Fermentation 101

I thought I’d write on fermentation since I’ve posted pictures of my Kombucha Tea and my son recently had a conversation with his friend about the weird stuff I’ve been brewing. I’m by no means an expert at this but I’ll give it a whirl. Most young people living in the 21st Century haven’t known life without the advanced technology we have today. I was born in 1958 and have seen a few come to be, although my in-laws who are 86 yrs old have seen a whole lot more. In the “old country” where my Grandma came from these fermented foods were a way of life, in fact in America they were also relied upon for the simplest of foods such as bread. The pioneers traveled with necessities and one of those was “Sourdough Starter”. I’m sure most have heard and even tasted Sourdough Bread before and not realized that they were eating a fermented food. However, in order for the pioneers to make their Sourdough Bread they first had to add something called a “starter”. It was this starter that gave the bread the ability to rise. Another fermented food that was eaten by many in the old days as well as today is “Sauerkraut”. Fermentation goes back for millennia. I know in our techie society today it’s hard to believe a world without a refrigerator, but it did exist. One of the processes used to preserve food without the knowledge or ability to preserve with cold temp’s was fermentation. The desert nomads didn’t carry a little frig on the back of their camels, they carried it in the form of kefir grains. They used their kefir grains (a whole new topic) to ferment the milk from their goats so it wouldn’t “go bad”. Most people eat fermented foods today without giving it a thought; yoghurt and bread for example. If we didn’t add yeast (a fermenting food) to dough we’d have flat bread instead of risen bread. If we didn’t ferment or culture milk, we wouldn’t have cheese to put on top of that bread to make pizza! So, as you can see the process of fermentation is not a new one nor is it a weird one. The making of Kombucha Tea is simply taking tea which by the way is a fermented plant….black tea is fermented longer and white tea the least, green being in the middle; brewing the tea, adding organic raw sugar, and then placing what is called a “Scoby” in the tea. If I didn’t place the Scoby in the tea, it would mold, but in placing the Scoby and a 1/2 cup of starter (previous brewed KT) in my brewed tea, it then ferments into what is called Kombucha Tea. An ancient Chinese tea. Which by the way is absolutely delicious! Many people refer to these culturing foods like kefir grains and scobies as “Manna” which roughly translates “WHAT IS IT?” Remember the Jews in the wilderness, when God sent “Manna” from heaven, they cried out “What is it???” Wow, does that make sense. Ok, so now that I’ve explain roughly what fermentation is, I’ll have to also explain sometime why I’m not weird….now that could take some time! Happy Fermenting!!!

Good books on this topic:
Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz
Real Food” by Nina Planck
Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon
The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved; Inside America’s Underground Food Movements” by Sandor Katz

See blogroll for The Happy Herbalist for further details and nutritional info.

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