About 8 years ago when I was searching for answers to my digestive and skin problems I attended a class which introduced me to the words “lacto-fermentation” for the first time in my life (amongst other important real food topics). “Lacto-what?” I said. Fermentation, as the cultural revolutionist Sandor Ellix Katz himself describes, is the transformative action of microorganisms. When these microorganisms transform raw food ingredients we get products like sauerkraut, yogurt, sourdough bread, beer, wine, miso, cheese and many other well known foods from all over the world.
I started learning more and experimenting with my own homemade fermented foods and beverages after reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. Katz recently published The Art of Fermentation, a rather large and informative book which includes much that he has learned on the road teaching and talking to people about fermented foods since his first book on the subject. Recently I hosted a giveaway for a newly published book called Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin. These books are all excellent resources that you can easily learn and get inspired from to start fermenting at home and to find new recipes and ideas. You don’t have to wait, however, until you have these books in hand. There has been an explosion of information, interviews, tutorials and recipes via the internet from food blogs, podcasts, online forums and uploaded videos. I wrote this post to serve as a mini roundup of links and resources about fermentation. There are so many I couldn’t possibly list them all in this article. If you are interested in fermentation, however, I’m sure you can find something useful through these links.
New to fermentation? Start here.
If you are new to learning what fermented foods are and what are their benefits, then the links below will provide a good start to answering these questions. Fermented foods provide not only tantalizing and unique flavor profiles but they also provide a method of food preservation and can contribute greatly to good health, especially when eaten as raw, live-culture ferments.
- Homemade Mommy has a nice summary titled What are fermented foods? She discusses why they are so beneficial to health, the dangers of not including fermented foods in the diet, how they have provided relief and recovery personally from such things as IBS and asthma, and also provides a quick look at her favorite ferments to make: sauerkraut, pickles, condiments and kefir.
- Oh Lardy will tell you all sorts of interesting facts about the bugs in your belly and how fermented foods can be more beneficial than expensive probiotics from the health food store. They also give a bit of history and a look at examples of fermented foods from all over the world.
- Cheeseslave will give you 8 reasons to eat fermented foods.
- The importance to having a healthy and thriving gut flora can’t be overemphasized. That’s why Lauren from Empowered Sustenance discusses fermented foods in her article on the #1 missed opportunity to boost your immune system.
- To get a look at what a home fermenter’s kitchen might look like check out My Cultured Palate’s photos of her kitchen ferments.
Ferment your veggies…it’s really, really easy
Fermenting vegetables is probably the easiest way to get started in the world of fermentation. Personally, I am a fan of Sandor Ellix Katz’s style of ‘wild fermentation,’ meaning my only ingredients are vegetables and salt (and a bit of intuition). I don’t use any kind of ‘starter’ or even follow a recipe, and I have yet to make a bad batch of kraut. However, some folks will choose to use a starter to ‘jump start’ the process or to ensure a certain flavor in the end product, and so the links below include both methods.
- Unmistakably Food has a great visual tutorial on how to make sauerkraut, which calls for salt, cabbage and a couple basic kitchen tools.
- Gutsy shows you how she uses a purchased starter to ferment her veggies.
- Oh Lardy will give you more of an overview on tools and ingredients that you need to culture fruits and vegetables.
- If you want to make some kraut that is a step up from just cabbage and salt then check out this homemade sauerkraut recipe from Small Footprint Family or what Real Food Eater says is the best homemade sauerkraut recipe.
- If you need a bit more zing in your ferments then check out this kimchi recipe from Nourished Kitchen, and I think these four easy pickle recipes are sure to inspire.
- And check out this simple way to ferment grape tomatoes from Learning and Yearning!
Kefir, cheese, yogurt, piimä, yes please! I love milk and the many delicious fermented foods that can be made from it. Personally I think kefir is the absolute easiest fermented food to make, as it is quick and most of all does not require any special temperature setting. Just pour the milk in the bowl with the kefir grains, cover with a cloth and after one day strain out the grains to enjoy the kefir.
- Whole Natural Life will show you how to make kefir with a photo tutorial.
- If you want some verbal instruction, then watch this video tutorial from My Cultured Palate on making kefir. She also has a video on how to make yogurt.
- If you have more questions that need answers, then considering taking advantage of an online forum to discuss fermented foods. For example here is a yahoo discussion group on kefir making.
- It’s also possible to make yogurt without destroying the enzymes in your raw milk. Jenny from Nourished Kitchen has a post on how to make raw milk yogurt.
- One byproduct of making fermented dairy is live-culture whey, which can then be used as a starter in making lacto-fermented fruits, vegetables and even sodas! Check out Homemade Mommy’s post on how to make kefir cheese and whey.
- Ok coconut is not dairy, but it’s often used a replacement for those who are following a dairy-free diet. Gutsy has a really interesting coconut milk yogurt recipe that is GAPS-approved.
- Once you have kefir you can do all sorts of things with it like smoothies, salad dressings, cream cheese, pies and so on. Check out this awesome post from Cultured Food Life on second ferment kefir.
Kombucha to the rescue
Kombucha is one of the first examples of a live-culture fermented product that I became familiar with. This delicious and healthy bubbly beverage has become very popular in the US, and its popularity in the modern world is now extending abroad. For example, even Sweden has its own raw kombucha brand now. Although kombucha is seeing tremendous popularity all over the world in modern times, kombucha has been brewed in Asia for thousands of years. Kombucha is essentially a fermented tea which requires a “kombucha SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to make it. Sometimes this ‘scoby’ is referred to as a ‘mother’ or even sometimes (incorrectly) called a ‘mushroom.’ Brewing kombucha at home is not difficult and the main benefits to making it yourself are that it’s (significantly) cheaper than buying it and you can also control the flavors to make it exactly how you like it.
