Beer, Cheese, or Kombucha: What to Know About Home Fermenting
Fermentation is one of the world’s oldest methods of food preservation, dating back as far as 5,000 B.C. In modern times, home fermentation serves as both a hobby as well as a means of using produce and other food that’s likely to spoil. Many traditional culinary favorites, such as beer, cheese and pickles are the result of fermentation. Nutritionists and home-based fermentation enthusiasts alike tout the health benefits of fermented foods: They contain high levels of beneficial bacteria, and they’re revered for their detoxification properties, aiding the body in the elimination of a variety of toxins, including heavy metals. While the idea of home fermenting may sound overwhelming, you’ll find that the process is a simple one. You may even have most of the tools you need to get started right in your kitchen. Let the following tips serve as your guide to home fermentation success.
Take a Home Fermentation Crash Course
A number of communities offer fermentation classes that teach you the basics of the ancient practice, but you don’t need to shell out any money on instruction when there’s so much information available online. Research several fermentation methods, and take the time to learn about commonly fermented foods. For instance, sauerkraut is just fermented cabbage, while kombucha is the result of fermenting sweet tea with yeast cultures.
You should also familiarize yourself with brine, which acts as a catalyst in many fermentation recipes. A natural preservative, brine is made with filtered water that’s chlorine- and fluoride-free, and blended with a starter culture, salt, or celery juice.
Search Your Cabinets for Fermenting Tools
Although fermenting equipment can be found online and in many specialty stores, you don’t need it to get started. Most of the tools you’ll need for home fermenting are probably already in your kitchen. A home fermenting kit may include glass bowls for mixing, wooden spoons and chopsticks for stirring, along with finishing accessories: mason jars and lids, cloth napkins and coffee filters, as well as twine or rubber bands for temporary sealing.
Steer Clear of Plastic Containers
In the fermentation world, plastic is a massive faux pas, and it may even jeopardize your health. Plastic containers can cause chemicals to seep into food, leading to foul flavors and potential health hazards. Metal is also a big no-no, because salts used in the fermentation process can corrode metal. No matter if your ultimate goal is to make cheese, pickles, kombucha, or something else altogether, glass jars and bottles are your best bet.
Learn the Signs of Fermentation Gone Wrong
You may be wondering how you can tell the difference between a successful home fermenting project and spoiled food. Your ferment may be unsafe if you observe fuzz or mold, notice a pungent, unpleasant smell, or when your vegetables seem discolored or slimy. Reasons for bad fermentation results include the presence of harmful bacteria due to incorrect preparation or exposure to high levels of oxygen.
Home Fermentation Best Practices
Don’t be discouraged if some of your fermentation projects aren’t successful. Home fermenting takes time, knowledge, and experimentation. Keep trying, and make sure to share your yummy results with others in your 55+ community.