Would you eat purposely spoiled food?
Well, you better, because they are trending in the culinary world. And what's more, they're great for your gut!
The latest trend to hit the foodie world is totally funky. Literally. And I am not referring to the art of grooviness. What I refer to is that certain je ne sais quoi that makes you turn up your nose when you smell something a little - well, maybe slightly more than little - "off". Purposefully spoiled foods are all the rage. All across the world, kitchen counters of every crunchy mom (code for health- and price-conscious DIY-ers) are lined with glass jars of various fermenting foods and drinks.
I know it sounds very weird. We, the crunchy foodies, are modern, convenience-loving, sophisticated people with ancient kitchen practices reminiscent of great granny's kitchen.
Yup, I am guilty as charged!
As I write, I currently have my first batch of kombucha brewing on my countertop. I recently got the scoby from my former Dubai food blogger friend, Didi Paterna-Magpali, now an experienced artisanal baker of fine sourdough breads at Masa Artisan Bread in Plano, Texas. I only regret not getting a sourdough starter culture from her sooner.
Kombucha, scoby, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, homemade ginger beer, fermented coconut water, fermented pickles, preserved lemons, sourdough bread, starter cultures and traditional buttermilk are all the trending buzzwords of this funky fermented foods era. As Westerners catch up with the customs of old, we are breaking the Internet with this return to bygone traditional ways of processing and preserving foods.
Have you ever heard the good, old saying "trust your gut"? Well, according to many gut-health-conscious food experts, you really ought to. The foodie world has caught up to a truth long known in Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and other traditional holistic cultures: feeding your gut probiotics via fermented foods is good sense.
In many places, you can even buy these probiotic foods from commercial manufacturers. Since these foods are now trending, there has been an increase in probiotic food products by commercial manufacturers looking for what is becoming a very lucrative market. However, the new craze is to go back to the basics and make them yourself - or source them from a small-batch artisanal home-based supplier. For good reasons. I like to make mine because I know my ingredients and can control the outcome. Plus, it is cheaper and, generally, nature does all the work. Anything can contain probiotics, but it is the live and active cultures that do the magic.
Feeding the gut
When we eat, we are not the only ones at the feast. Billions of bacteria in our gut also thrive on whatever we choose to eat or drink on a daily basis. These bacteria are pretty much broken up into two colonies: the good guys (good bacteria) and the bad guys (harmful bacteria). It is the choice of our food or beverage intake that feeds either of the two colonies. The aim is to purposely feed the good bacteria through foods and beverages with probiotics and prebiotics. The more of those substances in our daily diet, the more we encourage the growth of the good guys, and the demise of the bad ones. It is simply survival of the best fed. Diets comprised of lots of raw foods, probiotics, prebiotics and less added sugars and simple starches allow good gut bacteria to thrive, while diets lacking these things and high in sugars and simple starches actually cause the bad gut bacteria to thrive.
I have big plans for my kombucha. And I plan to try my hand with other fermented foods and drinks as well. Let me know which ones you have had or would try your hand at making.
Funky fermented foods dictionary
Kombucha: A fermented fungus tea drink said to have been originated in Manchuria nearly 2,000 years ago.
Scoby: This is actually the fungus or "mother" starter fungus created during the kombucha brewing process.
Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage made popular and modified in Central and Eastern Europe but originally from China. Known as a topping for hotdogs and other Eastern European dishes.
Kefir: Fermented dairy drink made with kefir "grains", which is a yeast fermentation starter.
Laban: Fermented Arabic dairy drink.
Kimchi: Traditional Korean way of preserving cabbage during the winter months. It is very spicy and tangy, and an essential condiment in Korean cuisine.
Homemade ginger beer: The traditional Jamaican process of converting ginger, water and sugar into a fizzy fermented drink with as much or little sugar as you like.
Fermented coconut water: Taking coconut water and deliberately allowing it to go off to create a fizzy, slightly tangy, probiotic drink.
Fermented pickles: Not the vinegar type, these are water- and salt-based and fermentation comes from allowing the natural lactic acids in the cucumbers/gherkins to take over.
Preserved lemons: The fine art of taking lemons harvested in the peak of their season and preserving them in a salty brine for a distinct lemony umami flavour note found in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Sourdough bread: Bread made with a probiotic starter that makes the loaf sour to taste and even more tolerant for some who may not tolerate gluten easily.
Starter cultures: These are microorganisms that are used to trigger fermentation. A starter culture may also be called the "mother" or just "starter".
Traditional buttermilk: The traditional way of creating buttermilk, allowing milk to ferment into a thicker consistency and souring a bit. It is similar to laban.