Basically it’s all about good bacteria (probiotics) and pre-digestion. Foods like sauerkraut, a quality natural yoghurt, beet kvass and milk kefir go through a lactofermentation process where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. The fermentation process also breaks down the food (pre-digestion) thus making it easier for your system to digest it.
So the theory goes that with good bacteria in your tummy and the food partially digested your body can better absorb the nutrients from the food. Seems like a good idea.
How did I go?
I hate how I’ve become scared of bacteria (it isn’t all evil!) so love the idea of helping out the good guys. With a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon in hand I set off on this new adventure. These are the key things I learnt:
1. BE ORGANISED
Depending on what you are doing fermenting can be done over days, weeks, months, years etc. Now when I started fermenting things I thought I would remember when I started and therefore when to stop. I didn’t. I quickly found myself asking questions like “Did I start that Kombucha on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday last week?” or “How long has that beet kvass been on the kitchen bench?”
This lack of organisation lead to a fear that I was very quickly going to give myself food poisoning. I didn’t but I was quite hesitant to try some of the goodies I fermented.
2. Follow a good set of instructions and be careful with your food handling
You are growing good bacteria, don’t encourage the bad type through poor kitchen handling.
3. Be prepared for some new taste sensations
I love yoghurt and strong cheese (both are fermented) but was surprised by the spritzy nature of milk kefir and the smell of Kombucha. After trying it a couple of times I really enjoyed the fizzy flavours.
4. Don’t panic
Just because you left milk kefir on the bench for 3 days instead of 24 hours, it won’t kill you. Actually it is fizzier due to the longer fermentation which is kinda fun.
Here’s what I’ve fermented so far:
A fermented milk drink made with kefir “grains” (a yeast/bacterial fermentation starter).
I got some milk kefir grains from a reliable source and started them in a glass of warm milk. I’ve now moved my grains onto a diet of coconut milk and will share some recipes soon.
A drink made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast (known as a “scoby”) to sugar and tea and allowing to ferment.
A real challenge for me in many ways. I’ll share my thoughts on Kombucha in a post next week.
Beets, water and salt lactofermented with whey drained from yoghurt.
I don’t like it. I know above I talk about trying new flavours but my beet kvass tastes like salty dirt and no matter how hard I try I can’t take to it. But everyone’s tastes are different so for the sake of a couple of beets and whey drained off yoghurt give it a go yourself.
No I didn’t get around to fermenting veg so may just grab some at the local health food store. Sometimes you just run out of time.
How have your fermenting experiments gone? Love or loath? Keep an eye out over the next week where I’ll share 3 Milk Kefir recipes and my thoughts on Kombucha.