Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fermentation happens ...

Yes it does! And thankfully so ... What an easy, tasty and oh so nutritious way to preserve the bounty of summer's harvest. So far this summer I've pickled beets, okra, cucumbers and made sauerkraut. I am even fermenting my morning oats these days to increase their nutritional content. I use a live fermentation method that I learned from Wild Fermentation, which I recommend to people left and right. It is chock full of easy recipes from all around the world, nutritional information, and Sandor Katz is incredibly inspiring (he's an AIDS survivor, attributing part of his healing to fermented foods). With this method of pickling you use only salt, maybe a little water, and allow things to open ferment, attracting live, beneficial bacteria from the environment. My favorite part about this method (besides that it takes minimal effort) is that it allows one to really observe the interaction of unseen organisms that are always all around us. We get to see, or taste, the unseen.

The other night we had a pickle dinner, a dinner to showcase all the beautiful, living foods I've created (with the help of Lactobacilli). Organic all beef hotdogs and fresh bread were the mere background to the purple sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers and okra.

There are certainly fermentation failures too. It is a finicky, trail-and-error kind of process, with lots of tasting along the way required. My first attempt at an open fermented hard cider grew mold on it. I'm trying another batch tonight and will post how it turns out. My pickles are softer than I'd like. But, I am learning about the culture around me, what it likes, how it tweaks the ingredients I present. And I've got ideas and tips for making next years pickles crunchier.

Next up on my list to try is herbal beers. I had a fabulous teacher for these this summer, and I plan to start dandelion, nettle and ginger beers within the week! They can be fermented a little, to be soda-pop-like, or a lot and become alcoholic. Brewer's choice.

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