It’s Fermenting For Foodies third birthday! And I wanted to celebrate with a fiesta inspired cupcake worthy of all Cinco de Mayo celebrations….
Fermented snacking vegetables are the one thing that I always have bubbling away on my kitchen counters. I love them for so many reasons.
Sauerkraut is one of the easiest things to ferment. It is a wonderfully reliable ferment, and can sit in a closet for several months without a problem. It is a great source of probiotics. But the biggest reason to DIY some sauerkraut is that homemade sauerkraut is so much BETTER than the stuff you find in a jar at your local grocery store.
Sauerkraut is a good go-to ferment for any fermentation newbie because cabbage naturally has lactic bacteria on it, so all that you need to do to make sauerkraut is to grate it! Luckily I have a pretty good mandolin and a food processor with a grating attachment. A box grater would work too, though it would take more time.
I often make sauerkraut in a mason jar with a weight but it does have a risk of contamination from free range molds, yeasts and bacteria (it’s only happened to me twice in the past 3 years, and I’ve made a LOT of sauerkraut). If you are concerned about spoilage, use fido jars or airlocks instead. If this is your first time fermenting something I recommend reading the Basic Fermentation Rules.
- 1 head of cabbage (approx. 2 lbs.)
- 1-2 tsp pickling salt (to taste)
- flavours (see note)
- Grate the cabbage and any other vegetable or fruit additions.
- Toss it with spices and salt.
- Pack it into a wide mouth mason jar(s) leaving at least 2" of head room. Use a spoon to really pound all the cabbage into the jar. If you pack it down enough, liquid will be pressed out of the cabbage, and you want enough to cover the cabbage. It's important to fully pack the cabbage into the jar, air bubbles increase the risk of contamination. Don't worry if you don't have enough liquid right away, it should produce it within 24 hours. So you can to leave your cabbage to sweat a bit then pack it down again.
- Leave the jar to ferment at room temperature (around 18 C if possible) and out of the sun. The goal is to have the cabbage kept from the air (by weights, fido or airlock), but still allow for the release of CO2. Even if I am using a weight I keep my jars loosely covered to prevent bugs from getting in.
- The first three days the cabbage will bubble and liquid may over flow from the jar (so put a tray underneath).
- Sauerkraut is ready when you decide it is done (anywhere between 5 days to 7 weeks, though I often just permanently leave my kraut in a cupboard since I'm short on space in my fridge).
- Store it in the fridge to stop the fermentation.
-Adding a cup of grated apple, fennel, cranberries or carrot will sweeten the kraut. Onion and garlic are savory additions. For a spicy kraut add hot pepper slices.
-Whole spices are another way to change the flavour. My favourite is: 1 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp mustard seed and 10 juniper berries. Some other popular combos include: 2 bay leaves and 5 black peppercorns; 2 tsp of mixed Indian curry spices; 1 tsp dill seed (for a pickle flavour).
-There’s a whole science to how the “flora” in sauerkraut changes over time. However, it should never be moldy, yeasty or smelly. Keeping everything clean is necessary for a good ferment.
The purple kraut in the photo is 3 weeks old, and the green kraut is in the first few days. The little pieces of cabbage are being pushed up around the sides of my weight by the carbon dioxide bubbles, and I have them sitting in bowls in case of overflow.
A good glassful of eggnog is definitely a tradition in our house! With brandy for the adults and without for the kids, what could be more enjoyable?
In the world of eggnog there are two different kinds… a thicker, cooked, custard-like eggnog that is usually what you find in your grocery store. This recipe is for a light and frothy uncooked version of eggnog. I like it better because it has all the delicious flavour of a cooked eggnog, but using cultured dairy means that it packs a probiotic punch! It’s also quicker to make (whipped up in 5 minutes top) and uses whole eggs rather than just a ton of yolks.
- 4 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup sugar (see notes)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 egg whites
- 3 ounces golden rum (optional)
- In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until lightening in colour.
- Add in sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
- Stir in milk, cream, and nutmeg.
- In a separate container whip egg whites with 1 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Stir egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 3 hours.
-I used powdered date sugar, but powdered white sugar is traditional (for quick dissolving). You could also use any powdered sweetener for sweetness.
-Use cultured milk and cream for a probiotic drink!
-You can add the rum into the yolk mixture, or leave it out to add to individual drinks.
We made eggnog for our tree decorating day… and though I took lovely pictures of my eggnog, the rest of the house was a mess!
I’ve been playing around in the world of homemade mustards, and naturally I wanted to add flavour by fermenting the seeds. In fact most homemade mustard recipes do involve presoaking mustard seeds, so adjusting recipes for fermentation purposes really just involved making sure that the soaking liquid would foster fermentation (brine + culture). I decided to start with a fairly basic mustard that most people have in their kitchens… the ubiquitous, Dijon Mustard.
