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Urban Fermentation Project

One of my main real food goals is to increase my family’s intake of fermented foods. Why? Because the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in fermented foods:

  • enhances digestibility;
  • boosts vitamin content; and
  • creates substances that are anti-carcinogenic and antibiotic.

Oh, and they taste good, too :) Even mainstream food culture recognizes the benefits of “probiotics,” but why not ingest probiotics through whole foods, instead of in capsules or (sugar-or-chemical-laden) commercial yogurts?

Long ago, food preservation did not involve the elaborate sanitization techniques described in modern preservation manuals. The point was not to kill the food (by bathing it in a vinegar brine and then pasteurizing it) to make it shelf-stable, but to preserve its life, and the life force of the micro-organisms in the food which are so essential for our own vibrant health.

Check out this article for a full explanation of the history and benefits of ‘lacto-fermentation’ (fermentation by way of lactic acid).

Sauerkraut, beet kvass and marmalade are examples of lacto-fermented foods.

 

The Main Idea


My Urban Fermentation Project is like my farm in my little urban home. I don’t have a back yard (yet), so this farm is it for now. I’m cultivating micro-organisms instead of tomatoes, and tilling cultures instead of soil. On my kitchen counter. And I’m making my project a little challenge for myself (and you, if you’d like to join me!).

I plan to start at least one of the fermented goodies listed below every week until they’ve all been started, tested, and reviewed for your reading (and my tasting) pleasure. I’ll give each one a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down (and I’ll be picky, I promise), and rate how easy (or not) it was to make in relation to how good it tastes.

I’m also foreswearing a(n embarrassing) proclivity of mine for the duration of my project: pop. Soda. Soft drinks. Cola. Whatever you call it, and whether or not you like it, two things are true: it is bad for health, and I love it. I used to drink about a can every couple of days, and though I drink it less frequently now, I still crave it when I’m at my weakest. If I’ve had a bad day, it’s pop I consider consoling myself with. And, sometimes I give in. No longer. I intend to find at least one, if not multiple fermented beverages to re-place the place that pop holds in my heart. Kombucha doesn’t do it for me. There must be something that will. I also hope to drastically limit my intake of refined sweeteners of all sorts for (at least) the duration of this project, because I know from experience that avoiding sugar makes everything else you eat just taste better!!

The Background

I started with some basics before I started this blog, but by any standard I am a newbie to fermented foods. I started my real food journey with authentic bone broths, raw dairy and a healthy-fat overhaul a couple of years ago, but only now have I developed an interest in exploring the world of home-brewed fermentations. I make kombucha and soaked (fermented) porridge already, and in the past I’ve brewed my own yogurt. But I’m taking it to a whole new level. Pictured above are my first attempts at sauerkraut, beet kvass and marmalade. And I’m not stopping there.

 

The Roster

The plan is to make each of the following fermented foods, and to chronicle the journey here. I’ve picked these ones because…they look tasty. I’ll save the adventurous stuff for later ;)

Vegetables & Fruits:

Condiments:

  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Tsatsiki

Grains:

  • Rye bread
  • Sourdough wheat bread
  • Pumpernickel
  • Amazake (sweet fermented rice)

Beverages:

  • Hindu lemonade
  • Rejuvelac
  • Water kefir
  • Milk kefir
  • Beet kvass
  • Ginger Ale (added thanks to Marina’s comment below!)

By my count, that’s a 25 week-long project. Which will take me into May 2011. That’s assuming I don’t add anything to the list as the project progresses, which I doubt will be possible, as I’ve already added at least ten things to the original list I made in contemplation of this project :) I have added many things to this list by now (early December). There’s no time limit on my project – I’ll be fermenting ’til I’m done all of these experiments, and then I’ll continue making the ones I like best!

Care to Join Me?

Subscribe, or leave me a comment if you’re interested in joining me in this journey – whether by observation (consolation?) or participation, all are welcome. I would love to have some company!!

Here’s to vibrant health through fermented foods…

17 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2010 2:02 pm

    I have just discovered the Nourishing Traditions cookbook and the Eat Fat, Lose Fat book.

    I, too, have just started to try this stuff out. I recieved a grain mill and used it to make a soaked whole grain bread. I am going to try a soaked muffin recipe from gnowglins.com and I have also tried a soaked pancake recipe.

