Amidst the season of university assignments, I tend to find new and interesting ways to procrastinate. Or procrastibake (cue, chocolate chip cookies – comfort snacks to get me through the pain of assignments). As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve started a bit of a vege garden, mostly because I like the idea of cooking with food I’ve grown myself, but also as a new and fun way to distract me from the books. I’ve also been doing a fair bit of reading into fermented foods.
An ancient way of preserving food, fermentation is the process of converting the carbohydrates in foods into alcohol and carbon dioxide using yeasts and bacterias under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation was both practical and necessary back in the day; these products were sustainable food choices when the weather was harsh and fresh produce wasn’t available or plentiful.
Fermented foods have gained a reputation for its beneficial effects on immunity, gut health and general well-being. Lactofermentation enhances the micronutrient profile of certain foods which is not only good for you, but turns some plain and boring things into taste sensations! Lactofermentation doesn’t just occur in vegetables though, you can ferment dairy products as well. It increases the level of folic acid, B vitamins and riboflavin. Some other kinds of fermented food you may not be as familiar with include kombucha, kimchi, milk and water kefir.
If you’re keen to start making some delicious fermented treats, or just want an escape from that 50% assignment you need to complete, the easiest DIY project is sauerkraut. It requires very little equipment and is very simple to make. I’ve got some sauerkraut a’fermentin in my cupboard right now. The process is very easily found on the web, I followed the method from The Kitchn, and added 1/2 tbsp carraway seeds. So far so good, the cabbage seems to be softening well, but I’ll let you know how it tastes in a few weeks! I used a mason-type jar I found in my cupboard, however you can purchase utensils made for the job here and here. Don’t feel like your sauerkraut adventures are limited to German sausages though, you can enjoy a couple of spoonfuls each day in your salad, on a sandwich or bread roll or as a condiment to meat. Experiment with different vegetable combinations as well; daikon, carrot, beets and fennel krauts are delicious as well.
You can purchase sauerkraut easily enough, however store-bought kinds are often heavily processed and are treated with heat which destroys the enzymes and probiotics. Plus, they can be expensive! Food fermentation is easy enough, make it your next weekend project. If you do want the goodness of fermented veges without the effort try and purchase natural, organic and local products.