Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Culturing and Fermenting Foods With Cultured Mama
Today I got the honor of interviewing my friend and fellow blogger Michael, from over at Cultured Mama, about the art of culturing and fermenting foods. This is something I have recently discovered, during my journey in making all my foods from scratch, using all natural ingredients. I have not successfully cultured any of my OWN food (though if you recall I did try a sourdough starter, unsuccessfully). I really want to learn more about this process, and Michael was kind enough to talk to me about all she knows about culturing and fermenting foods!
Me: Michael, for the people who aren't familiar with culturing foods,what exactly are cultured foods?
CM: Cultured foods are foods that have been fermented, often through the introduction of enzymes in the form of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. It was a common preservation method before modern refrigeration, and fermented or cultured foods often improve with age, rather than going bad, because the bacteria and yeasts fight off bad critters that might otherwise spoil the foods.
Foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sourdough, naturally brined pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi are some examples of cultured foods. Old fashioned ketchup and soy sauce and other condiments made using traditional methods are also cultured foods. (A natural brine of sea salt, whey or culture starter is different from the white vinegar brine commonly used for grocery store pickles or sauerkraut. A white vinegar brine does not impart the necessary probiotics [enzymes] required for it to be a truly cultured food.)
Me: Why are cultured foods good for us?
CM: Cultured foods are excellent for our digestive health. They help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and yeasts and maintain balance in the digestive tract. They also aid in the digestion of our food and help stave off infection by boosting our immune system (most of which is located in the gut!)
Once upon a time, folks ate a cultured food with every single meal, either in the form of condiments or sometimes as the entire meal! Consider a Reuben sandwich that is prepared using traditional methods: every element, from the sourdough bread, to the corned beef, to the sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and condiments are cultured foods! Even the butter it is grilled with can be a cultured food. Wash it down with a traditional beer or glass of kefir and you have just had an incredibly probiotic rich meal!
Me: Who would they most benefit?
CM: EVERYONE benefits from eating cultured foods and taking in as many probiotics as possible. But some folks are in much more desperate need than others. If you have had a lot of antibiotics or suffer from digestive issues or immune system disorders, probiotics in the form of cultured will help immensely.
Since cultured foods and ferments are literally in a state of pre-digestion, they are often easier to handle for folks who are sick or have trouble digesting their food. I recommend EVERYONE eat more traditionally prepared foods, whole foods, and living foods, like fermented and cultured foods prepared using old world, traditional methods.
Me: You sure know your stuff! How long have you been culturing foods?
CM: I've been culturing for close to four years now, and am slowly adding to my repertoire.
Me: So What have you cultured or fermented?
CM: My first fermented food was the mayonnaise recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell, shortly followed by the ginger carrots recipe from the same book (seriously, it's like a food bible.) I have corned beef, and made traditional pickles, fermented many different fruits and veggies and made some simple soft cheeses. My favorite and most common cultures that I have going in my kitchen on a day to day basis though are kefir, kombucha, and sourdough.
Me: What is your favorite recipe using cultured ingredients?
CM: That's a toughie. I have some go-to recipes that I make a lot but I probably make sourdough waffles the most, because it's a quick breakfast in the morning.
Me: This is great, but Is culturing an easy process? Can anyone do it?
CM: It's AMAZINGLY easy. And ANYONE can really and truly do it. It takes planning and a minor investment of time, but once you get your groove going and it becomes part of your kitchen routine, it actually SIMPLIFIES prep time, believe it or not. Breaking up your food prep into night before and morning tasks can seem a bit daunting at first, but once it becomes routine, like I said, it makes your time in the kitchen much easier.
Besides, most cultures are truly set it and forget it. You throw a bunch of stuff in a clean jar, throw a lid or tea towel over it, and just let it sit for a few days before tossing it in the fridge for future use. It doesn't really get much more simple.
Me: Are there any resources on the Internet that are your go-to, when it comes to culturing and fermenting foods?
CM: I have a lot of mommy blogger friends that I refer to often, like Cooking Traditional Foods, Nourished Kitchen, and Gnowfglins. I am also part of a network of traditional foodie moms called The Nourished Living Network, and we all commonly blog about such things. Also check out this great opportunity with a company that sells fresh, healthy organic products - Beyond Organic
Me: Michael, Thank you so much for your time and all your great information! Do you have any advice or insight to the person who has never heard of this before and wants to try it themselves?
CM: kefir (dairy or water) and simple pickled veggies will lead you down the delicious and nourishing path to making artisanal breads, cheeses, and incredible ferments to amaze your friends and astound your taste buds. Not to mention improving your health! :-)
Thank you so much to Michael! Be sure to check out her website, Cultured Mama, Like her facebook page (Culutred Mama), and all the great resources she listed! If you have any questions, or comments about your own experience, leave a comment below!