There is so much buzz surrounding fermented foods right now and rightly so. More than ever we are being made aware of the influence our microbiome has on our health, from supporting the immune system to enhancing mental health, it’s quite remarkable.
I won’t divulge the intricacies of the Microbiome, that’s not the aim of this. Rather, all that needs to be understood is that we are aiming to encourage the growth of Gut Positive bacteria in our digestive tract so that they outweigh the presence of Gut negative Bacteria. While it’s all too easy to reach to the shelves for over the counter Probiotic Capsules, from personal experience, it’s not something I would recommend unless you have been on a course of medication, antibiotics, or have had a gastrointestinal upset. The main reason for this is that, unless you have had a test, it’s hard to know exactly which strains you may be deficient in. Capsules comprise a plethora of different bacterial strains, so unless you are lucky enough to pick the right combination by chance, you may end up either with no effect, or with intestinal bloating due to excess gas. You may just be throwing money down the drain. By all means do get a test done.
Personally, as someone with gut disorders, I have found it beneficial to include small, daily amounts of Probiotic bacteria from fermented foods in my diet. Combined with a diet containing prebiotic foods (such as bananas and broccoli) I feel as though I have established a healthier Microbiome.
There are myriad of fermented foods out there. Globally, every culture has their own take on this age old form of preservation from Tempeh and Soy Sauce to Sauerkraut and Kimchi. I have tried and tested so many and have had great results… it’s really not as daunting as you may think. As you become more competent you will realise that its actually quite hard to contaminate fermented foods with ‘detrimental mould’ as the pH of these foods is generally too low to support their growth. Of course, you may grow ‘good mould’ but generally these can just be scraped off along with the surrounding layer of product.
I have chosen to highlight 3 of my ‘go to’ ferments. These are the ones which I consume daily and have a constant batch on the go. Feel free to name your cultures, they will reward the love you show them with happy tums!
This is a traditional Japanese drink made of fermented rice. It translates to ‘sweet sake’ but I make the non-alcoholic version. The alcoholic version is made using the Lees that form the by-product of the Sake industry. I prefer to make the version using Koji Rice. Essentially, this is Japanese rice that has been inoculated with Aspergillus Oryzae or Koji Mould. It’s the same mould used to inoculate Miso, Soy Sauce, Mirin and of course, Sake.
The resulting ferment is a thick paste which is beautifully sweet. It’s taken as a drink made up with either cold or warm water (never hot as this will kill the mould). Traditionally it is taken with a dash of fresh ginger juice to settle the stomach but I have tried all different flavourings ranging from Acai and Baobab powders to Cacao Powder.
To begin you will need to get hold of some Koji Rice. I order mine from www.souschef.co.uk as its high quality and works every time. I prefer to use brown rice for my Amazake as the flavour and nutritional profile is far superior. Basically, all you are aiming to do is harness the enzymes in the mould to break down the rice starch into glucose. I find using US cup measures for this the easiest way to make it as it all relies on ratios.
1. Measure 1 Cup Brown Rice into a pan and cover with 4 cups filtered water.
2. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, until the rice is nice and soft.
3. Transfer to a bowl and add another 2 cups cold filtered water. You are aiming to reduce the temperature to somewhere between 50-60C (a thermometer is needed here as too hot and your mould will be destroyed).
4. Once at the correct temperature, add in ½ cup Koji rice and stir well.
5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm.
6. Now you need to ferment your mix. I am lucky enough to have a dehydrator so I pop mine in there at about 55C (again you are aiming for 50-60C) for 15 hours. This is how long it takes for the mould to break down the starch.
7. However, you can also ferment this in your oven on the defrost setting, or, if you have one, a Thermomix)
8. Once fermented, all you need to do is pour the whole mix into a blender, blend to your desired consistency (I like mine slightly chunky) and store in a sterile jar/ Tupperware in the fridge. It will keep for weeks!