By Debbie Djordjevic
I was brought up on fermented and pickled foods, Dad wouldn’t eat a meal without salad or a side-order of pickled cucumber which meant that when you opened our fridge (unlike the fridges of my friends) you would find jars of brightly coloured peppers, crisp green cucumbers and endless amounts of sauerkraut. Friend’s fridges had cheese triangles; we had home-made yogurt -sour and natural – that fizzed on the tongue.
The current trend for fermenting food takes me right back to those happy days and I can still see my Dad pickling green tomatoes outside the back door or ‘talking’ to the yogurt before it went in the airing cupboard. When I left home my own fridge was stuffed with pickles too, although I never had the time or the inclination to make my own.
Now it’s uber easy to have a go at pickling and fermenting. My Dad had to go and beg for empty sweet jars from our local newsagent but now you can get jars specially made to allow the fermentation to take place from the likes of Lakeland and John Lewis. And there are books – so many books – on pickling and fermenting.
There is no doubt that fermented foods have enormous health benefits and even if jars of kimchi or sour pickles aren’t your thing you can look at other ways of getting all that lovely live culture into your gut via flatbreads, yogurts, kafir and even beer and vinegar.
Fermented foods are great for digestion and add so much of the good bacteria that we need to help us digest our food and protect us from disease. They are also rich in vitamins, probiotics, minerals and enzymes. Our guts are in a sorry state in the West, we just don’t eat enough ‘culture’ to replenish bacteria and often traditionally living foods like cheeses are processed so the live cultures, which are integral to their production, have mostly been destroyed. We are addicted to the anti-bacterial, whether that be in our soaps or even our addiction to antibiotic drugs! And yet it’s been proven time and again that eating a diet rich in healthy bacteria can not only aid digestion but can kick start and improve your immune system and has even been known to improve mental health. Skin can become more radiant and blood pressure stabilized – there’s a lot of talk around so-called superfoods but these really are.
It’s pretty cheap to ferment your own food, once you’ve made the initial investment in some suitable jars, you can look out for fruit and vegetables that are in season (and therefore in abundance and cheap) and pickle away to have them all year round. In the main you simply need salt and occasionally a little water – and somewhere to store them and you’re away!
I would suggest starting with something that you like – baby cucumbers or cabbage are great and if you like these there really isn’t very much you can’t ferment.
5 Books to Read
Fermented Foods for Vitality & Health: Boost Your Digestive and Immune Systems with Delicious Probiotic Recipes, £12.61, Amazon.
Wild Fermentation: the flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods, £14.97 Amazon.
Fermented Vegetables, £11.99 Amazon
Fiery Ferments by Kirsten Shockey, £14.32 Amazon
Kombucha, Kefit and Beyond: A Fun and Flavorful Guide to Fermenting Your Own Beverages at Home, £16.99 Amazon