- My Cultured Palate has an easy to follow post on how to brew kombucha.
- Gutsy has a very informative post that will give you many reasons to drink kombucha, explain more about what kombucha actual is and its history, some important precautions when brewing it yourself as well as how to make it. If you are already brewing kombucha, then I recommend visiting her article on making flavored (2nd ferment) kombucha. This is something I need to venture into myself.
- Here is a yahoo discussion group that is all about kombucha if you want to get your questions answered.
- If you are looking for a kombucha scoby, then really there is no need to buy one from a company although that is also possible. Kombucha is ‘self-perpetuating.’ That means when you make it, you take some scoby and starter liquid from the previous batch to get the next batch going. In fact, every time you make kombucha the ‘mother’ has a ‘baby.’ Hence the only expense and work is to make the sweet tea. Just try not to let the kombucha take over your life! People brew kombucha all over the world, and many people will happily give you a scoby for free or for the cost of shipping if it requires mailing. You can find such folks on the Kombucha Exchange Worldwide website. If you are in Finland wanting to start making kombucha, then look no further! Just contact me and I can probably send you one for a small shipping fee.
More fermented beverages
There are many other nice fermented beverages to make besides kombucha. Yes of course there is beer and wine, but there are also quick-ferment homemade sodas like ginger ale that won’t have a significant amount of alcohol in them.
- Sarah from The Healthy Home Economist has a post on how to make ginger ale, and she will also show you how to make fermented lemonade via video tutorial. Super easy, delicious and refreshing!
- And Here We Are has a lovely post that explains how she made homemade blackberry soda using a wild yeast starter as well as blackberries that she foraged for herself.
- If you have water kefir grains, then I hope you are making kefir soda pop, which Cheeseslave shows how to do.
- Beet kvass is another fermented drink which is really more of a tonic to consume in small amounts rather than by the large glassful. Oh Lardy will tell you what the heck is beet kvass.
Once you get the basics there is really no limit to what you can make. If you are looking for more recipes and ideas for fermented drinks then you may be interested in the book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner.
Fermenting meat and fish
There isn’t nearly as much information on fermenting meat and fish as there is on fermenting things like vegetables and dairy. However, I found a few links for you. Alex Lewin’s book also has an introduction to fermenting meat and includes an easy to follow recipe on making corned beef.
- Cheeseslave will show you how to make fermented fish sauce, which is a traditional condiment in Thailand.
- Sustainable Eats has a nice recipe for lacto-fermented fish, which calls for a salmon filet, whey and a few basic herbs and spices. I think I should make this!
- America’s Test Kitchen has a very clear photo tutorial and recipe for making Corned Beef Tongue. If you try this I would like to hear about it in the comments!
More inspiration and useful links
The internet is just loaded with information about home fermentation. In addition to the links and recipes above I think you will find some interesting information from the following.
My new favorite favorite way to find recipes and inspiration for fermentation is Pinterest! You don’t have to have a Pinterest account to use it. Go to the search box and type in for example ‘fermented foods.’ You will suddenly be faced with thousands of beautiful and colorful photos of all sorts of fermented foods. Not only are they pretty pictures, but each photo is usually linked to a blog article with a recipe. Here is my fermented foods board:
If you are on Pinterest don’t forget to follow me!
Podcasts! Listen and learn while doing chores at home! Sandor Ellix Katz has done quite a few podcast interviews, a number of them very recent to promote his latest book The Art of Fermentation. Here are a handful:
- Fermented Foods For Flavor and Health is an interview with Sandor via The People’s Pharmacy with Joe and Terry Graedon
- Biodynamics Now! is an excellent podcast, and the host has interviewed Sandor along with a number of other awesome folks.
- HerbMentor Radio had a recent episode called Sandor Katz: The Art of Fermentation.
- Bryan from the Doc Fermento Discovers the World podcast often discusses fermentation and has interviewed Sandor twice. The latest episode was titled Biological Imperative.
- You can also watch a lecture by Sandor that he gave this year at Cornell.
The Appropriate Omnivore also has a few podcast episodes about kombucha.
For more inspiration just go to youtube and do a video search for the kind of fermented food you want to make. You are bound to come up with lots of good video tutorials.
Jenny from Nourished Kitchen also has an AMAZING e-course called Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything. Through a series of self-paced online workshops she will carefully walk you through and teach you how to ferment anything everything, even meat and fish. If you want that extra help and your questions answered this is definitely a course worth signing up for.
Finally, here are a few more recipes or useful links that didn’t fit into the categories above but are certainly worth checking out!
- These cultured fruit leathers from Mama and Baby Love look like an awesome snack for both kid or adult!
- With it being the holiday season and all you may want to check out this fermented cranberry sauce from Oh Lardy or this spicy fermented cranberry relish from Homemade Mommy.
- Salsa can be fermented, too! Cheeseslave will show you how.
- Check out this cool post from Learning and Yearning on how to make a DIY airlock.
- Some inspired fermenters are putting their energy into ceramic work by making beautiful crocks. It’s wonderful to see traditions come back to life in a new way!
Phew! Ok surely you found something from the above links that will help you in your fermentation adventures. If you have some must-see links to add, please put them in the comments below. Or if you tried any of the above tutorials, it would be great to hear how it went. Happy Fermenting!
This post was shared at: Party Wave Wednesday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Simple Meals Friday, Small Footprint Fridays, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday