Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You Can Ferment Anything!


Making grape soda... or possibly wine
Our latest fermentation experiment is grape juice. We're using natural fermentation to turn it into a soda... or possibly a sparkling wine, depending on how it turns out! Other things we've got fermenting in the kitchen right now are sourdough starter, sauerkraut, salsa, honey wine, kombucha, beet kvass, and two types of kefir. It's so easy! Follow the links to see my instructions on each of these.

Fermentation is a natural preservation method. The idea is to control the growth of bacteria with certain cultures and sometimes the addition of salt, to promote the good stuff and create an inhospitable environment for the bad stuff. In a dark cabinet of my cool pantry (OK, just a corner of the garage) several jars of my homemade sauerkraut lasted for several months without any problems; no refrigeration needed! Kombucha will keep, tightly sealed in a cool place, indefinitely. And fresh salsa, which normally would need to be used within a few days, will last for a month or two after 3 days of fermentation! Unlike canning or freezing, fermentation preserves food while enhancing its nutritional profile.

Refreshing, healing Beet Kvass
It's astonishing how many of our modern day foods were traditionally naturally fermented. There's the obvious ones, like sauerkraut, pickles, and beer, which are rarely actually fermented anymore. Large scale production requires a kind of uniformity that can't be so easily achieved through natural fermentation. Plus it's just quicker and cheaper to use large amounts of vinegar and/or sugar to mimic natural fermentation. Ketchup was also traditionally a fermented food. Think how much healthier we would be if this ubiquitous product was still prepared in a nutritionally beneficial way! I still haven't tried making fermented ketchup, but it's on the list!

Sometimes fermentation changes the flavor or consistency of foods, or creates carbonation or alcohol, and generally fermentation makes things more digestible and nutritionally accessible. It's amazing to watch a jar of milk thicken overnight into kefir. How does it do that? Twice a day I stir my gallon of soda, and suddenly it bubbles ferociously, letting me know it's alive and ready for bottling. It's so exciting, like some kind of hybrid between a garden and a laboratory.

Honey Wine ready for bottling
During my early attempts I made some batches of foods that had to be tossed. The pickled ginger I was so excited about, and spent two hours peeling two pounds of organic ginger for, ended up tasting like rotten cheese, and my second attempt at making sauerkraut just went completely off, for some reason. The pickled grape leaves I tried making just seemed moldy. It was almost enough to make me give up on the process, but fortunately I had enough successes along the way to keep up my enthusiasm; my curiosity and quest for nutritious recipes also helped me try, try again... These days I have several recipes I know by heart, and am always trying new fermentations as well. There's a whole world out there of things to ferment!

From left: Honey Wine, Kombucha, Rootbeer
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46 comments:

  1. ok I am wanting to try and make the Kombucha but need a starter. Now I know there has to be a way to make your own starter. I looked on line and the $ is crazy someone had to make the starter for everyone to know about it. So my question is how do I make my own?

    urmsbunny@yahoo.com

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    1. I waited to make mine for about a year, before I finally found a friend who made her own and gave me a starter. We didn't want to pay $20 to order it. Meanwhile, we were buying a few bottles every month, and we would have saved $$ by just paying for a starter sooner. Sometimes you can find a starter on a group like freecycle or craigslist. Also, I haven't tried this, but if you can buy raw, active kombucha from the store, you can use a couple bottles in a gallon jar, pour in some cooled, sweetened tea, and grow your starter from that. Here's my kombucha recipe: http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/01/make-your-own-komucha.html

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    2. You can just buy a bottle of plain kombucha from the store. Make up your tea as usual, just put a little less water in it. Then pour half the bottle in your cooled tea. It takes about a week to see a thin scoby. I made mine in a quart jar so that we could get some kombucha by the end of the week. I originally tried it in my 3 quart bowl, but it took forever for the scoby to be strong enough for that size container. Good luck.

      Kerri

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  2. You need your own episode ; ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYey8ntlK_E

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    1. Love it. I will ferment anything!

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  3. You've inspired me with your fermenting!

    Thanks for stopping by and linking up at The Carnival of Home Preserving today!

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  4. I loved this post it was right up my alley:) I love making water Kefir and Sourdough and I want to make other things but haven't settled on the next healthy thing I should try that wouldn't be expensive or hard to come by. Do you have any suggestions. I am super frugal. I am your newest follower from the carnival. Please stop by and visit me.

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    1. Try sauerkraut! It's cheap, and way better than the stuff they sell at grocery stores.
      http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/05/making-lacto-fermented-sauerkraut.html

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  5. Pickling or fermenting foods/beverages is somewhat lost because we have refrigeration and most people will not go to the trouble necessary to pickle or can anymore... I love the process, it makes me feel much more connected to my food...

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    1. Me too, Madge! I love being able to transform things to make them tastier, healthier, and keep longer all at the same time!

