Fermentation Experimentation

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In chemistry class at uni we had to record obs in our prac journals. We would record what we did that class, the results of the experiments and our thoughts and notes to guide our follow-up for the next class.

This is kinda the same. As I’ve been experimenting – yes my kitchen looks like a lab now – with fermentation over the last year, I’ve been noting down what steps I took and how each batch turned out so I could tweak the method for the next lot.

So here are my ramblings after many experiments. I’m still playing, but these are my favourite fermentation hacks so far.

Oh and in case you didn’t know, fermenting food creates a precious growth of probiotics – actual live whole food probiotics (many probiotics that you buy will already be dead from processing by the time they reach your lips, you really cannot be guaranteed any benefit from a bought probiotic unless you research the company and gain their trust).

Integrative psychiatrist James Greenblatt, has had great success treating people with depression, OCD, anorexia and other mental illness with high doses of quality probiotics. But he also believes that everyone should consume probiotic-rich food regularly to maintain health. Not just in treatment.

And it’s majorly simple to make, so why not add a spoonful of homemade probiotics to each of your meals?

It may seem daunting, (I put off my first batch for yonks because it seemed like too many steps) but it is honestly simple as hell once you’ve done it once.

Ferment Hack 1.
The length of time you leave the jar fermenting for is based on your taste buds. I taste the food/drink after seven days then again after ten. If you don’t like a strong vinegar taste, don’t ferment them for so long.

Ferment Hack 2.
Use celery juice if you don’t like salty brine – celery is great for liver cleansing (it is one of the top liver superfoods). It may be more mineral rich than a simple brine, and may help keep surface mould at bay if you don’t want to use a tonne of salt in your experiment. I got this handy little trick from wildfermentation.com, an awesomely simple website for fermenting.

Ferment Hack 3.
I use a cabbage leaf to weigh down the vegetables and ensure they are always submerged in the water (very important). Check out Wild Fermentation for their nifty method of submersion.

I don’t use a submersion method for beet kvass. The beets tend to float below the surface without my help. But I do get a thin layer of white mould on the surface. This isn’t harmful, I scrape most of it off and don’t worry too much about leftover mouldy bits that mix in. If it is a different colour, do a quick Google Image search to find out if it your whole ferment needs to be discarded.

Ferment Hack 4.
Pack the vegetables in tight and massage them vigorously to expel their juices. Dissolve your salt in filtered water in one container. Add the vegetables to another jar and smash them up with a wooden spoon or your hands to break up the cell walls. Add some brine but don’t overfill. The vegetables may create more fluid as they ferment and you’ll get spillage on your bench. If the vegetables haven’t created enough juice to keep them covered by the next day, add some more brine.

Ferment Hack 5.
Play around with lids. For coconut kefir yoghurt I use cheesecloth held over a glass jar with a rubber band. For vegetables I use a glass jar with a glass lid, opening it every few days to release the build up of carbon dioxide and avoid the liquid building up and exploding over the top. Remove mould as you go.

Ferment Hack 6.
Avoid metal. Apparently the little beneficial bugs you’re growing don’t like metal. And the fizzy ferment will erode your metal lids and containers. I use a wooden chop stick to mush up the cell walls of the vegetables or a wooden spoon.

Ferment Hack 7.
Add flavours! My favourites are fresh ginger chunks, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, lavender, cinnamon quills, lemon grass leaves, herbal tea leaves. Apparently you can’t add anything once the fermentation process has started so choose your flavours early.

Ferment Hack 8.
Add at least a spoonful of homemade probiotics to each meal to improve digestion and boost your health.

Ferment Hack 9.
I use left overs. The environmentalist in me was stoked to find out that saving some dregs from your last ferment will give your next batch a rip roaring start. I also use fermentation if my veggies look a bit on the limp side and otherwise might go to waste.

Ferment Hack 10.
Just bloody do it. It is literally as easy as dissolving some salt in water, packing some vegetables into the jar, covering the jar, leaving sit for a few days, tasting, moving it to the fridge when the taste is right.

Ferment Hack 11.
Play around with starters. Trial yeast starter cultures, SCOBY starters, kefir grains and whey. I stick with salt or celery juice because I don’t have to order these online or keep them “alive”.

My favourite recipes are:
Coconut Kefir Yoghurt
Kombucha
Beet Kvass
Cinnamon Clove Carrot Cucumber Combo

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