According to my copy of the Joy of Cooking, Dijon Mustard is basically a plain mustard that has white wine as the base of it’s liquid (rather than vinegar or beer). However, most (nearly every) store bought jar of Dijon mustard contains sulfites. It’s what keeps the mustard looking bright for the long duration of it’s shelf-life. Since there are sulfite allergies in my household, I was very keen to try making some of my own!
- ¼ cup brown mustard seeds
- ¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
- ¼ cup cider vinegar with mother (see notes for alternatives)
- ¼ cup filtered water
- ½ tsp salt (non-iodized)
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Mix the mustard seeds with the salt, water, and cider vinegar in a non-reactive glass dish.
- Allow them to soak for 2 days.
- Mix in white wine and using a blender or an immersion blender grind the seeds to the desired consistency.
- Store in a glass jar, and allow to ripen for at least 2 weeks.
-You can replace the cider vinegar with whey, sauerkraut brine or kombucha. You just want an acid that will ferment the seeds.
-Mustard seeds will become less spicy over time so leave it to ripen in the fridge until the flavour suits you.
I love adding ferments to all sorts of dishes. Salads, in particular, are great for added ferments because they generally don’t involve cooking which means you get all the benefits of a live probiotic in addition to the amazing flavour.
The pickled beets in this otherwise classic potato salad make it so pretty and pink that my kids LOVE to eat it. And I love it as a potluck dish because sneaking probiotics into my friends and neighbours’ diets is what every Fermentation Foodie does!
- 2 lbs new potatoes
- ½ cup yogurt
- ½ cup chopped pickled beets
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 1 tbsp fresh chives
- salt and pepper to taste (will vary depending on the saltiness of your pickles)
- Wash and quarter potatoes.
- Boil the potatoes and eggs until potatoes are cooked (about 10 min). Drain and set aside to cool.
- Peel and slice eggs.
- Combine all the ingredients in a boll, toss to mix.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, then top with freshly chopped chives.
-The yogurt can be replaced with sour cream for a richer tasting salad.
-If you’re a super foodie fermentor, then you may want to replace the hard boiled eggs with fermented eggs.
-If you don’t have beet pickles, then just replace it with any other salty fermented pickle, or sauerkraut. It just won’t have that sweetness, nor the beautiful colour, but it will still taste great!
I love adding miso to salads. It gives them an Asian flavour with it’s complex and salty taste. However, my favourite reason to add miso to a salad is to give myself a good dose of probiotics!
This salad is a beautiful and delicious way to make use of a rather basic vegetable. It’s perfect as a side dish for any picnic or barbecue because the flavours only continue to improve over time.
- 6 large carrots or 8 small carrots
- ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup of currents or small raisins
- ¼ cup chives (or spring onion)
- 2 tbsp miso paste
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (or olive oil)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Wash the carrots and grate them up with a mid-sized grater.
- Mix all the remaining ingredients except the chives.
- Salt to taste, then garnish with the chives.
- Allow to sit for at least 30 min before eating to allow the flavours to blend.
-Miso is only probiotic if you’ve made it yourself or bought it from the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
In the age of modern medicine, antibiotics play a major role in preventing serious illnesses. Unfortunately, they also kill off beneficial strains of bacteria leaving our microbiome weak and vulnerable. So we, as a society, turn to THE PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT to help our bodies regain a healthy flora.
These are found at most grocery stores, health food stores and pharmacies. The only trick is that probiotic supplements can quite expensive. And there is a risk that you’ll just be wasting your money on “snake oil”.
How to choose a probiotic supplement
In the world of supplements, you get to choose between tablets & capsules, refrigerated or not. I really can’t say which ones are best. I personally have tried to culture several very expensive brands of probiotics without any luck. One of them was even purchased through my naturopathic doctor, and we both assumed that it was a very good brand.
I’m not alone with my dismal findings about the effectiveness of probiotic supplements. This British Study tested 8 different brands of probiotics with very little success. At this point I think you would have better luck with growing sea monkeys.
How to test a probiotic supplement
The best way to test whether a probiotic supplement is active is to try to culture it! Most probiotic supplements contain bacterial strains that will culture in milk. Even a supplement that has more unique varieties of cultures will contain some strains that will culture in milk.
Whether you use a vegan milk or regular milk, follow the basic yogurt making procedure using the probiotic supplement as the culture. Most tablets, capsules and powers claim to contain billions of bacteria, so they should readily culture your milk within 24 hours. If after 24 hours you don’t have a tangy yogurt then you probably paid for a dead probiotic.
Grocery store probiotics: yogurt, kefir, kombucha and more
Buying probiotic products in your grocery store is a much better way to get probiotics into your diet. The only trick is to know what you’re looking for.
-Anything that is shelf stable. Probiotics are naturally alive and not stable for the long term.
-Likewise, if it’s not in the fridge it’s not probiotic.
-Kefir and kombucha are effervescent when they’re alive. If the container is sealed when you buy it, then it’s no longer living. Even if it is bubbly… a sealed bottle of kombucha isn’t alive. There is too many risks involved (exploding bottles, alcohol production, a super sour product).
