7 Fermented Foods to Make at Home
Welcome to the nutritious, creative, eco-friendly, health-promoting hobby of fermenting foods at home!
You can permanently rid your pantry (and gut) of processed foods by preserving your fruits and veggies old school. Not only will this justify your hoarding habits (jars and glass containers) and save you some serious cash, it’s a hobby that’s literally good for you.
Fermenting stuff at home doesn’t have to be complicated. The whole “homemade” label can make the process seem complicated, but really all you’re doing is slicing up veggies and fruits, putting them in jars, and waiting. While spices and herbs are often used to add different flavor profiles to fermented foods, most of the tangy goodness will come from the fermentation process itself.
The basic fermentation technique is submersion, so as long as your contents stay completely under brine (a simple solution of salt and water) throughout the fermentation process, there’s really no way to mess up.
Don’t know where to begin? Let’s start with a list of fermented foods that will fit neatly into your diet and easily accommodate your beginner fermentation skills.
A side of veggies is always a good compliment to a meal, so we’ll start with vegetables because you will definitely be eating these. Something you’ll learn along the way is that vegetables take longer to ferment than fruit because they contain less sugar. They also disappear faster because they are such a good addition to sandwiches and grilled meat dishes.
- Lacto-fermented Peppers
Make your own medley of pickled peppers by fermenting a jar of whole or sliced serrano and jalapeño peppers. The fermentation process provides an opportunity for the invigorating taste of fresh pickled peppers with much less sodium than the store-bought version. Also, peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to preserve by fermentation since they can go in the jar whole and be easily monitored.
- Fermented Garlic
Raw garlic cloves are an excellent source of nutrients and enzymes, but many of us find them intolerable to pop into our mouth and chew whole. Fermenting them however, not only makes them enjoyable to eat, but also preserves all their amazing qualities with the added benefit of probiotics.
The most work you’ll do fermenting garlic is peeling each individual clove. Other than that, it’s a simple matter of submerging under salted water and waiting for the tang to set in.
Fermented cabbage (German style), is perhaps the most famous of the fermented veggies and for a good reason. While the tangiest of its kind serves as an amazing condiment for sandwiches and hot dogs, a milder version can be eaten alongside anything (or on its own) as a sort of fermented salad.
Sauerkraut is a very practical health food as it can be made in huge batches, kept for very long periods of time, eaten cold, and most importantly, deliver huge doses of probiotics. It’s neutral flavor profile also means that you can pair it with almost anything and toy endlessly with different spice combinations.
- Fermented Carrot Sticks
Crunchy, raw carrot sticks make a great (and easy) side dish to any wholesome meal. Why not up the flavor and health benefits by making them fermented carrot sticks?
Also super easy and not to mention super cheap, fermented carrot sticks are another very practical probiotic food. Why? They’re packable, snackable and have much less sodium (and much more vitamin A) than pickles.
Don’t drink your calories, don’t drink your sugar, but definitely drink your probiotics. Okay, this might mean drinking calories and some sugar, but we promise they won’t be empty.
Kombucha doesn’t have to be a super expensive probiotic indulgence. If you’re not opposed to rooming with the gross-looking kombucha “mother”, you can produce customized kombucha by the gallons right at home. What’s more, even though the gelatinous placenta-looking mother might be scary to look at, she’s the gift that keeps on giving and as long as you keep her lightly covered in your fridge, you can always make a fresh new batch of kombucha.
While kefir can be an acquired taste, once you love it (and you will), there’s no going back. Not only is the stuff teeming with probiotics (research shows it’s one of the best probiotic carriers), it is also delicious and full of nutrients.
Kefir can easily be made at home with the aid of kefir grains and your choice of solvent- yes, kefir can be a dairy-free drink. While traditional kefir is made from whole milk (goat or cow), dairy-free versions include coconut-milk, almond-milk, soy-milk, and even water kefir.
No vital food list can be complete without mention of bread and despite the fact that this is a fermented foods list, bread did indeed, make the cut.
- Sourdough Bread
The difference between sourdough bread with probiotics and sourdough bread without them is whether you use yeast or a starter culture. In this case, you’ll be using the latter.
Sourdough bread is not only full of probiotics which make it ten times easier to digest than non-probiotic breads, it is also chock-full of vitamins and nutrients.
Studies show that fermented foods contain more probiotics than their capsule and tablet versions. Not only is the probiotic count higher in fermented foods, but also more likely to reach the gut. Another huge plus? Homemade fermentation is also very economical- if you’ve bought a bottle of kombucha before (or dozens), you can’t quite disagree with me.
- Di Cagno, Raffaella, et al. “Sourdough bread made from wheat and nontoxic flours and started with selected lactobacilli is tolerated in celiac sprue patients.” Applied and environmental microbiology 70.2 (2004): 1088-1096.
- Heller, Knut J. “Probiotic bacteria in fermented foods: product characteristics and starter organisms.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73.2 (2001): 374s-379s.
- Peres, Cátia M., et al. “Review on fermented plant materials as carriers and sources of potentially probiotic lactic acid bacteria–with an emphasis on table olives.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 26.1 (2012): 31-42.
- “How to Ferment Vegetables” Sarah Wilson. <http://www.sarahwilson.com/2012/04/how-to-ferment-vegetables/>.
- “How to Make Cultured Veggies” Donna Schwenk. <http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/members/the-trilogy/cultured-vegetables/how-to-make-cultured-vegetables/>.