Fermentation is an ancient practice that makes foods more nutritious, delicious and edible that got lost for awhile in the nasty colonization of North America. Fermented foods and drinks can be found as part of traditional diets of all cultures all over the world (maybe you're studying today and looking for some procrastination material?) and there's a seriously awesome revolution on the rise amongst the renegades of healthy eating to work it back into the standard N.America diet (also known as SAD). Lots of things we regularly consume are fermented - you know that, right? Beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, fish sauce, hot sauce... Sadly, the more common place these items are, the less likely they are to be teeming with delicious Lactobacillus and other friendly fermenters, and the more likely they are to have processed acidic substitutes instead. The good news is that quality fermented foods have recently started to become available at grocers everywhere - the better news is that doing your own fermenting is dead easy.
I have been a proud SCOBY caretaker for the past 6 years and I have only just - just - perfected my kombucha to be the bubbly effervescent drink I'm so willing to drop $4 on at every health food store I visit*. Fermentation is truly an art, and it takes a certain amount of research and practice, sure - but also confidence! I learned from Sandor Ellix Katz at the beginning of my experimentation with fermentation that it's important to employ all your senses when trying to ferment, and not to be afraid to taste things along the way - unless your nose directs you otherwise (to the garbage can I mean). If you pay attention to what you're doing, the chances of consuming something not fit for consumption are seriously slim to none. Case-in-point - a batch of sauerkraut I had going in my crock late last summer ended up stewing a little too long and smelled more like an old sock than any food ever should. I tasted it anyways (my experience has left me bold) - not good. Not good! But that's ok! Next time, I'm not letting it sit so long in 35degC weather. Simple.
Fortunately, most of the things that we love to ferment are fairly inexpensive - I mean one cabbage will run you about $1.50 and make ~3 L of sauerkraut - so don't be afraid to abandon ship and start over when things go awry; it's worth it to keep on experimenting. Don't get discouraged, but do reach out for help - there are plenty of excellent resources available to anyone who's looking (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) - try and think about what "went wrong" (there's really no 'wrong') and switch it up next time.
Ok, so a recipe. I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much of a ketchup fan I am, but there it is. I love ketchup. I usually try to go for GMO-free Heinz alternatives but my partner is dead set on Heinz and only Heinz. Which is why I was shocked to see him eating some of my homemade fermented deliciously nutritious ketchup with his egg this morning! Success!
The recipe I used is from Nourished Kitchen, a really wonderful resource for recipes including many fabulous ferments. Since it isn't my recipe and is written out in a way I'm sure you'll be able to follow I'll just direct you to the link. It calls for whey as a source for the fermenters and doesn't go into details about how to obtain it, so instead I'm going to give you a recipe for cream cheese. Cream cheese? What the heck? Making cream cheese is how you get your whey, you guys.
Homemade Cream Cheese + Whey
- 750g of full fat organic yogurt
- cheese cloth, fine mesh sieve
- mixing bowl, jug
- wooden spoon
Line your sieve with cheese cloth and place it over a mixing bowl big enough to have a couple inches between the bottom of the sieve and bottom of the bowl. Dump your yogurt in and leave it to sit for 6-8 hours. That off-white-yellow translucent liquid dripping from your sieve into the bowl is precious whey. To get the most you can, tie up your cheese cloth into a pouch after the dripping has slowed and hang it from a wooden spoon over a jug. You should get a couple more mL from that. Pour the liquid into a mason jar, label and store in the fridge. It should last 1-2 weeks and can be used for a whole bunch of things, from other ferments to soaking grains/pulses, if you're in the habit of eating these things.
What once was your yogurt is now some seriously delicious/nutritious fermented cream cheese. I suggest mixing in a 1/2 tsp of sea salt and maybe some chopped chives and, ta da! Cheese! Great job.
*Stay tuned for a video sometime soonish!