Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Project: Fermentation

I think I have a commitment problem. I'm supposed to be working on The Great Room Shuffling and Reorganization Project, but I got obsessed with distracted by another activity I've been wanting to try for ages: fermenting things.(Does this Project ADD happen to anyone else, or am I the only one?)

Technically I *have* already done plenty of fermenting, as that is the process that takes place when you make yogurt and I've got that one down pat. Somehow, though, taking the step from yogurt making to lacto-fermenting fruits and vegetables was a bit of a leap for me, and I felt quite apprehensive about taking the plunge. One of my close friends happens to be quite experienced at fermenting things, so with her encouragement I finally JUST DID IT!

Lacto-fermentation is actually quite simple. You don't need any special equipment to get started, just some Mason jars, sea salt and your fruits and veggies of choice. Some recipes also call for whey, which you can easily obtain by making yogurt cheese; it's the liquid that drips out, SAVE IT! If you don't use up all your whey fermenting things, there's a list of other ways to use it here. I think the biggest thing to get over when starting to ferment fruits and vegetables is the leaving-jars-of-cut-up-produce-on-the-counter-for-days aspect; we are so conditioned to refrigerate everything in our culture!

The photo above shows my two initial fermented food experiments: a quart jar of cabbage (sauerkraut) and 2 pint jars of fermented lemons. I followed these basic instructions for fermenting the cabbage, and this recipe for the lemons. They have already spent their allotted time on the counter and have been moved to the fridge to "brew" further. I have been told the sauerkraut is usually good to start eating at this point; from what I've read, the lemons usually need a few weeks of fermenting in the fridge before they are ready to enjoy (they become much less salty tasting over time). 

Why bother to ferment foods? It's a very inexpensive way to add more probiotic bacteria to your system. There are many health benefits to increasing the amount of probiotic bacteria in your diet; they improve your gut health as well as your immune system. Probiotics have been shown to boost resistance to colds, flus and infections, and research has also shown a link between probiotic food consumption and lower levels of stress hormones and depression. For more details about the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this article.

Health benefits aside, it's just plain fun to pound a bowlful of cabbage with my meat tenderizer (actually, that just may be conferring some mental health benefits, lol). If you'd like to learn more about how to ferment foods, I recommend Sandor Katz's website, Wild Fermentation, and his book of the same name: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (yes, that is an Amazon affiliate link!). 

My next lacto-fermentation projects will likely be gingerale, ketchup (because my boys put it on everything!), ginger carrots and this cranberry chutney, which my fermenting-enthusiast friend Linda says is "the bomb" :)

Is anyone else out there a lacto-fermentation enthusiast? What are your favourite foods to ferment?

A NOTE FOR LOCAL READERS: IT'S HERE! My "Feeding Your Family On a Shoestring" course will be running this spring semester through the Continuing Education department at Mohawk College. There will be 4, three hour sessions and you will get to pick my brain about any ...and all aspects of feeding your family well on a small budget. We will be baking bread, making yogurt and flour tortillas, and cooking a variety of healthy, low budget dishes to add to your repertoire. I will also be sharing many tips and strategies for shopping and managing your kitchen to get the most out of your food dollars.

Course fee is $160 which includes a copy of my book, there is also an additional $25 fee for food costs. Classes start Monday April 29th, 7-10 p.m. More details on p. 52 of the spring 2013 Mohawk Continuing Ed calendar or follow this link and click on the "Creative and Visual Arts" section.

For families of four spending more than $700 a month on groceries, this course can easily pay for itself in 1-2 months!

DID YOU KNOW? I now have an events page! Come find out where you can catch up with me at a signing, seminar, workshop or food demo HERE.

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