I had the pleasure of seeing Sandor Katz, aka Sandorkraut, the self-proclaimed “fermentation revivalist” and author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Country Fair this autumn. His presentation was about wild fermentation, an ancient practice. What I loved about his presentation is that he kept it so simple! It inspired me to go home and try it myself.
Here is his simple method for fermenting fruits and veggies:
1. Gather your preferred ingredients and chop them. He used a small head of cabbage, a daikon radish, a carrot or two, and a celeriac.
2. Place the chopped ingredients in a glass bowl and either manually squeeze or use a mashing tool to get all of it nice and juicy.
3. Intermittently add 3-4 pinches of unrefined salt. You can add more salt to suit your palate.
4. Continue to mash or squeeze until you can pick up a handful and squeeze juice out of it.
5. Place the ingredients in a wide-mouthed jar and press the food down so that it’s submerged and has liquid on top. Cover with the jar’s lid. He used small jelly jars. I used a recycled pickle jar.
6. Leave it on a counter and open the jar daily to allow any gas to escape.
7. Taste it every few days until it reaches the tang and texture that suits your palate. Ferment the food for a few days to two weeks or more.
8. When it’s done to your liking, place it in “the fermentation slowing device”, aka your fridge.
So what are the wildly wonderful benefits of fermented foods? So glad you asked! They are as follows:
• It’s fun and creative! You can ferment any blend of fruits, veggies, legumes, and spices.
• No huge financial investment is required. As mentioned, I used a recycled pickle jar. I had no mold issues and the days were balmy at 75 degrees. Even if mold occurs, it can be scraped off.
• Save your refrigerator from unwanted science experiments, e.g. “what food produces purple mold?”! I took food that needed quick use but had no recipe home yet.
• It’s good for your health! Fermented foods contain probiotics–live good bacteria, aka flora–that keep harmful bacteria from colonizing and/or overtaking the gastrointestinal tract, aid in supplying nutrients, and maintain the immunity of the stomach and intestinal lining (GI mucosa). Studies have also shown that probiotics can prevent or reduce cancer and help those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) keep it in remission.
• It’s safe! For adults who are generally healthy, probiotics are generally safe. It can sometimes be safer than raw fruits and vegetables.
• It’s an interesting and a time honored tradition! According to the National Academy of Sciences, pottery shards from the early Neolithic village of Jiahu in Henan province in China reveal that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit (hawthorn fruit and/or grape) was being produced as early as the seventh millennium BCE. This prehistoric drink laid the foundation for other fermented cereal drinks of the proto-historic second millennium BCE, astonishingly still preserved in liquid form inside sealed bronze vessels of the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties. Wild fermentation definitely fits in the truly time-tested category!
• Finally, the last wildly wonderful benefit of fermented food is the best. It’s yummy! It satisfies those with the taste for tang!
Also by Marina: Top 10 Tips to Manage Stress and Build Resilience
Ready to try some fermented food recipes? Vegan Korean Doenjang Jjigae
Photo: Marina Miller; Jasja Dekker