A lot of people are rediscovering old style cooking techniques like braising and slow roasting, but there’s a cooking and preserving technique even older that you can learn that is healthy, simple, and takes minutes to learn: I’m talking about Fermentation.
Fermentation is what happens when an organism like bacteria eat sugars and starches from a food source, and through that digestive process produce chemicals that preserve and make food safe to eat. If you’ve ever had a kosher dill or sauerkraut, you’ve eaten fermented foods, and let’s not forget that the world’s most favorite beverages: alcohol, beer, and wine, are all fermented foods.
A Word About Fermentation and Food Safety
Anyone who has ever opened a bottle of skunked beer knows exactly what happens when fermentation goes wrong. It’s important to remember three cardinal rules of fermentation:
Every utensil, surface, container, and cooking vessel used in your fermentation process needs to be meticulously clean before you attempt Fermentation to avoid cross contamination, which is responsible for most problems in the fermentation process
You have to make sure that you do not expose fermenting foods to temperatures outside of the safety zone (40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and also do not expose fermenting foods directly to air.
If your fermented products take on unusual colours, strong odors, or leach funny liquids, or you are in any way in doubt, THROW IT OUT and start again. You can’t salvage contaminated fermented foods.
With this in mind, you can easily make Sauerkraut. You need very few ingredients and a medium amount of patience.
Starter Sauerkraut Recipe
If Sauerkraut is a bridge too far for you, you can try fermenting asparagus pickles
How to Make Fermented Asparagus
Another thing you can consider making at home by fermentation is your own yogurt. You just need a starter culture (which you can get from a plain active culture yogurt at a grocery store), some milk, and a little heat, and a little time. When you get low on your supply, use the culture from the current batch to make a new batch.
Fermenting dough: the step you might be missing
If you bake bread at home, you might be used to doing it as quickly as you can, but you can coax the most flavor out of your bread if you empty the no-knead technique and rest the dough in the fridge for up to 3 days. This ferments the bread and lends it a more “sourdough” like flavor which can’t be replicated with commercial or quick rise dough that relies upon a higher volume of yeast and shorter rise times. This requires patience but you will be rewarded with a great tasting boule at the end.
No Knead Bread
Fermentation does not have to be scary and can open your culinary world up to a once forgotten preservation technique that can make your kitchen more like a professional one.