"You’ll never forget a cultured food that you have made. Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.”Donna
Every day I receive many emails from people who are new to fermenting and want to do a good job. They are afraid they are going to do it wrong, mess it up, or make themselves sick. I know from their letters how hard they are trying. Fermenting foods feels so different from anything they know. Often it feels difficult, but it is not – it’s just new. Fermenting is so safe and easy since there is no canning involved. It’s great for the summertime and is the best and coolest way to preserve the summer produce. Let me help you feel more confident about culturing your foods. Actually, you aren’t doing anything, it’s the microbes that do the work, you just provide the environment. Work with these microbes that dominate our planet. Just as we care about the environment and try to keep our world clean, we must care about the microbes too. They are one of the most dominant organisms on this planet, and they’re keeping you well each and every day – but they need your help. Invite them into your home and kitchen and let them live in a jar of your choosing. Then, just watch what happens. And may I just say one more thing? Love the food you create. We have a contract with food during our lives and the more you love it and believe in the benefits, the more the cells of your body receive it and create benefits for you.
Let me put your mind at ease about a few things with the answers to some common questions.
What If I Don't Ferment Foods Correctly?
Will I Make My Family (Or Myself) Sick?
When you ferment foods, the good bacteria become so strong and dominant that it keeps pathogens and harmful bacteria out. This applies to kefir, veggies, kombucha, and most cultured foods. Fermented foods also have more vitamins than they contained before they were fermented. The fermentation process also adds enzymes and probiotics and helps digest the foods they eat.
Fermented vegetables are submerged under water, and acidifying bacteria such as Lactobacillus dominate and control the environment to keep out the pathogens. Also, there is no threat of botulism in fermented foods because of the way they are prepared. Botulism occurs in canned goods because the heat used in canning kills all of the good bacteria. When fermenting food, the healthy bacteria thrive which makes it impossible for the bacteria that cause botulism to survive.
Here is an article I wrote if you'd like to learn more:
How Long Do Fermented Foods Last In The Fridge?
The process of fermentation preserves the food in such a way that it lasts a very long time in your fridge. I have had all of them (kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables) in my fridge for 9 months, and they were pretty sour but still good. Remember, fermenting preserves these foods and keeps them safe; and when you consume them, they preserve you.
However, if it looks or smells off, by all means, throw it out. If it has green or fuzzy-looking mold or smells really awful, you will know that it is time to throw it out.
My Kefir Looks Different From The Last Batch – Should I Throw It Out?
No, don't throw it out! I hear this question about kefir often. Many think that since their kefir has separated or curdled, it has gone bad, but it is just a little over-fermented. It is still good for you so don't throw it out. The temperatures might have gotten warmer and it is fermenting faster, or you have too many grains for the amount of milk you are using. You can make a smoothie with this and add frozen fruit and still get a lot of benefits.
Check out the time-lapse video in this article to see what we mean and extra tips to help you.
My Veggies Didn't Bubble — Is Everything Okay?
If your veggies aren't as bubbly as they were when you first made them, this doesn't mean they are bad. If the vegetables rise in the jar and then taste sour, you will know they are fine. Bubbles usually occur in the first couple of days of fermenting them, but not always, depending on the temperature and the culture you used. If it's getting cloudy, it means it's working. If the vegetables rise in the jar and push the lid up this is fine too. It's the opposite with canned foods. A raised lid was something to always be alarmed with in canned foods, but in fermentation it is a good sign and means the good bacteria are fermenting and bubbly and doing their job. Canned foods contain no good bacteria (it is all dead) so a raised lid means danger.
U.S. Department of Agriculture research service microbiologist Fred Breidt says properly fermented vegetables are actually safer than raw vegetables, which might have been exposed to pathogens like E. coli on the farm. “With fermented products, there is no safety concern. I can flat-out say that. The reason is the lactic acid bacteria that carry out the fermentation are the world’s best killers of other bacteria,” says Breidt, who works at a lab at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, where scientists have been studying fermented and other pickled foods since the 1930s.
Breidt adds that fermented vegetables, for which there are no documented cases of food-borne illness, are safer for novices to make than canned vegetables. Pressurized canning creates an anaerobic environment that increases the risk of deadly botulism, particularly with low-acid foods.
Fermenting foods is an art and it will be unique to you. You have different temperatures and bacteria in your kitchen that are special to you. Fermenting may work slightly differently for everyone, but it still works and you will discover the magic of your own kitchen. In time, your foods will ferment better and better as you grow in your ability and confidence. You have helpers in these unseen microbes that ferment the foods and make them safe for you. They are really doing the work. If you are a Biotic Pro member, there is a great forum for questions as well as courses and lessons with videos too.
If you are new to all of this, first try store-bought versions to see what you like. You can buy kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables in the refrigerator section of most health food stores. Try them and see how you like them and then you can learn to make your own. I also have a free Ebook that shows you step-by-step how to make kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables. Simply subscribe to my mailing list and I'll send it to you.
I also have many helpful articles to help you. Just click on the Start Here button below:
The journey of learning new things is the best part, so don’t miss it. This is much easier than you think and I'm here to help if you need it.
Listen To My Podcast
Every day I receive many emails from people who are new to fermenting and want to do a good job and they are afraid they are going to do it wrong, mess it up, or make themselves sick. Fermenting foods can often feel difficult, but it is not – it’s just new. I can help you feel more confident and have fun in the process. Tune in to learn why fermenting can often be the safest way to preserve foods.
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