New special interest: fermented foods

Hi,

It’s been a while, but I’m back with a new special interest. I’ve been getting into fermenting my foods and drinks lately. Or should I say getting back into it, as I have made a few attempts before. For the sake of this post not becoming to much of a mess I’m going to chop it up into what I’ve been making. Or trying to make at least. I’m going to start where I started, which is kimchi.

Kimchi

Kimchi is one of the things I had attempted before. It succeeded, but it was a bit too fermented for my taste and I ended up not eating it. I even ended up throwing loads of kimchi paste out during the move. But now we’re so broke having a vegetable that can be used as condiment that doesn’t go bad within days is super convenient. Specially when you can just grab it without any need for cutting. I still had the dry ingredients, so I got my hands on the vegetables and started. The batch of paste I made was rather mild, because I was low on gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes), so I just used a lot. Which means I have fairly mild but very garlicy kimchi, which I personally quite like. Meanwhile I ordered a new bag of gochugaru while I was getting a scoby (see kombucha), so I’m ready for the next batch. Everything else I can get locally.

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Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut I made for similar reasons as the kimchi. Another vegetable condiment. This one suits different dishes though. The fermentation process is quite similar to that of kimchi, but longer. It also has a bit more hands on work, because you need to cut the cabbage finer. A pro of sauerkraut is that it only requires two basic ingredients though: cabbage and salt. Although my sauerkraut is not your typical sauerkraut. For starters, I used red cabbage instead of white. This is simply because that’s what I had.  I also added a couple of cloves of garlic and a madame de jeanette pepper for a bit more flavour. I massaged mine fairly short, so it has more crunch to it than normal sauerkraut, specially compared to store bought. Lastly I had it ferment fairly shortly. I let it ferment for only a week, so it’s not quite as sour as you’d expect from something that has sour in it’s name.

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Kombucha

This another ferment I had tried before. This one is very different from the previous two. The first reason is obvious if you have ever heard of kombucha: it’s a drink. Or fermented sweet tea to be more precise. The second one is that you need a starter culture to make it. That starter culture is called a scoby, which is short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. That scoby can be reused over and over and will even multiply itself. It sounds fairly complicated, but in reality the scoby does most of the work. All you have to do is brew strong tea, add lots of sugar, let it cool and add the scoby and starter liquid. The started liquid is simply kombucha from an earlier batch. If you buy a new scoby this should come with it. The last time I tried it I got a tiny scoby, with very little starter liquid and they said it was for 5 liter. The first batch was ok, but I did not get new scoby growth. It’s normal for a scoby to be a bit slow at first though, so I went on. By the second batch however, there was a distinct alcohol flavour, so I decided to toss everything. This time I got my scoby from another source. It was about twice as big and came with way more starter liquid, yet this said that it was for only 3 liter, so this gave me a lot more confidence. It also came with loads of tips, but it’s all in German, so I haven’t really tried to read it yet. There’s plenty of info online, so it’s not really necessary. I now have my new batch of kombucha going for 3 days and there’s already new scoby growth going on. So far I am very optimistic. I love to drink kombucha as a healthy alternative to alcohol and brewing it yourself saves so much money, it’s ridiculous.

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Yoghurt

The last one still requires some trial and error. This too needs a starter culture, but since that culture is not a disc like the scoby but all over the end product, you can just use some store bought yoghurt (make sure it’s unsweetened!) and add a bit of that to new milk. However, since I don’t want to consume dairy, both for health reasons and ethical reasons (specially now soy milk is hardly more expensive than cow’s milk anymore), I am working with non-dairy milk. My first attempt was with some soy milk I happened to have, but that was not a success. The cultures seemed to be doing fine and nothing funky happened, but it just didn’t get as yoghurty as I hoped. My guess is that soymilk doesn’t contain enough natural sugars, so next time I am going to try using coconut milk. It’s so little work though, it’s only a matter of mixing the yoghurt with the milk and letting it sit slightly above room temperature (I use the oven with only the lights on) for about a day. And it saves quite a bit of money, even if using store bought milk, so it’s almost silly not to do it. If I can make it work at least.

I hope you find fermentation interesting to and liked reading this. See you next time.

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