It has been my pleasure in recent weeks to soak up the art of fermentation.
This involves something close to pickling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but not quite.
Lacto-fermentation does not involve added sugar, so many products are more savoury once they ferment. Nevertheless, the range of foods that you can use in fermentation are staggering, each blend unique. The process is quick and simple, yielding probiotic pickles that help support your gut biome.
I had dabbled in this for a while, reading about it online and researching recipes for a range of fermented foods like Kefir, Kimchi and Saurkraut, but I took a dive and bought The Noma Guide To Fermentation on Amazon, plunging into it’s passionate and informative manual of frothy foods and drinks.
This is a wondrous book which provides all the central theory on fermenting your own foods, and the best bit, the lack of prescription. Noma advises us to play around with fermentation, finding blends of fruits, vegetables and spices which create exceptional flavours and unique taste bud experiences.
The key is salt.
Salting your foods in a correct ratio, somewhere at about 2% of the biomass of fruit and veg, will yield a fermented product in 3-5 days.
You can also try adding spices and herbs to these ferments to bring flavours together.
Kimchi blends cabbage, chilli, garlic and ginger with salt, creating a delicious gut friendly addition. I did in fact have some of this today with my lunch. It makes a delicious accompaniment to an omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as with a sandwich, maybe even as an addition to your healthy salad.
Fermented fruits and vegetables, touting all of the above qualities of ease, health and flavour are also among some of the most versatile foods in the world. What savoury dish does not benefit from the tart fizz of fermented foods? I challenge you to come up with one! You can add fermented foods to almost any dish to enhance flavour. The juices can help to build up a stock or gravy, can be poured over a prepared meal for some added zing, and can even added to deserts to make them pop! Fermented fruits and veggies are literally oozing complexity and utility from simplicity.
Aside from Kimchi, I plan to use my monstrously fertile rhubarb plants (seriously, these ancient garden stalks are like a hydra, they cannot be killed and grow back stronger when you cut them down) for a lacto-fermented rhubarb recipe which I found here. What I love about this is the blend of fragrant cardamom and fiery ginger with a seriously unique use for a tart vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable! hard to believe, I know). Some of the most fascinating ferments involve salted fruits and veggies which you might normally find in sweet dishes. One of Noma’s most famous ferments involves the gooseberry, a sour green hairy grape that pairs beautifully with fermentation. Sour fruits and vegetables shine in this process. The natural sourness of these fruits and vegetables can create beautifully tart surprises.
To boot, fermented fruits and vegetables can last months in the fridge. They don’t really go off, if prepared correctly, but be warned, the taste can become pretty intense the longer you leave them! Nevertheless, if everything else I’ve said on the subject hasn’t swayed you, what will you do with all your greens and colourful fruits come winter (the gardeners among you especially will want to make the most of your painstakingly raised produce)? At the end of the summer season, when you harvest your garden’s bounty, what better way to pay homage to your labour, than to preserve and pickle your hard work, letting it give back to you all through the winter!
Fermentation provides a literally endless supply of opportunities for us humans. It allows us to venture into a weakly explored territory of new flavours and culinary experiences (arguably something our ancestors understood well, but largely forgotten in a modern setting). It can add something special to almost any meal you make. Every blend produces a new and exciting flavour combination, influenced by the type of bacteria growing on the fruits and vegetables you use (all the more reason to grow your own!). It naturally aids our digestive tracts, which are constantly bombarded by unnatural chemical soups and processed junk. And finally, it lasts, giving you the benefit of your hard work all through the winter!
What more could you possibly want? It’s a no brainer to get into fermentation!
Keep well and enjoy learning, and if you liked this article, please share it with a friend or loved one who can benefit!