Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about sourdough and other fermented foods? Well I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a Sourdough and Fermented Food workshop hosted by Elisabeth Fekonia where I learned a lot about natural fermentation.
At the workshop we learned how to make our own sourdough starter and how to make sourdough bread and pickelets. Then we went on to learn how to make other fermented foods such as Kim chi and sauerkraut and even a fermented mixture of dried fruits and nuts.
Whilst we were creating and tasting these delicious foods we also learned about why they are so good for us and I would like to share some of this information with you.
Basically, a small serving of fermented food serves as a probiotic. Whereas now, many of us pay extraordinary amounts of money to buy refrigerated powders from health food stores to restore that good gut bacteria, many people use to (and in some cultures still do) ferment foods in order to aid digestion. Much to my surprise, many things that would usually appear and smell to me as “off” are actually teeming with billions of healthy microbes just waiting to make us more healthy. It was certainly a big shift in thinking to accept that a jar of cabbage sitting on the bench for 5 days in possibly warm temperatures is not something bound for the compost. Mixtures such as this and Kim chi and even the sourdough starter start to bubble and move and this is a GOOD thing! Healthy microbes from the air around the food take up residence in your mixture of ingredients and begin to multiply. They feed off what is in the mix and begin to break it down. In the case of a sourdough bread mix the grain and the gluten within that grain which are often times difficult to digest, is partially digested by the microbes. This means that even though by the time you eat your bread, the microbes have had their lives come to an abrupt end in a hot oven, they have already done much of the digesting work for you and you will feel a lot better after eating a slice of sourdough bread than you would after eating the regular yeasted breads. In the case of raw fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kim chi, the microbes are still in there when you eat the foods and they are then able to continue on to your gut where they do more good work.
You may be wondering what these foods tasted like. Well in short, quite sour. Sourdough bread was something I was already use to as it has become quite a commonly available commodity. I really enjoy the taste of this bread and the pikelets were also delicious. However the other fermented foods were new to me. I must admit that I found them a little overpowering and given my usual habit of throwing fizzy and smelly foods into the compost, it was a big adjustment for me. In saying that, I am willing to work on this and taste more of these foods until I like them as the benefit in including them in our daily diet is incredible. I got the impression that the other members of the group really enjoyed the taste of the fermented delicacies served up at lunch so lets just agree that I am a little fussy…
Bread – The Staff of Life
Another interesting topic of discussion at the workshop was the change from what bread was in olden times to what it has now become. As Elisabeth said, bread use to be referred to as “The Staff of Life” and people could literally survive on bread and water alone. Now bread is little more than Klennex tissues (as my son likes to call white bread). Most of the time the healthy wheat grain is stripped of all nutrition before it is put together with additives, preservatives and yeast. Sometimes even quite a bit of sugar. Elizabeth’s bread really was something you could live on. It was made with freshly ground wheat, kelp, seeds, nuts and sometimes she adds molasses. It is of course a heavier bread and probably wouldn’t be something you could roll your hot chips up in but it was also delicious and wholesome. I have since been making bread of a similar make up and my family love it. It is particularly delicious with soup and is a complete meal! I am experimenting with all different ingredients. So far we love adding seeds and walnuts and I have just purchased some Hemp powder which I will add to my next loaf. There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread and the site of a home made loaf on your bench.
I think it is well worth the effort needed to create these fermented foods. Not only are we going back to the old wisdom but we are able to create such eh
For more information on Elizabeth’s workshops and ideas: http://www.permacultureproduce.com.au/
In good health,