Fermenting Food

Fermenting food. Sounds weird, I know, but bear with me. If you have ever eaten sauerkraut, you have had fermented cabbage, but you can do this with basically any fruit or veggie. They even ferment cheese, but I haven’t delved into that pit. It couldn’t be that much different I don’t figure, but I know zero about it, so I won’t say any more on that.

Food fermentation is an ancient form of food preservation, that also has health benefits.

FERMENTATION:

  • makes digesting food easier. Bacteria made by the fermentation process have already started breaking down the food, or predigesting, so your body does not have to work as hard to process it.
  • actually adds nutrients. The bacteria produce more vitamins and minerals as they digest the starches and sugars, particularly B and K2 vitamins.
  • can produce more probiotics in a single serving than a bottle of probiotic supplements.
  • supports immune health. More than 3/4 of your immune system is in your gut, which is greatly affected by fermented foods.
  • helps you curbs sugar cravings by adjusting the taste buds to more bitter/sour flavors.
  • promotes healthy bacteria in the gut by producing lactic acid during the fermentation process that is needed for a healthy gut.
  • adds a new depth of flavor to foods.

HOW-TO:

You can ferment pretty much anything, including herbs, which are medicinal in their own right, making your food that much more beneficial for your body. I will eventually do a post on making Kimchi, and probably a few other things, so follow this blog to stay up to date and get notifications when I post new content.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • clean mason jar, quart sized if you have it.
  • 4 tsp. salt p/quart (sea salt is best, but any works)
  • about 1 pint distilled or filtered water p/quart (you will need to make sure food is completely submerged to prevent spoilage)(chlorine in tap water can prevent proper fermentation)
  • washed and sliced/diced/chopped fruit or veggies
  • herbs/garlic/ginger, etc. (Herbs like basil actually mellow in flavor during the fermentation process, so don’t be shy.)

-Layer in your herbs and other food choices. Make it pretty! Pack down the food some, and fill to about 1-1 1/2″ headspace.
-Mix salt and water. Pour over food in jar, making sure to cover food with water, but leaving 1″ headspace. Otherwise, you will get spoilage, which is no good, and a waste of food.
-If your chosen food floats, weigh it down with something. They make fermenting kits that come with weights, but you could also use boiled rocks or stones, which is what they did in the good old days. Make sure to wash and boil rocks to sanitize. The salt brine generally prevents the bad bacteria from growing, but you don’t want to introduce any unwanted bacteria just to be safe.
-Cap, but don’t screw lid on too tight. They sell vent caps in those fermenting kits, but you can use regular lids. You may want to put your jars on a plate or something else to catch any leakage when it starts fermenting.
-You want to let your jar sit at room temperature for at least a week, but you can ferment food for a few weeks. It will make the taste stronger. Don’t sit in direct sunlight, but you don’t have to hide it in the dark.
-After 5 days to a week, you should be seeing bubbles. Taste and see if it is done to your liking. If not, recap, and continue to ferment. If it is done, move to the refrigerator, where it can last 6 months or more. Jars can also be stored in root cellars, but they need to stay cool.

Applying heat when processing any food destroys some of its healthful benefits. That means, fermentation allows you to consume foods you might not want to eat raw, without cooking them, therefore making the food you consume healthier for you as well as more palatable. It all comes down to taste preference of course. Some people may not like the tanginess that comes with fermentation, BUT I will say you can acquire the taste for it if you give it a chance.

I have personally had this experience recently with Kimchi, which I tried for the first time once I started researching for this blog post. The first few bites were not what I expected, but I soon found myself migrating back to the fridge for just one more bite…it can get addicting, yes, but it’s better than shoveling sugar down your throat.

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DID YOU KNOW?
You can ferment chicken feed and other livestock food as well.
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You can do this with pellet food, but it will have a porridge consistency. Whole grains keep their texture better. Keep in mind that sunflower seeds in scratch grain tend to float, where they may mold. Like people food, livestock feed needs to be submerged during fermenting process to prevent spoilage.

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Do not feed livestock moldy food!
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HOW-TO:

-1/2 to 1 gallon mason jar works for a small flock. Food grade 5 gallon buckets work for the larger flocks. Choose a warm location to keep container while fermenting. Colder temps slow the fermentation process.
-Fill container 2/3 of the way with feed, then cover with 1″ of water. Let tap water set in the open for 24 hours before using. Remember, chlorine can hinder the fermentation process. (You may need to add more water after 12-24 hours, once the food starts to swell.) Keep an eye on it, and add water if needed.
-Let food sit at least 24 hours, or a max of 5-7 days, depending on the temperature. Stir daily and watch for bubbles, a sign of fermentation. Feed should have a pleasant, sour, yeasty smell to it, like bread dough. White foam that may form is just natural yeast. It’s okay.
-Strain excess water off. Leftover water can be used as a kick-starter for the next round of fermented food because of the yeast created in the process.
-Different feeds ferment differently. 3 to 5 days is usually optimal time, but it really depends on the temperature. Experiment for yourself. You can only learn so much online, and getting your hands dirty is fun!
-If mold does form on top, scrape it off and smell the feed. If it still smells like bread dough, you are good. If rancid or putrid, chuck it in the compost.

NOTE: Hens may begin to lay later if eating fermented feed, but eggs will tend to be heavier, with thicker shells and better flavor.

-Only put out what chickens can eat in a day. Fermented food can go bad quickly, especially on warm days.
-Keep food trough clean of molding food if it isn’t picked clean.
-Food can freeze in super cold areas, so put out smaller portions throughout the day if you have this problem. You could also use seed heating pads to keep the food from freezing as well, if you have them.
-In summer, feed in the evening while letting chickens forage throughout the day. They are more likely to eat it all if they are still a little hungry.

Fermented whole grains neutralize phytic acid that acts as an antinutrient that blocks vitamin/mineral absorption.
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Fermenting livestock feed can reduce the overall cost of feeding your animals, and benefit them health-wise, just like fermented food benefits you, including increasing nutrients while decreasing sugar. This can also be done with high protein meat bird feed, the likes of which are prone to eat you out of house and home before harvest day.

NOTE: You can add 1-2 tbsp. of Apple Cider Vinegar to speed up fermentation process, but I wouldn’t suggest using it until you find out if you actually need it or not.

I hope you found a lot of good information here today. If you have any questions, I will try my hardest to answer! I’ve got some new stuff coming up, but I’m not sure if I will be posting weekly or bi-weekly from here on yet.

Many Blessings,
Emma Lee

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