cream, ketchup, kombucha, kim chi, soy sauce, vinegar, beer, wine, cider,etc.)
My first attempt at fermentation was to make homemade sauerkraut. (sorry no picture available). This was really easy as it was simply shredded cabbage, sea salt and a little spring water to make a brine. Put it in a large glass container, place a weight on top of the cabbage to keep it below the level of the brine, cover and leave on countertop for several days. I don't really love sauerkraut, I was basically just doing this for health purposes to get some fermented veggies into my diet and this was an easy way to do it. I forgot to take a picture of this process.
My next experience was kefir and kombucha. I had been buying organic kefir and kombucha from Whole Foods for awhile. I really love them both, but it was getting rather expensive so I decided to make my own. I ordered the kefir grains and kombucha starter from Cultures For Health. In addition to the milk kefir grains and kombucha, I also ordered some water kefir grains.
They arrived much quicker than I anticipated. All products the products were shipped in a dehydrated state and need to go through a period of rehydration before acting making kefir, water kefir or kombucha.
I just took a couple of days before my milk kefir grains started producing a nice smooth and creamy kefir, and about 3 days for the water kefir. The kombucha takes 10-28 days to rehydrate.
Every morning I make a new batch of water kefir, which tastes a bit like a less carbonated Izze soda. It is just spring water, organic cane sugar or organic turbinado sugar and the water kefir grains in a large glass container covered with an unbleached coffee filter and a rubber band. You can customize the flavor by adding in dried fruit, fruit juices, vanilla, ginger or whatever sounds good. It is really good and so much healthier than soda. This is really good for those who are dairy free but want the benefits of kefir. It can also be made with coconut water.
I need to make the milk kefir every 12 hrs because if I leave it overnight it gets a bit too thick. I just take some organic low fat milk and the milk kefir grains in a mason jar, cover it with an unbleached coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
Today I made a Ginger Bug which will be used to make homemade ginger ale/ginger beer and also a homemade cold and flu remedy. It is just 2 tsp grated ginger root, 2 tsp organic sugar, and 2 C filtered water or spring water.
My Kombucha tea in the rehydration process:
I can't wait to try some other fermented foods....different cultured vegetables, beet kvass, ginger ale/ginger beer, honey wine and tons of other stuff :)
Important considerations: Do not use tap water as the chlorine could interfere with the natural fermentation process and harm the cultures. Use only plastic or glass utensils as metals can harm the kefir grains and kombucha scoby ( I use a glass or plastic bowl, plastic strainer, wooden or plastic spoons, and a plastic funnel when preparing my fermented drinks).
For more information on fermented foods here are some of my favorite resources:
One of my spark teams, Kombucha Kurious & Fond of Fermenting
The Body Ecology Diet - Donna Gates
Conscious Eating - Dr. Gabriel Cousens
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods - Sandor Ellix Katz & Sally Fallon
Nourishing Traditions - Sally Fallon