Nourishing recipes worth taking time for: ferments

Today is the second day I’m talking about recipes that are worth taking time for. Yesterday, I wrote about homemade broth, which is nourishing and easily digestible. Today I’m introducing ferments.

The word “fermented” sure didn’t use to sound appetizing to me. However, fermented foods are actually full of incredible amounts of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and readily available nutrients.

Fermentation is when naturally present bacteria, usually of the lactobaccillus or bifidus strains, (or sometimes yeasts) begin “pre-digesting” or breaking down the sugars and starches in the food. As these bacteria divide, the process forms lactic acid, which halts the growth of the “bad” or putrefying bacteria. This acid is also responsible for the sour taste that comes along with fermented foods.

As long as the foods are kept under a brine or a liquid, and in cool storage, the product will last for months, sometimes years.

Sally Fallon writes,

Lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. (Nourishing Traditions, p. 89)

Some examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi, but nearly any vegetable or fruit can be fermented!


As a preface to all the fermented recipes I’m going to introduce, let’s look for a minute at how to make whey. Then tomorrow, we’ll get into some practical fermenting info.

Whey is essentially the liquid by-product of making cheese.

Homemade cultured whey is indispensable for making fermented vegetables, chutneys, beverages and grain dishes. It can be made from various types of cultured milk, good quality yogurt or even fresh raw milk, which will sour and separate naturally when left at room temperature for several days.

While some people may be averse to letting milk/milk products sit at room temperature for several days, that’s exactly how you begin making whey! But we will be using unpasteurized, natural milk products. Without pasteurization or refrigeration, milk naturally sours and separates because of lacto-fermentation, when lactic-acid-producing bacteria begin digesting or breaking down both milk sugar (lactose) and milk protein (casein). When these good bacteria have produced enough lactic acid to inactivate all putrefying bacteria, the milk is effectively preserved from spoilage for several days or weeks and in the case of cheese, several years.*

Whey recipe

2 quarts piima milk, whole-milk buttermilk, yogurt, or raw milk

If using piima milk or buttermilk, let stand at room temp 1-2 days until the milk visibly separates into white curds and yellowish whey. If you are using yogurt, no advance preparation is required. You can use homemade yogurt or good quality commercial plain yogurt. If using raw milk, place milk in a clean glass container (covered) and allow it to stand at room temp 1-4 days until it separates. (Note: my raw milk took over a week! It needs to separate visibly into white curds and nearly clear yellowish whey.)

Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel or cheese cloth. Pour in the yogurt or separated milk, cover and let stand at room temp for several hours (longer for yogurt). The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer. Tie up the towel with the solids inside, being careful not to squeeze. Tie this little sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a container so that more whey can drop out. When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready. Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese in covered glass container. Refrigerated, the cream cheese keeps for about 1 month and the whey for about 6 months.

What are we going to use this whey for??? Tomorrow, we’ll be using it in all of our ferment recipes, and whey is also good for soaking grains.

* Sources:

Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

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