Channel that inner homesteader.
I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic has radically changed our lives. Not only has it shed light on myriad systems that people have started to take matters into their own hands but with so much spare time in quarantine, it seems that many people have also taken this time to pick up and try new activities. (e.g. building a home gym, indoor gardening, baking, etc.)
Also Read: Growing Your Own Indoor Herb Garden 101
It all started with sourdough bread. There was a good moment where loaves of homemade bread took over all our feeds. Everyone, it seemed, was in a frenzy and learned to make sourdough bread and starter from scratch. And there truly never has been a better time than now to try something new.
If you’ve already hopped on the bread-baking era of quarantine, then you would know that sourdough is made through the process of fermentation. If not, and you’re just looking to embark on the fermentation station journey, here’s a 101 on fermenting your own food and drinks at home.
Check Out: Let’s Get This Bread (Delivery)!
What is Fermenting?
Fermentation was created as a way to preserve produce throughout the changes in seasons, especially in certain countries. The word “ferment” comes from the Latin verb “fervere,” which means “to boil.” But ironically, fermentation is completely possible without heat.
Basically, it’s the use of microorganisms to achieve either a certain flavor, the added health benefits, or to simply preserve. There are 3 types of fermentation.
Lactic Acid Fermentation
Lactic acid fermentation, also known as Lacto-fermentation, is the most common form of fermentation. “Lacto”, which is short for Lactobacillus, is a bacteria that can be found all around us.
During the process of fermentation, these bacteria eat the sugar or glucose and in time turn it into lactic acid which gives the fermented food and drinks you love that sour taste. It’s the main component of kimchi and other fermented food like yogurt.
Ethyl Alcohol Fermentation
Ethanol fermentation, also called alcoholic fermentation, is a process where yeast breaks down the molecules in sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose that will eventually produce ethanol and into food products like wine and beer.
Acetic Acid Fermentation
Acetic acid fermentation goes through the process of converting glucose to ethanol and ethanol to acetic acid. This is usually used for fermenting grains and fruits and turning them into sour versions of themselves like apple cider vinegar.
Preserves and Keeps Food Longer
Fermented food and drinks can last months. It’s even ideal to keep them in storage for longer because it only gives them more flavor. Not only will it help you cut down on waste but it’s also the perfect way to save money.
Good for Your Gut and Helps with Digestion
Eating fermented foods can help increase your immune function and overall digestive health. The enzymes it produces aids in breaking down the food you eat and absorb all the nutrients the food you consume contains.
Fermented food and drinks have a distinct and unique flavor that cannot be found elsewhere. It’s funky, sour, and all-around delicious. It’s also a great way to experiment in the kitchen as different flavor combinations and concoctions produce different results.
What Can You Ferment?
Long answer short, you can ferment just about anything! But here are some of our favorite foods that are made through fermentation and some that you may or may not already know actually require fermentation:
What You Need to Start Fermenting Just About Anything at Home
The foundation of most fermented recipes calls for salt. This is particularly used in lactic acid fermentation. It’s important that you invest in good quality, chemical-free salt.
It’s recommended that you don’t use iodized or table salt as it tends to inhibit the beneficial bacteria that can be found in vegetables. Instead, use something like sea salt, kosher salt, Himalayan salt, pickling salt, Celtic salt, etc.
Use a food-grade air-tight vessel to hold whatever food you want. Mason jars and old canning jars you have laying around the house are a great practical choice. Make sure not to use a plastic or stainless steel container. If you have the extra cash and want to invest, there are also fancy containers available specifically for pickling and fermentation.
How to Ferment 101
Choose and use the proper equipment
Fermenting food and drinks actually don’t really need a lot of special equipment and tools. But it’s important that you use the appropriate equipment as it can make all the difference in results. You might want to consider using a wide mouth jar with an airlock tight lid.
Prepare the produce
There are several ways to prepare the vegetables for fermenting you can either choose to grate, shred, chop, slice or leave them whole. It’s all a matter of personal choice.
Decide whether to use salt, whey, or starter culture
Salt and water are the only things you need for Lacto-fermentation, which is usually what most fermented food recipes call for. Some recipes call for fresh whey as a fermented starter, but it isn’t necessary.
Using salt will give just the same result. You can also use a vegetable starter culture for faster fermentation, but it also isn’t essential.
Prepare the brine
A big part of fermenting food that usually intimidates a lot of people is how much salt to use. Weigh out your vegetables for best results. You need to have enough brine to fully submerge the vegetables. As a rule of thumb, you need 2 grams of salt for every 100 grams of vegetable.
Weigh vegetables down under the brine
Once you’ve finished preparing the vegetables and brine and have placed them in your chosen vessel, weigh them down under the brine using a small glass with a bit of weight. This is to ensure that you are keeping them in an anaerobic environment.
Store in a cool and dry place
Find a room that doesn’t get any sunlight and store your vegetables at room temperature for at least a couple of days. How long will entirely depend on your taste preference so you can check on it every other day. To know when exactly it’s “finished” culturing, signs such as bubbling, sour aroma, and strong flavor are good signifiers.
Make sure to “burp” aka open your bottles/jars ever so slightly to release excess pressure in the container. Some recommend doing it every day but it works just as well every other day. When satisfied with the flavor, you can store them in the fridge for you to enjoy for months!
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