    I am a little scared to try the fermented veggies, so I will be very interested to see how it turns out for you.

    I used to be addicted to Dr. Pepper. I had a least one large soda a day (sometimes, more). I stopped drinking it about 6 months ago and I still want one from time to time. I really want to try some of these other drinks, because I like water, but sometimes I just want something else.

    Oh yeah, I also have started drinking raw milk and I am going to try to make yogurt with it very soon. It’s on my list :0)

    • November 21, 2010 2:09 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      Welcome! That’s so interesting that you started with grains – I started with everything else!! Everyone has such a different journey. I can’t wait to get going with some more fermented things so I can share them here.

      I didn’t have much success with raw milk yogurt in the past, for some reason. I could always get yogurt to work with organic pasteurized milk, but no luck with raw milk. Not to say I won’t try again at some point ;) If you have success, do share!

      Here’s hoping we can both replace the craving for soda with something fermented!

      Cheers,
      Shannon

  2. Sue permalink
    November 22, 2010 12:13 pm

    How did the marmalade turn out? I am a newbie to real food also and I just discovered your blog through The Healthy Home Economist today. I live in Ottawa, and since you are also in Ontario, I thought I would subscribe. It is always helpful to find Canadian resources!

    Sue

    • November 22, 2010 12:22 pm

      Hi Sue,

      Welcome! I like the way the marmalade turned out! It doesn’t taste like the stuff you get from the store, but it’s fresh tasting, and mildly sweet and salty at the same time. I figured out that the best way to eat it on bread is to have a thick layer of butter underneath – that way the bread doesn’t get wet, but you get the taste of the marmalade on top of the butter (it’s quite watery). I’ve also tried it on plain yogurt, and it was different than what I’m used to, but I liked it. I’m really excited about some of the things I have lined up next for my project!!

      I am planning to get into listing Canadian resources on my site at some point. I hope you enjoy your subscription!

      :) Shannon

  3. November 24, 2010 12:22 pm

    Hey Shannon!
    I am also from Ontario! Kitchener actually.
    I would love to do the recipes you are doing. I did saurekraut about 5 years ago, when I was less busy with the kids and we loved it, and for some time I was thinking doing it again instead of buying it from barrels in the polish store, the homemade tastes a lot better!
    For some time now I also wanted to make some ginger ale, even made whey for it but never got around to i!

    • November 24, 2010 12:32 pm

      Hi Marina!

      Glad to have some more company! I am having so much fun so far with this….homemade ginger ale needs to get added to the list!! I will add it in when I get a chance! I think one new thing per week is a good pace, because they don’t take too long to get set up, and I figure even if 2/4 in a month taste good it will have been worth it.

      Mmmmm ginger ale. Today is definitely the sort of day I’d be treating myself with a pop if I hadn’t made this commitment… ;)

      Shannon

  4. December 3, 2010 9:28 pm

    Wow, what a list! I’ve just recently gotten going on my own fermented foods journey – right now what I’ve gotten down are yogurt and kombucha. I can’t wait to look at your updates, especially the apple butter!

    For your soda cravings, have you tried fermenting juices? I found a few recipes in these articles on the Weston Price site: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/499.html
    and http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/1445-bodacious-beverages.html

    I’ve fermented fruit pulp with water, sugar and whey and it turned out well – adding some soda water to the finished product made a nice little soda!

    • December 3, 2010 10:10 pm

      Haha – yes, maybe a tad ambitious, but I figure that putting it ‘out there’ makes me a bit accountable, and then hopefully others can learn from my (legions of) mistakes :) Yes, apple butter sounds amazing, eh??! Can’t wait for that one. In fact, maybe I’ll make it ‘next.’

      Fermenting juices and adding some soda/sparkling water on the other end is brilliant. I will have to add that to my list! My list is growing faster than I’m attacking the things on it! I can honestly say I have not cheated ONCE since I started my project (no pop – only water, milk and tea for me), but it’s only been in the last few days that I’m seriously craving it. I will have to check out those links. Thank you so much.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer!

  5. December 17, 2010 10:48 am

    If you’re a subscriber to my Urban Fermentation Project’s comments, but not to the blog, you may want to head over today, because I posted a poll to help me decide what to tackle next in this project! Happy, healthy holidays to you!

