Fermenting at home is becoming more and more popular as a way of safeguarding our health and wellbeing, naturally and easily. Scientists now believe that our immunity is regulated by the health of our gut and digestive system, and the ancient art of fermentation is a great way to support our digestion with beneficial and protective bacteria.
This is especially important in the day and age of mass-produced foods that are often heavy in sugar, salt, chemicals and other additives. These can deplete our healthy gut bacteria and leave us feeling tired, run down and more susceptible to colds and other bugs at this time of year.
And with Christmas on the horizon, it makes sense to do what we can to stay as healthy as possible, even while we enjoy seasonal indulgences. Fermented foods are a delicious way to enjoy great-tasting food that is also natural, healthy and extremely good for us. The other good news is there is a huge range of recipes to choose from, so you can find the perfect fermented food for your personal tastes.
Fermented ginger lemonade
Sterilise your Mason jars before you begin, and juice 500g of lemons before adding a tablespoon of grated ginger, 125g of whey (see below) and 75g of sugar. A three-litre jar is ideal - add the ingredients and top them up with mineral water, leaving a margin of about 3cm. Shake it up and leave it at room temperature for a couple of days, releasing the lid periodically to remove any gas build-up. After three days, decant it into smaller glass bottles and add a little extra sugar to each. Seal them again and burp daily to encourage the ferment until you see bubbles. When you're happy with the recipe, it can go into the fridge.
To make whey, heat a litre of milk to 82c and add 20mi of white wine vinegar before taking it off the heat and gently stirring. As it rests, the whey and curd swill separate. Strain the liquid whey through a muslin cloth in a bowl. The curds can be used in recipes as curd cheese so there is no waste!
Ball Mason jars are ideal for this versatile recipe which can be adapted to your own tastes. Simply cut up an organic cabbage very finely, and then knead it a bowl with a spoon of salt until it releases a brine. Keep pummelling the cabbage until it is soft and there is plenty of liquid and then place it into your sterilised ball Mason jars, weighting down each mix with something heavy so that it stays under the salty preserving brine (add a little extra salted water if you need to.) Leave it at room temperature and burp the jar occasionally. You can also add grated carrot, cumin seeds, fennel or anything else that takes your fancy for flavour. The sauerkraut will take on a wonderfully tangy flavour as it ferments and can then sit in the fridge for a week once it's ready. This will taste wonderful with your Boxing Day buffet!
Fermented spring onions
Fermentation is a traditional means of preserving vegetables and fruit so that they last through the winter season. This more unusual, but very simple, recipe works with spring onions or wild garlic. Again, sterilise Bell Mason jars before washing 600g of spring onions or wild garlic. Dry carefully before finely shredding with a knife. Place a layer in a bowl and scatter on a little salt and demerara sugar. Repeat in layers until the veg is all used up. Then leave it to stand for around half an hour to encourage moisture to release into the bowl. Massage the mix with the juice and salt until the leaves start to become soft. Leave for 30 minutes further and then place into your sterilised Mason jars, pushing out any air bubbles. Pack it down, ensure that liquid is covering the mix with salty brine and add a ball of scrunched parchment paper if necessary to weigh the veg down and keep it immersed. Leave it at room temperature for around five days and burp it daily to remove gases. When you like the taste, poop it in the fridge to halt the fermentation process.
These are just three fun fermentation recipes to start on your journey to discovering a healthy, delicious and ancient way of preserving food and maximising its nutrition, especially over the winter months. Why not stock up on Bell Mason jars today at Wares of Knutsford and try making some of your own recipes? Look too at Kefir, Kimchi and fermented fruits to give you inspiration! Why not share your photos with us on social media too - we love to see what our customers are up to in the kitchen!