Fermentation of foods and beverages may seem to have started out as a hobby for me. But as I have continued, I have been discovering otherwise. I am learning more and more about these historically documented traditions that add valuable nutrients to food. In fact, before refrigeration and food additive preservation, fermentation was one of the essential, natural means of preserving food. The beauty of fermentation was that it accomplished two valuable results, food preservation, its primary goal, and nutritional enhancement, the natural bi-product of this process. The more I learn, the more food I want to ferment to add to the nutritional value.
Today, we live in a world of food preservation technology that has made fermentation unnecessary. Food is prepared and processed with ‘food preservatives’, chemicals that only increase shelf life. Fermentation is no longer needed. Or so it may seem. Ironically, the removal of natural fermentation and the addition of synthetic chemicals is leaving us nutritionally bankrupt. This has resulted in serious health issues for many adults and children.
Buying prepared foods that are natural and nutritious can become very expensive. I am exploring alternatives so I can eat healthfully and economically. I’ve begun to go back-to-basics. I’m giving fermenting beverages and foods a whole-hearted try. It is clear to me that this can be a good means of improving and maintaining good health. What I did not realize was that this nutrient dense solution can take a good deal of time. What might have seemed like a hobby initially, has become a ‘whey’ of life for me.
Over the last six months or so, I have learned numerous techniques of fermentation. They include using a SCOBY (symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast) to make fermented teas, called Kombucha and Jun; using kefir grains or crystals to ferment milk and water; adding whey (a cheese making bi-product) to make lacto-fermented foods and beverages; using a ‘ginger bug’ (a fermented syrup of ginger, sugar and water) to make delicious, nutritious, homemade sodas; and one of our all time favorites, making lacto-fermented (whey again) lemonade. In fact, I make my own whey from yogurt and milk kefir by simply separating the ‘curds’ and ‘whey’ with cheesecloth or a paint strainer. It is easy but adds more time to the process of preparing nutrient rich food.
Eating this way increases good ‘gut’ bacteria. A new field of science called the human microbiome has revealed that the human body is only 20% human cells and 80% bacteria. This sheds a totally different light on how we need to look at improving and maintaining health. Our bodies thrive on good bacteria and need ‘probiotic’ foods and beverages to continually supply us with an abundance of it. Processed foods with food additives are, at the very least, dead. At their worst, they rob the body of any healthy bacteria it may have had. This means that eating processed food makes the body vulnerable. It creates a ripe environment for illness.
Be on guard when you shop for food. Read ingredients. If there are more than a few ingredients, don’t buy a packaged product. One of the worst food additives is high fructose corn syrup. Avoid it like the plague. Learn to make probiotic rich foods and beverages. It could save your life.
As much as I can, I’m going back to how food and beverages were prepared before industrial food preservation. This means creating a healthy ‘whey’ of life supported by the latest scientific research, the human microbiome. We are seeing through the microbiome that when it comes to food, nature’s way is most likely best. I believe that only by going back in time to natural, probiotic enhancing food preparation methods, can we go forward with health.