Guest post by Heidi, Kitchen Talk & Travels
Ever since I was a child I have loved sauerkraut and sour dill pickles! A year or so ago I started making my own sauerkraut and it was mind blowing. Shot every jar of kraut I had ever eaten right out of the ball park.
I wondered what would happen if I fermented asparagus or beetroot leaves or carrots and ginger and so began my experimental phase of fermenting just about everything that grew! Some worked well like the carrot and ginger along with celery but the asparagus didn’t really work nor did the beetroot leaves! But that just made me more determined to ferment everything in sight.
I knew about the health benefits of sauerkraut but never really delved into them in detail. Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and the press was full of news of our “microbiome” – the important part of our intestines that send the messages to our immune system to keep us healthy. That’s the cheap explanation and of course I could end up going down a black hole trying to understand it all.
Studies were commissioned and results shared – you could ‘heal yourself’, ‘feed your immune system’, cold proof your life and so many more claims. All you have to do was eat a wide variety of foods every day and whenever possible include foods that had been fermented. Many of our everyday foods have an element of fermentation. Take for example live yogurt, kefir, chocolate (before all the additives that change it into your favourite candy bar), wine, beer, kombucha and of course sauerkraut.
Since the Coronavirus lockdown this year more and more people have started baking at home and in particular baking their own bread. Flour shortages earlier this year backed that up. The big favourite is sourdough bread and before you know it there is the fermentation as part of the process.
For most fermentation you don’t need special equipment just large, clean jars, salt, water and something to keep the vegetables under the water. For sourdough bread you need to have a “starter” – a pre-mix of flour and water allowed to ‘ferment’ then you keep it going by ‘feeding’ it once a week. Some sourdough starters have been going for years. I have been given a starter that is reported to be over 100 years old!
However, beware! Once you get into sourdough baking it is like having a new born baby (hahaha). You need to feed it at certain regular intervals and you check it and worry about it and hope it will survive! Some people even name their starter but I have yet to do that. When you feed it (or refresh it) you are left with what they refer to as discard which you can either throw away, put on your compost heap or use it to make pancakes, crumpets, muffins or indeed any other baking. This is really what I wanted to do as part of my sourdough journey as I do love baking and adding your ‘discarded’ starter to your favourite bake elevates the benefits to your digestion system and therefor to your overall health.
So, visit me in my kitchen and you will see jars of various sizes with foments at different stages including garlic and onions for a garlic sauce, tomatoes, chillies and peppers for a hot sauce, shredded cabbage for sauerkraut and a starter waiting to be turned into delicious bakes.
I hope you find the fermenting bug – I did and I don’t regret a moment!