Adventures with fermented foods

In my research into how to feed my family nourishing foods, I’ve been skirting the crunchier areas of the Internet. It’s a weird world out there. Anyway, I experimented with making homemade yogurt, which is pretty easy when cooked in a slow cooker. It turned out more or less yogurt-textured, and tasted great.

Encouraged by this success, I tried out lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Which in layman’s terms is just sauerkraut with yogurt whey as a starter. It strove to escape the jars and tasted exactly like store bought, except not pasteurized. (They have to kill the good bacteria or the jars would explode on the shelves.)

Pickled peppers
By Ted Sakshaug, via Wikimedia Commons

Then my sister in law gave me the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. This is the big guns of crunchy. It’s persuaded me to try organ meat and coconut milk and other strange things. Probably the tamest thing in it are the lacto-fermented recipes.

From Wellness Mama:

Probiotics- Eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks like Kefir and Kombucha will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help the balance of bacteria in your digestive system. Probiotics have also been shown to help slow or reverse some diseases, improve bowel health, aid digestion and improve immunity!
Absorb Food Better- Having the proper balance of gut bacteria and enough digestive enzymes helps you absorb more of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Pair this with your healthy real food diet, and you will absorb many more nutrients from the foods you eat. You won’t need as many supplements and vitamins, and you’ll be absorbing more of the live nutrients in your foods.
Budget Friendly- Incorporating healthy foods into your diet can get expensive, but not so with fermented foods. You can make your own whey at home for a couple of dollars, and using that and sea salt, ferment many foods very inexpensively. Drinks like Water Kefir and Kombucha can be made at home also and cost only pennies per serving. Adding these things to your diet can also cut down on the number of supplements you need, helping the budget further.
Preserves Food Easily- Homemade salsa only lasts a few days in the fridge- Fermented homemade salsa lasts months! The same goes for sauerkraut, pickles, beets and other garden foods. Lacto-fermentation allows you to store these foods for longer periods of time without losing the nutrients like you would with traditional canning.

Anyway, while going through the recipes, I thought fermented marmalade sounded pretty good. So I hacked up an orange, dumped in whey and salt, and left it on the counter to work its magic.

It tasted…alarming. As if I’d picked up an orange where it had been on the ground for six months and squeezed the fermented juice into my mouth. The orange peels remained tough as leather, and chewing was a chore. I ate it on plain yogurt and had zero stomach problems. In fact it made my stomach feel gloriously content. It was worth the alarming taste and chewing.

Then cherries went on sale, so I made some cherry chutney. Fermented cherries are just as alarming as oranges, but they’re a lot easier to chew.

And again, it was worth it to have zero stomach problems.

So I went through the recipes again and decided to try some raisin chutney. It has a lot more spices in it, and I figured it would help with the alarming fermented taste. And oh man, did it! Stirred into yogurt, raisin chutney is a treat. I’d almost given up on fermenting anything but sauerkraut and pickles.

Speaking of which, last weekend I started some sauerkraut and pickled bell peppers (in two separate jars) on the counter. It’s just the veggies, filtered water, salt, and whey. My cabbage was leftover from another recipe and I have a ton of bell peppers. Man, they ferment right up. My peppers sit and bubble like a carbonated beverage that never goes flat. Halfway through the week I tasted my peppers and decided I wanted them spicier, so I added a diced jalapeno.

I opened them both today to eat on hot dogs. Oh man. The sauerkraut is really good, but those pickled peppers. My goodness. They have that salty, sour taste of pickles, they’re lovely and crunchy, but the jalapeno gave them this extra bite. I think I could sit and eat the entire jar. I’m going to pickle a whole bunch more of them.

So those are my adventures with fermented foods. Since I started trying to eat them, my morning sickness dropped to nearly nothing. (Well, that and the coconut milk I was adding to my breakfast cereal.) My insomnia is completely gone and I haven’t had any problems with allergies. And that’s eating one spoonful of fermented stuff on yogurt every night before bed. That’s all!

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