    Shannon @ OnceUpontheKitchenCounter

    • :) joy permalink
      December 20, 2010 2:25 pm

      Very psyched to follow your blog, as i am in the same newbie boat :)
      Started with 2 different e-courses (thru Nourished Kitchen back in June, & Nourishing Gourmet in February, as it had info on how to do Real Foods economically.) You’d think i’d be a pro by now
      -
      and i have made broths, soaked grains, purchase grass-fed meats and pastured chicken & eggs…
      and veered into the land of fermentation only as far as sourdough bread.
      But now, we thought it helpful to put my family on the GAPS diet, to replace our gut flora & start fresh, so No grains, No starch, & No sugar – for at least 6 months.
      However, the quest for fermented foods is even greater as i need to replace the probiotic pills, as soon as possible, due to the cost.
      so, forge on, my kindred sister…& i will be here, being inspired through the watch :)
      1 last thought of something to add to the list: coconut water kefir.

      • December 20, 2010 2:38 pm

        Hi Joy,

        I’m so glad you found your way here!! Thanks for the encouragement to forge on – we all need it! Everyone has such a different journey in this. GAPS is a very huge thing you are doing for your family – it takes it to a whole new level! Good for you. I know what you mean with the cost of the probiotics – so much more expensive than a few jars of fermented veggies in the bottom of the fridge (and less tasty, too!) ;)

        Coconut water kefir needs to get added to the list for sure!!

        Be sure to stop by and leave a comment if you attempt one of the recipes – all experiences welcome (and appreciated!) so we can build our collective wisdom!

        Cheers,
        Shannon

  6. March 31, 2011 7:59 am

    Hi Shannon, I’m in Ottawa too, and am also trying to include more fermented REAL foods in my diet. Have you gotten hold of any water kefir grains? I’ve heard a lot of people drink that instead of pop. I’m hoping to find something to substitute for my partner’s Coca Cola!

    I’m excited about your blog and getting inspired by your local real food strategies!

    • March 31, 2011 9:20 pm

      Hi there!

      I’m so glad you stopped by, because now I have found your lovely blog too!! I will have to check out your sourdough starter info when I have time – that is on my list of things to do/learn in the near future.

      As for water kefir grains, I have a small jar in the back of my fridge, but I have never used them yet, so once I get them going, I am happy to share with you! I should make sure they are potent enough to actually ferment – they have been in there a long while – best of intentions but little time it seems!! I have maintained my no-pop resolution for so long now that I actually don’t miss it anymore, but I still would love to look forward to a cold, fizzy, healthy bevvy on the patio this summer!! So it is on the to-do list.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Shannon

  7. Leah permalink
    August 11, 2011 2:12 pm

    Hello! Its lovely to see your blog! I too am from Ottawa, and have recently picked up ‘Wild Fermentation’ and am, myself on a bit of a fermentation binge. I’m very inspired to see there are some other fermenters in Ottawa! So, I would LOVE to participate in this fermenting journey if you are still at – I have an amazing recipe for a sourdough rye “rugbrod” from Denmark, where I had been living up to a year ago. I just made some…its virtually an institution in Denmark, and I find it divine! I just made a first batch of miso too – but I guess I’ll have to wait at least a year to try that out.

    On another note, I am looking for a raw milk distributer. Would you be willing to share your source of raw Jersey milk? My grandfather and aunt and uncle were dairy farmers in Alberta, and I grew up on raw milk – loved skimming the cream off the top…I would be very grateful!!!

    Looking forward to perusing your blog
    Leah

    • August 18, 2011 10:09 pm

      Hi Leah!

      I am hoping to get back into regular posting as soon as possible! The fermentation has not stopped by any means, but the time to write has slowed a lot, of late! I would love to get your recipe for “rugbrod”!! Amazing.

      Definitely shoot me an email and we’ll chat raw milk. Hope you enjoy the blog ;)

      Shannon

  8. Ashley permalink
    September 15, 2012 7:54 pm

    Love the blog! Stumbled across when I was searching for a way to use up some rolled oats (my partner bought instead of steel cut) and made your spelt cookies! Loved them, and its a treat I dont mind sharing with my toddler! Also love that you are in Ontario, I’m in Ottawa, love a Canadian resource. Keep it up!

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