Kimchi, kefir and kombucha. No, you haven’t stumbled on a conversation in a Japanese bath house and these aren’t brands of kimino. Rather they’re the latest and greatest menu items in up-market metropolitan cafes. If you’re confused, don’t worry, so I was I when I began dipping my toe into the world of fermentation pickling.
I’ve dabbled in bottling and dried plums in the sun. I’ve created cordials, marmalades and passata galore. But one food preservation technique I’ve steered away from is pickling. Relishes and chutneys just aren’t for me. But I’m increasingly intrigued by the fermentation method.
Hubby first alerted me to this technique after stumbling across it on a health website. While other food preservation techniques can compromise the nutritional value of the original product, lacto-fermentation enhances it. While other methods rely on adding sugar or vinegar, applying heat or cold or withdrawing moisture, fermenting lets beneficial bacteria do the preservation work. Fermented foods are full of good, gut-beneficial bacteria that are extremely important for human health. They help balance intestinal flora, thereby boosting overall immunity.
Fermented foods can also be delicious. I can’t speak from experience, having never ventured beyond canned sauerkraut, but apparently fermenting is associated with umami, a unique ‘fifth taste’ after sweet, salt, sour and bitter.
To top it off, fermenting is relatively easy to do at home. According to one recipe, you shred a cabbage and mix with a little salt, then pack tightly into a glass jar until it releases a liquid. Leave at room temperature for at least a few weeks until it’s reached desired consistency and voila, you have sauerkraut. Other recipes suggest inoculating the food using a starter culture to speed up the fermentation process. Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips and other hard root vegetables can also serve as a great base for cultured veggies.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to begin a home fermenting journey. There’s an abundance of suitable seasonal produce and the cooler ambient temperatures will encourage the fermentation process.
So if you, like me, would like to experiment with this but need a bit more guidance to get you going, come along to a free pickling workshop on Sunday 6 April, from 3.00-5.00pm at the Albury Wood-Fired Oven. In addition to demonstrating fermentation, presenters Helena Foster and Jacky Cronin will also show you how to make chutneys, relishes, sauce, olives and preserved lemons.