I have been reading up on food and digestion lately (see my book references below) and have fallen head over heels in love with fermentation. I am Czech and eating fermented and pickled food is a big part of our culinary tradition, but having read up on things, I realised that a lot of the foods that used to be homemade and full of live beneficial bacteria when made at home we now buy in supermarket where it is sterilised – therefore dead.
I am quite a sickly person, and I am not at all acclimated to life in Europe (I have grown up in much warmer climates) so usually a winter doesn’t go by without me having to do at least one course of antibiotics for a bronchitis or a pharyngitis. I have just finished one month of antibiotics actually. So probiotics and gut health is a real concern for me.
I have made the first attempts at fermentation some time ago, but it ended up too salty. The last batch was red cabbage with salt and cumin only and it tastes really good and I have also used it in cooking.
In the last weeks I have been fermenting ginger with sugar (so called “Ginger Bug” – link to a recipe below)to have a good ginger basis for a morning drink or to add to a smoothie and it turned out so tasty, that even my husband asks for a glass.
I have also started harrassing people with my old/new discoveries and offering tastings to people. It annoys or amuses some, but many are really interested.
It seems that fermentation is becoming the new fashion. Some of my friends who enjoy cooking and eating well are also starting to engage in it actively. One friend makes home made sourdough bread, another has been fermenting kombucha tea, and another makes home sauerkraut for her kids (with organic store ferments).
Fermentation is nothing new really, it’s how most traditionnal recipes have preserved vegetables for centuries, in so many cultures around the world. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there for many different types of fermented foods – I am planning to explore kimchi, fermented and pickled radishes and red beet, as well as fermented apple sauce and chutneys next.
What a nice way of enriching our palates and taking care of our health, while making something with our own hands ! So satisfying.
Below my book references for fermentation, rules, recipes, examples and health benefits:
- Cooked by Michael Pollan – fermentation is one of the four types of cooking M. Pollan explores in his book – easy to read, and has even been made into a Netflix documentary I would warmly recommend.
- Wild fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz – one of the books Pollan himself refers too, you can see more of Mr. Katz and his fermentation ways on Youtube videos such as these or on his page
- Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders explaining how taking care of our gut (and gut flora) helps both our physical and mental health
My two key web references / recipes (but there are so many more so go explore!):
- Homemade Ginger Bug – makes a very tasty and slightly spicy and fizzy basis for a summer lemonade – I keep a bottle of the filtered liquid in the fridge and mix with apple juice or with water, lemon and mint leaves for a refreshing and healthy drink.
- Homemade sauerkraut – easy, low maintenance and delicious – great for use in czech or slovak traditional recipes such as Halusky se zelim or cabbage soup…