Fermentation and other Oddities
Fementation: An Introduction
When my friend Jackie introduced me to Kambucha, I approached the jar with great hesitance and tried to hold back my disgust. After all, there was a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) floating in it, and it just reaked of all things rotten and deadly.
Jackie made me try the tea, and I’m grateful that I did. While the smell is unpleasant at first, a sourness blended with tangy yeast, and the taste is unfamiliar at best and downright sour at worst, I found that my glass was empty within 10 minutes and I was asking for a second glass.
She smiled at me and cocked an eyebrow. “Good, right?”
It was more than good. My body was craving more.
Fast forward a year to me finding the book and Netflix documentary, “Cooked” by Michael Pollen. (<-Not a paid link to Amazon. Just information.)
I was so blown away by what I saw, I called Jackie and made her sit through the documentary episodes, Air and Earth.
Our mouths hung open as we watched civilizations in Morocco still eating the way they have for thousands of years. Bread is a staple in their diet, as it has been for generations, yet in this part of the world we don’t have a spike in celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. Why?
Jackie has suffered from gluten intolerance for most of her life. She doesn’t have celiac’s disease, but she does feel off after having bread too often, experiencing bloating, indigestion and constipation. She’s a nurse by trade with
a focus in nutrition so whenever her gut is not “processing” things as it should, she tends to get fanatical.
Back to the bread. Before our eyes came the answer: Fermentation.
Bread was never made with processed yeast until this century. Before, bread was leavened using cultures of sourdough, some that continued to live and develop in families for generations. These cultures were passed down because, when well cared for, they provided life giving food to families. Jackie had learned briefly about these cultures in her nutrition classes, and its how she discovered Kambucha. But sourdough? This was new.
I bought a container of mason jars and started experimenting.
Fermentation: Sour Dough
The recipe is incredibly simple, 1 part water to 1 part flour, and the method even simplier: Cover with a cheese cloth for 12 hours, throw away half of what’s there, and then feed it 1 part water and 1 part flour again. Feed every 12 hours for 7 days.
The process of doing it was more complicated. After 24 hours, the mixture starts to smell like rotten socks convincing yourself that this is normal seems unnatural. Here’s the science:
The natural yeast and bacteria in the air starts to mix in with the flour water combination. As the yeast and bacteria eat, they grow and spread throughout the flour mixture. The growth is rapid, and this first primitive stage of bacteria growth is what we associate with rot and rancidness. Not tasty.
As we continue to feed the culture, new strains of bacteria and yeast are introduced from the air, specifically, bacteria and yeast that eat the smelly bacteria and yeast in your culture. After a week of this civil war in your mason jar, your culture has stabilized with the prized sour dough “top of the foodchain” yeast and bacteria, and low and behold, this bacteria is a probiotic. The culture no longer smells like rotten socks, but now has a pleasant yeasty smell, and voila, you have a sour dough starter.
Fermentation: Every Day Life
While my explorations into this fascinating land of food is just taking off, sourdough and kambucha are friendly places to start. Sourdough starters, while they do require care, can be very resilient to mistakes. I once skipped two feedings in a row to find mold on my sourdough. Low and behold, like cheese, you simply remove and throw away the moldy parts, and then feed the healthy part under the surface. Also, once you have a hearty strain of sourdough (3-4 successful loafs of bread, or 30 – 90 days old) you can start refrigerating your sourdough starter, feeding it once per week instead of twice a day.
I still feed my scoby and make Kambucha weekly, finding that a gallon lasts me just about a week. (The boy friend still only drinks it sparingly, though its growing on him.)
It works well for my lifestyle as a gallon of tea takes my scoby about a week to eat.