Wild Fermentation

I finally got my hands on the library’s copy of Wild Fermentation.  In addition to recipes on how to make common ferments, like sourdough and sauerkraut, the book is packed with information about the health benefits* of fermented foods, as well as more exotic recipes, including one for the Ethiopian sponge-bread injera.  (A previous attempt to make injera yielded disappointing results, so we’re looking forward to trying this version, with uses a sourdough starter as the base.)

We were ready to start another batch of sauerkraut anyway, but we adapted our technique from last time based on the book’s instructions for making a somewhat lower-salt kraut.  When we were at Local Harvest Grocery last weekend, I spotted a pint of live-fermented organic purple cabbage sauerkraut (basically exactly what we made last batch), selling for $10 a PINT!  Our current batch of kraut (above, middle) should yield about 2 gallons, i.e., 16 pints, or $160 worth of sauerkraut — now that’s wild!

The quart jar on the right in the above picture contains my attempt at sourdough starter.  I made my starter with 100% whole wheat flour.  After a few days, I saw some good bubbling activity, but that died down, and I’m beginning to think that I’ll have to toss this and start over.

Some places suggest starting with whole wheat flour, but then switching to white flour for feeding.  A white sourdough starter wouldn’t be the end of the world, since sourdough bread recipes consist of some starter and a large amount of flour — we can just use whole wheat flour in the bread recipe for an almost 100% whole wheat bread.

After reading all the details on starting a sourdough starter here, I’m thinking getting an established starter from someone may be the way to go.

*Health Benefits of Fermented Foods¹:

  • Promote digestive health by supporting “good” bacteria in the GI tract
  • Makes many nutrients in foods more digestible
  • Neutralizes  toxic chemicals in foods (e.g., phytic acid in whole grains) that may otherwise impede absorption of nutrients
  • Rids body of heavy metals and radioactive materials — this benefit is specific to live-cultured  miso (a soybean ferment — think miso soup)

1. Wild Fermentation.  Sandor Ellix Katz.  2003, Chelsea Green Pub.

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