Fermented foods have been around since before people started writing down recipes. It first began as a way to preserve foods which spoiled quickly. As time when on, people realized there were some great benefits to eating and drinking the fermented foods. One of the reasons for including some type of fermented food on a daily basis is the increase in probiotics which result from the fermentation process.
The kinds of fermented foods are as endless as your imagination.
- Probably the best know is yogurt. Unfortunately most of the yogurts found in the super markets are highly processed foods which contain a large amount of sugar to make it sweet.
- Kefir is another fermented dairy product which is gaining popularity. This fermented drink can be made from water, cow's milk, goat's milk, and coconut milk, and probably others which I haven't even thought of yet.
- Fermented vegetables. Saurkraut is probably the most well known, but any most any vegetable can be fermented.
- Bread. Sourdough bread was a staple during the pioneer years of America. The starter was passed down from mother to daughter and the same starter made bread from the East coast to California.
Today, in the world of antibiotic over use, more and more people are realizing how beneficial added fermented foods to their daily regiman can be. We started by making saurkraut, probably one of the easiest fermented foods to make. Just slice up the cabbage, mix with celtic or real salt, place into a crock and pound until the liquid comes up above the cabbage. Put a small plate on top, add a weight to keep it down, cover and in a few days you will have saurkraut. This is the simplified version and it is easy. I admit our first batch wasn't great, I added way too much salt which preserved it more than fermented the cabbage, leaving it crunchy, but it was a great learning experience. Since that first batch, we have been enjoying our own home made saurkraut regularly.
Our next experiment with fermented foods started with making water kefir. I wanted something healthier than water for our morning smoothies. Making water kefir is super easy once you re-hydrate the kefir grains. All it takes is a couple of minutes to dissolve some raw cane sugar for the grains to feed on, fill the jar with water, let it cool to room temperature and add the grains, cover and one to two days later you have water kefir and a great source of probiotics to add to your smoothies or just drink plain. You can also make flavored water kefir drinks by adding fruit extracts and your choices of healthy fruit soda kefir drinks are only limited by your imagination of what types of fruit to use.
Don't want to make a smoothy? Try adding one of the following to your water kefir (after removing the kefir grains):
- 1/4 cup lemon juice to each quart of water kefir, serve cold.
- 2-3 tsp. good quality vanilla extract per quart for a Cream Soda Water Kefir
- Water Kefir "Soda" combine four parts water kefir and one part fruit juice in air-tight bottle, allow to sit for several days at room temperature before refrigerating. Adding hte juice continues to feed the live yeast and bacteria in the water kefir. This process creates gas and normally some level of carbonation. Use caution when opening the bottle.
- Mix one part kefir water with one part herbal infusion (tea). Almost any herbs can be used. Combine a handful of fresh or dried herbs with one quart boiling water. Allow the herb and water mixture to sit for more than 6 hours, drain. Be sure the herbal mixture is completely cool before mixing with the water kefir.
Grape juice water kefir: Add kefir grains to 1-2 quarts of organic grape juice. Allow the juice to culture for 24-48 hours. Note: a longer fermentation period will yield a higher alcohol content due to the amount of sugar in the juice. Variation: Use apple juice or raspberry juice.
Yogurt is another great fermented food which is fairly easy to make and doesn't require expensive equipment. You can make it inexpensively using a jar, warm water, milk and a yogurt culture, or purchase a temp
erature controled yogurt maker you can just plug in and let the machine do it for you.