Preserve your Organically Grown Food with Fermentation

April 22, 2015 by

 

Before refrigeration people needed ways to preserve their food. They used drying, salting, smoking and fermentation.

These activities keep food from spoiling and have been used by people for about 5000 years.

Fermentation in food processing employs yeast or bacteria to convert the sugar and starch contained in the food to lactic acid or alcohol and carbon dioxide in an oxygen free environment.

The type that changes sugar to alcohol is primarily used to produce booze – beer, wine and cider.

The carbon dioxide created by the process is used to make the dough rise in baking.

Organic Vegetables - preserved by fermentation

Organic Vegetables - preserved by fermentation

Right now, we are mainly interested in the fermentation method that produces lactic acid used in creating sour foods like sauerkraut, salami, yogurt, kimchi, (a Korean fermented vegetable dish with many variations)  and a wild variety of other recipes.

With the advent of refrigeration, this technology has largely been lost.

There is a rising interest in fermentation, however, particularly by people who grow there own organic food.

There are a number of very compelling reasons for this:

  • Growing and preserving your own vegetables gives you total control over what is in your food.
  • Not only can you grow enough to feed your family through the summer, with fermentation, you can make it last right through the winter.
  • It tastes great.
  • Fermentation adds nutrients and vitamins to your food.
  • You wind up with an improved product.
  • The food is alive.
  • It contains an enormous amount of probiotic bacteria and micro organisms that enhance the fauna in your digestive tract and support your immune system.
  • You become independent, to a large degree, of the supermarkets (should there ever be a problem – god forbid) and even electricity.
  • Growing and preserving your own food saves you a ton of money.

How do you get started with this?

Lets take a look at sauerkraut.

The lactic bacteria live on the surface of the cabbage leaves.

  • All you have to do is add 4 tbsp. of pickling salt to 5lbs of finely chopped cabbage.
  • Crush the cabbage, working in the salt and get the juice flowing.
  • Fill the mixture into a sterilized mason jar and make sure the brine covers the cabbage completely.
  • Add some brine (1liter of water mixed with 1 tbsp. of pickling salt) if it doesn't. This creates the oxygen free environment required for the bacteria to turn the sugar and starch in the cabbage to lactic acid, which preserves the food.
  • Cut two round patches from the big cover leaves of the cabbage, to fit through the jar mouth and put them on top of the kraut.
  • Fill a zip lock bag with water, seal and put it on top of the cover leaves. The bag should touch the sides of the jar's mouth, to stop air from going in and allow the carbon dioxide to escape. It also provides some weight to keep the cabbage below the top of the brine.
  • Finish it off with a piece of cloth, held in place by a rubber band.
  • Let it sit for about 3 weeks to ferment at room temperature. It is then ready to be eaten.

Some people like to add a quarter cup of whey to the 5 lb. cabbage and salt mixture. This will speed up the fermentation.

To get whey, you buy a 32 oz container of organic, full fat, plain yogurt. Dump the content into a muslin bag or a double layer of cheese cloth. Hang it from your cupboard handle over the counter, with a bowl underneath and let it drip for the night. You will have your whey in the bowl, the excess of which you can store in the fridge for up to a year. Use a glass container.

What's left in the bag is cream cheese for your boiled potatoes.

To get the most benefits, sauerkraut should be eaten raw. Cooking, will kill the probiotics. If you don't like the taste of the raw stuff, you can cook half of the portion of sauerkraut you intend to consume, mix it with raw kraut and eat it half and half.

To store, put it into the fridge or other cool place to slow the fermentation but either way it will keep up to a year.

Mix your cabbage with carrot sticks or thinly sliced red peppers and onions to make it more interesting.

This same process can be used to preserve green beans, carrots, beat, onions, garlic and many other vegetables.

There are hundreds of recipes on the internet.

Fermentation helps you in a large way to become more independent and takes you back to a simpler time, where people did not rely so much on the supermarket for their groceries.

Besides that, growing and preserving your own food provides you with a lot of fun and satisfaction.

Try it!

Fermentation of all kinds of different foods is an intensely interesting subject - from wine to sourdough to cheese. Get a book on it - here.

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