-In fact I would say MOST grocery store kombucha isn’t alive. There are some exceptions, for example there are kombucha brewers selling to hippy grocery stores in my city. So beware, most grocery store kombucha is just soda pop dressed up as a health product.
-Yogurt! All yogurts have some live culture, though they do vary greatly on how “alive” they are. In my Canadian neck of the woods, I like Liberte and Greek Gods, which both have very active culture.
-Other cultured dairy products like buttermilk, sourcream, kefir (it’s usually not real kefir, but it does have lactobacteria living in it).
-Refrigerated fresh products like miso, sauerkraut and kimchi. It depends on what is being made in your region, but you may be able to find all sorts of living probiotics. Usually these are VERY EXPENSIVE, which is a good reason to try making a few DIY probiotics.
Water is a subject that is near and dear to my heart for the following reasons:
1. I live close to downtown in an urban centre, and my city water source involves treatment with chloramine.
2. I started my fermentation journey to deal with a myriad of health issues that I assumed were related to poor bacterial flora within my family. The goal was to improve the health of our bacteria flora (both on our skin and within our bodies).
As it turned out, changing our source of drinking water played a big part in our microbiome health.
(Science Related Special Note: a microbiome is created by the symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that share our body… and achieving a healthy microbiome is the primary reason for taking probiotics).
The goal of urban water treatment
No one wants to hear that their water source was contaminated with E. Coli, parasites or anything else like that. So urban water is usually filtered and treated to prevent the spread of disease from occurring anywhere in the water distribution system. Usually this involves the addition of chlorine or chloramine, which are both very effective at sanitizing our water.
Issues with using chlorinated and chloraminated water
-Never use sanitized water for fermenting. Since the goal of chlorination is to prevent the spread of bacteria, it certainly won’t help foster the growth of our friendly lacto-bacteria and yeasts.
-You can’t use it to fill a fish tank without the risk of killing your fish.
-It’s generally better not to water your garden with chlorinated water, since is harmful for the bacteria living in the soil. (Though I admit to doing this in the heat of the summer.)
-And… I would say that if you are worried about your microbiome, then you probably shouldn’t be drinking chlorinated tap water without filtering it first.
-Some people would suggest that washing in chlorinated water is harmful too. However, all the eczema in my family resolved itself through eating a probiotic rich diet… and we all still go to the local swimming pool once a week for lessons. I would suggest avoiding chlorinated swimming pools if you are REALLY struggling with a skin condition.
Chlorinated water versus chloraminated water
It’s really important to know whether your water is treated with chlorine or chloramine, because it really changes how you need to deal with your water for fermenting (and other) purposes.
This is probably what you “think” you have… however, many cities are switching to the much more stable chloramine for water treatment.
The most important thing to know is that chlorine evaporates within 12 hours sitting out on your kitchen counter. It boils away in 20 minutes and it can be filtered out by most filters.
So if you have chlorinated water, then rejoice! Your off-the-shelf Brita filter will be good enough. Or better yet, simply buy yourself a few glass pitchers and leave your water out on the counter overnight before drinking it.
Chloramination is when chlorine is combined with ammonia. It creates a VERY stable disinfectant.
The important thing to know about chloramine is that chloramine is very stable. It would take 2-3 days for it to dissipate at room temperature, or nearly 2 hours to boil away. And most pass-through water filters don’t get rid of chloramine.
All is not lost! You can dechloraminate your water by:
-Throwing in a few slices of lemon or orange (since citric acid breaks down the ammonia).
-Using submerged, activated charcoal (which is what we use… but we can only get it through my sister’s boyfriend’s parents since it’s not available in Canada, and they live in the UK.)
-There are a few other methods for chloramine removal which mostly involve adding extra chemicals or UV light treatment, and aren’t practical for the average urbanite, so I recommend trying one of the above!
Gravy is one of those delicious indulgences that has somehow gotten a bad reputation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This gravy is almost a complete meal on it’s own… and it definitely spruces up everything from potatoes to your tempeh cutlets. I also use it for shepherds pie, meat pies or really anything that your gravy-loving heart desires!
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 cups of chopped mushrooms (a mixture of shiitake and brown is best)
- ½ onion diced
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 2 cups of water
- ¼ cup chickpea flour (or wheat flour)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp miso
- salt to taste
- Fry mushrooms, onions and garlic in oil until fully cooked.
- Add water and chickpea flour. Mix to combine and bring to a boil.
- Once it boils, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the miso and soy sauce.
- Fully puree so that the vegetables disappear, and salt to taste.
- Serve immediately.
-If you use a live cultured miso then make sure the gravy has cooled slightly before mixing it in to maintain the probiotic benefits.
-If you’re not a fan of mushrooms (or want a clear gravy), then leave them out and use a good quality broth instead of water for the flavour.