I learnt all about how fermented foods and drinks are not only delicious but good for health.
There is a lot of research now on how gut health affects most of the systems in the body (e.g. the immune system and mood), so fermented foods are a great way of keeping your gut healthy in a natural way, no supplements needed.
We began by looking at milk kefir and how it can be made, using both raw milk and plant milks. We tasted a fermented milk kefir with oats as a possible breakfast option, but that was a little too sour for me. I very much enjoyed the 2 day fermented kefir milk as a yoghurt drink though, which was our next taster.
So what is kefir?
Kefir comes from the Turkish word ‘keif’ meaning ‘good feeling’, but describes a probiotic milk/yoghurt drink that is full of good bacteria for the gut. It is made from kefir ‘grains’, which are a combination of bacteria, yeast, lactose and sugars.
The grains when added to milk and left somewhere warm, will ferment and it’s the product of this fermentation that is known as kefir. It can be drunk on its own or added to smoothies, porridge etc, or if you leave it for a day or two more you will get curds and whey and soft cheese is only one further step away.
You can also get water kefir that is fed on sugar water or coconut water.
For more information on the health benefits of kefir, I highly recommend this blog by Dr Axe.
We then moved on to kombucha, which is a drink made from fermented black or green tea and sugar. A SCOBY (symbiotic community of bacteria and yeasts), is needed to bring about the fermentation process, converting the sugar to acetic acid and alcohol (a small amount).
Kombucha has a two stage fermentation process, and on the second ferment you can add fruit or spices to provide natural flavouring and health benefits of their own. The fermentation process produces carbon dioxide so the fruity drink can be slightly fizzy, a great alternative to chemical sodas.
You can find out more information about the health benefits of kombucha here.
My favourite kombucha was definitely the raspberry, a beautiful deep pink colour, and a mix of sweet and sour flavours.
After a beautiful vegan and vegetarian lunch we moved on the sauerkraut and kimchi.
I have forayed into the world of sauerkraut before but with mixed results so I was keen to learn some great fermenting tips from Katie. I made a white cabbage and horseradish sauerkraut to take home but we tried many different types in the class, from a version of kimchi to pea, nasturtium, white cabbage and fennel (a big favourite in the class).
If you’re looking for a fool proof sauerkraut recipe, I can highly recommend Katie’s simple recipe from her blog.
Last but not least was kimchi, and while there are lots of versions and ways to make it, Katie taught us an easy recipe that you can make at home without anything more fancy that a food processor and a couple of bowls.
Sauerkraut and kimchi are both made using an anaerobic fermentation with good bacteria, these live on the skin of vegetables, and so once you chop them up and add salt to get the juices out, and you’ve packed your jar as full as you can without any air in it, the juice should be spilling out of the top of the jar. Once a bit of warmth is added the bacteria do their thing and fermentation begins, gas is produced so depending on the jar used you may need to release the gas built up each day. Anything from a few days to 5 weeks is considered a good fermentation length. Once it’s fermented to your liking you can pop it in the fridge and it will last indefinitely.
You can then add it to salads, or as a side vegetable with any dish for some lovely probiotic goodness.
You can find more information on the health benefits of fermented vegetables here.
Katie and Gordon run sourdough baking classes as well as fermentation, take a look at their website for more details.
As a follow on – you may find this article on Kombucha helpful by Lisa at Happy Happy Vegan.