“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 the most dominant organism 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 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 making it impossible for the bacteria that cause botulism to survive. Here is a blog I wrote if you’d like to read more: Can Cultured Foods Hurt Me?
If kefir or kombucha has been in the fridge for a long time, is it still good?
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 a year, 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. It is just a little over-fermented, but it is still good for you. Check out this video to see what we mean. The Thick and Thin of Kefir
My ferment didn’t bubble — is everything okay?
A comment I hear often about cultured vegetables is that they are not as bubbly as they were before. 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, but not always, depending on temperature and the culture you used. 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 is fermenting and bubbly and doing its job. Canned foods contain no good bacteria (it is all dead) so a raised lid means danger.
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.
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.