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  6. Newest follower here! I found you through the Wednesday recipe link up! Thanks for the recipe, it looks so yummy!
    -meandmr.com

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  7. It's nice to see that you are persevering even after failure...so many give up after one bad batch!

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  8. Good luck, I know it's tricky to get the system down, but once you do, you will enjoy your labors. Root Beer sounds *really* good!

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  9. Love this!! Trying it for the first time right now making some fermented apple cider! Great blog!!

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    1. Thank you Becky! Is it going well?

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  10. I am inviting you to come and share this in my Show Your Stuff blog hop, the party runs from Thursday evening until Tuesday: http://juliejewels1.blogspot.com/

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  11. Hello! I’m stopping in to invite you to join us at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!
    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/11/clever-chicks-blog-hop-7-country-craft.html

    I hope to see you there!
    Cheers!
    Kathy
    The Chicken Chick

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  12. I keep telling myself I need to check into fermenting -- after all, I always have leftover whey to be used after making cheese. Thanks for the inspiring post. Think I will give it a go this weekend.

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  13. You always have such great information! I have this tweeted and pinned! Thanks for linking up at Gluten Free Fridays! Cindy

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  14. I love this! Thanks for the great information. I'll have to try it sometime.

    Blessings~
    Shari

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  15. Fermentation has always amazed me too :) I would love to have you link up to the Wildcrafting Wednesday blog hop this week! The link to last week's hop is:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2012/12/wildcrafting-wednesday.html

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  16. There's a lot more to fermentation than I first thought! I have just bottled up some rhubarb wine, which will be ready sometime next year.

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    1. Yum, rhubarb wine! What a great idea!

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  17. Would love to know how to ferment soy. I just found out that what we buy here in the US is not fermented and does not have the health benefits that the Japanese enjoy from their fermented soy.

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    1. I have the hardest time finding nama shoyu, but if you can find it, it is a traditionally fermented, raw soy sauce. Many health food stores do carry it, or could order it for you. My friend is making miso by fermenting soy beans, a year-long process. In the end, she'll have a batch of miso and a batch of nama shoyu!
      Tofu is fermented, and so is tempeh and miso. I'm sure the Kikoman soy sauce that is so common isn't naturally fermented. You could always buy soy sauce and then try fermenting it yourself (I'm definitely going to try this!)

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  18. Hi Lovely, I'm your new follower from Blog Hop.
    Love your awesome blog. Feel free to check out & follow my blog @ www.revampspunkyrena.com
    xoxo
    Rena

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  19. Hi Emily,
    This is so interesting. I have never tried fermenting anything before. Does the grape soda taste like a regular grape soda or does it taste different? Thanks so much for sharing at Wednesday's Adorned From Above Blog Hop.
    Debi and Charly @ Adorned From Above
    Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures
    Nichi @ The Mandatory Mooch

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    1. The homemade grape soda from storebought grape juice tasted like grape soda! We loved it. The grape soda from grape juice we made ourselves was pretty different, but also really good. It was just surprisingly hard getting juice from grapes, but well worth the work!

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    2. do you have recipes for your 2 grape sodas? I am new to fermenting and would love to try these! thank you!

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    3. I don't have an article about making grape sodas specifically, but this one is about how to make soda from any type of juice, homemade or storebought:
      http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-turn-any-juice-into-lacto.html

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  20. I am just starting with fermentation, so this post was particularly interesting to me-thanks you for sharing it at Seasonal Celebration! Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network x

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  21. Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope you join us again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/03/flip-trainer-review-at-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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  22. Hope you are having a great weekend and thank you so much for sharing this awesome post with Full Plate Thursday.
    Hope to see you soon!
    Miz Helen

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  23. You are fermenting all sorts of great things! Lots of money saving happening when you make it yourself. I need to try the honey wine! Thank you for linking up with us for Fabulously Frugal Thursday

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  24. Thank you for sharing this with us on Tuned-in Tuesday Blog Hop! Hope to see you again! http://www.healthyrootshappysoul.com/2013/04/tuned-in-tuesday-blog-hop-7.html

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  25. I haven't done anything with fermenting yet. Perhaps when cabbage comes in at the market this year, we will give it a go. Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Greens!

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  26. Great information! Fermenting is so good for our bodies. Visiting from Real Food Fridays Thanks for sharing!

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  27. This is one thing I wanted to try, but have been putting it off due to all the first time failures I have read about. Guess I should just dive in and fail a couple of times during the learning process. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays.

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  28. I love your blog! So exciting thinking about what to ferment next :D

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  29. Hi - Have you ever used ginger bug instead of whey to ferment vegetables? I know a starter isn't "required", but I like the reassurance... and I ALWAYS have ginger bug on hand that needs to be used. Just wondering if it would act in the same 'way' as 'whey' to kick-start a pickle! ...any thoughts?... Thanks!

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  30. I've never made pickles! That said, I would think ginger bug would be a great substitute for whey in pickles. It has such a great flavor!

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