Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 1

I’ve recently gotten pretty immersed in the little-talked-about food world of fermentation. Fermented foods have been around for millennia, so why am I now just discovering this?? Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about my new food hobby!

My interest was first piqued after watching “Cooked” on Netflix – Michael Pollan’s 4-part documentary series. It is really good, if you haven’t seen it yet! I was particularly intrigued by episodes 3 & 4 which went deep into our human history with Bread, and then with fermented foods. Incidentally, bread is historically a fermented food too! It’s only until recently that most breads are made with commercial yeast, rather than cultured sourdough.

I was so fascinated with the show, that I immediately checked out Pollan’s book (also titled Cooked). It’s a great read, I definitely recommend it. Like his other books, Michael Pollan has a great way of introducing not-so-commonly-know information that is both useful and insightful, as well as making the subject matter very relatable through personal anecdotes. Of course, after reading it (and before I even finished the book, really), I decided I wanted to challenge myself with some new cooking skills, and making my own wild sourdough bread and my own home ferments were first on the list. I checked out more books from the library.

Pollan’s book is great because it has a whole bibliography from which I could get more information. Readily available at my library was Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation which was a great starting book for someone new to the whole fermentation thing.

So far, I have successfully brought a bowl of flour and water to life! (Ahem, really not that miraculous, apparently) Leaving this bowl of flour goo on the counter for almost 2 weeks, I thought perhaps the wild yeasts and bacteria that I was promised are everywhere didn’t live in my home, or didn’t want me to make my own sourdough bread. But patience paid off, and I now have a happy, bubbly starter, still living on my counter (covered with a cloth most of the time).

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Sourdough Starter (wild fermentation!)

I feed it a bit of flour and water every day. I’ve made 5-6 loaves of bread thus far, two batches of English muffins, and pancakes. Not everything has been a rocking success, but I have made a few things I’m pretty proud of…like this loaf of bread.

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Whole wheat Sourdough Bread

Another fermenting experiment that is underway was one M wanted to do – homemade Mead. Apparently, mead is just about the easiest alcoholic ferment you can do – just mix honey and water and give it a stir every time you think of it.

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Mead fermenting in my blue Le Creuset Pitcher

And if you can use pretty crockery to do your fermenting, all the better! After 10 days of stirring and waiting, we’re finally starting to see some bubbling activity. Soon we’ll transfer to a bottle to finish the process.

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Tiny bubbles of CO2 in our honey water show us that fermentation is afoot!

My next adventure is to make homemade sauerkraut. But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned for Experimentation with Fermentation Part 2!

 

 

 

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