Fermented Foods

fermented foods

Life in a 14 foot trailer can get very interesting. Especially when you’re trying to eat fresh, whole foods and your refrigerator will hold about enough for one day. Our fridge is about the size of a large cooler. Just try getting a gallon of raw milk, a half gallon of carrot juice, a quart of green juice, condiments, cheese, meats, salad fixin’s and enough other veggies and fruits in there for a week. Enter a new way of thinking about food storage.

Milk and juices get poured into pint canning jars with leakproof lids and they manage to squeeze in. Homemade yogurt and cheese are stored the same way. A small amount of meat fits in the freezer, along with the ice jugs for the cooler we use for extra produce. Eggs go in little tiny bins that fit in the door. I have always been big on canning homemade foods,  but I am less inclined to want the extra sugar and salt these days. I want to know how they did it before canning kettles and pressure canners. For this reason, I have been reading up on fermented foods.

Fermenting foods is really a simple process, though it is time-consuming in the respect that you have to wait for the chemical reaction to take place before eating. The salt water brine reacts with the acids in the food and creates lactic acid, which preserves the food and creates the interesting flavors associated with fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt and sourdough bread. Now I want to learn to ferment more foods on a regular basis. Especially since I am tired of the digestive upset I get with most conventional processed foods. I have made sourdough bread from my own starter. My sauerkraut was a big hit with my family a few years ago. This past year I fermented cucumbers and horseradish I picked up at the farmer’s markets I patronized every week. I made yogurt and cottage cheese from raw milk I got from my cow share program. I am feeling so much better since adding more fermented foods to my diet.

Why all this interest in fermenting? Other than the storage and preservation issues, I have found that eating fermented foods (homemade) every day has helped eliminate the problems I was having with my digestive tract. I also avoid store bought processed foods. Fermenting retains more of the nutrients in the foods being fermented, in addition to producing beneficial bacteria for the digestive tract. Think about the beneficial bacteria in yogurt – that’s what we’re talking about here. Fermented foods are also recommended as a daily addition to a diet designed to prevent and heal tooth decay.

There are a number of articles and websites about fermenting foods. One book I found helpful recently is Wild Fermentation, By Sandor Ellix Katz. In it, Katz recalls his grandmother’s fermented foods and explores the fermented foods of other cultures (no pun intended). He shares recipes in each category: dairy, vegetables, bread and several other types of food and beverage. He also offers general tips for fermenting, making starters and testing for readiness to eat. Another book I’m reading, Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagy, includes detailed info on fermenting grains and legumes to remove the phytic acid and make them safer for eating. I think I’m going to pass on all that complicated process and just get good sourdough, but if you’re interested, it’s there. Numerous websites also offer recipes and tips on fermenting. Now I think I’m ready to make some yogurt.



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