Fermented and Cultured Foods

‘Fermentation is everywhere, always. It is an everyday miracle.’ - Sandoor Katz in Wild Fermentation

Fermenting food makes it more digestible and releases nutrients which are beneficial and necessary for a healthy digestive system. The by-products of natural fermentation processes are many. They produce numerous helpful digestive enzymes for stimulating proper assimilation of our foods and promote the healthy growth of intestinal flora which keeps our gut and immune system in a healthy state. With industrialisation and the capacity to can, bottle and refine foods we have begun to neglect this wonderful way of preserving our food with serious consequences for our health.

Yoghurt, cheeses, fermented soybean products such as miso, soy sauce and tempeh, sauerkraut, vinegar, wine and beers, and sourdough breads are some well known examples of fermented foods.

Many of these foods are nowadays produced using modern factory processes which speed up or omit altogether the natural and sometimes lengthy periods of fermentation. They have been homogenised, pasteurised, and sterilised by the time they reach the supermarket shelf effectively destroying most of their beneficial qualities. Fortunately there are a growing number of foods being made by passionate and committed artisan farmers and producers with the result that you can now find locally made cheeses and yoghurts, tempeh, sourdough breads and other foods which are created from organic fresh whole ingredients using traditional methods.

At Pureharvest we sell a range of naturally fermented products such as miso, soy sauce, naturally fermented vinegars, and good quality sea salt for making your own pickles. Some of the easiest ways to introduce the benefits of fermentation into your diet is to:

  • soak whole grains, seeds and beans for a few hours before cooking
  • have fresh miso soup a few times a week
  • eat sourdough bread instead of yeasted
  • have a few jars of your own home made pickles to choose from daily
  • include pressed salads into your diet a few times a week
  • use good quality shoyu and tamari to season and flavour your food
  • use a range of good quality naturally produced vinegars (apple cider, brown rice, grape)
  • introduce tempeh into your diet
  • make your own yoghurt

Pickled Vegetables

I have found that making your own pickles involves a little trial and error because there are so many variables. The amount and kind of salt you use will have a big impact on how your pickles ferment. Pureharvest Unrefined Natural Sea Salt and spring water will give the best results. Salt controls the speed at which your vegetables ferment. It is important to use the right amount of salt (too little and the pickles will go off, too much and they’ll be too salty – or may not ferment at all).

The temperature is critical which is why it is important to leave your pickles in a cool dark place at around 65-70 degrees F so the fermentation process is smooth and even. The other important thing to remember is to use really fresh vegetables. Woody, fibrous or old vegetables are not suitable. The size and water content of the vegetables will also make a big difference. The smaller the vegetable the quicker it will ferment. If the vegetable is high in water such as cucumbers it may need more salt in the pickling brine. Some vegetables such as cabbage are traditionally pickled by mixing and pressing with salt. I encourage you to experiment. The vegetables need to be covered by the brine or the liquid drawn out from the vegetables within a few hours of preparing them. Vegetables which are exposed to air will attract unhealthy bacteria which will cause the pickles to go off.

Pickles are best refrigerated after the initial fermentation period. In Asia pickles are often served at the beginning of a meal to stimulate digestion. I usually serve them as a condiment to be eaten along with the meal. Pickles are not meant to be eaten in large amounts.

Note: Salt-based pickles actually create their preservative properties through the act of lactic acid fermentation. Live cultures that live on the vegetables react with the vegetables in the presence of sea salt and water. They proliferate into trillions of microbes within a few days. This is the same microbial activity found in a healthy human gut. They perform the very same tasks in the small intestine as in the pickling jar; they create a pH so low that no pathogens can proliferate. Brine pickling creates its own multiple vitamins and boosts vegetable based vitamins into highly absorbable forms. The minerals from both the unrefined sea salt and within the vegetables become ionized and made more absorbable.