My drive through the Berkshires at peak foliage was even more beautiful than a rainbow. And at the end of the journey, rather than a pot of gold, I found crocks…and they were bubbling…and popping…and fizzing. They were fermenting! It may come as a surprise, but there’s a pot that offers more wealth than the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it’s a crock of home-fermented foods.
Despite bone-chilling cold and wind, the fermenting community bubbled over at the Berkshire Fermentation Festival last week. Workshops, book signings, concessions and an ever-growing community of fellow fermenters (say that 10 times fast) were featured at this first annual one-day festival. Sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, miso, sourdough, kefir, kvass, kimchi…all bursting with taste, probiotics and beneficial bacteria guaranteed to make us rich with good health – body, mind and soul.
What is the difference between fermented foods and pickled? This is the question I hear more than almost any other, and the answer lies in the process. Pickled foods are “cooked” using vinegar. Fermented foods, on the other hand, are alive. Fermentation uses the bacteria that naturally exists on foods, and sometimes a natural starter, to cultivate and transform food, bring out taste, increase nutritional value, and preserve foods in a cost effective and health-providing way. The health benefits of fermented foods include a bounty of probiotics and beneficial bacteria for gut health, bioavailable vitamins and nutrients, support for a strong immune system and improved mental and physical health.
If you’ve never tried fermenting foods before, there’s no better time than the present, and this Beet Kvass is an easy place to start.
2 medium red beets
1/2 inch piece of ginger root
2 teaspoons sea salt
1-quart mason jar
Wash beets but do not peel skins (as you will peel away essential bacteria necessary for fermentation). Chop beets into large pieces (about 1-inch cubes) and place in mason jar. Peel ginger, slice into 3-4 pieces and add to jar with beets. Add salt to jar and fill with water to 1-inch below rim of jar. Stir to dissolve salt and seal jar with lid. Set aside on a counter out of direct sunlight to ferment for 3 days or until liquid is deep red and starting to bubble or fizz (this will take longer the cooler your home temperature is). Strain to remove solids, return liquid to mason jar, seal and refrigerate for 2 days, then use as vinegar in dressings, add to soups, grains or vegetables (instead of salt), or drink daily as a digestive and immune-supporting tonic.
Fermentation offers incredible tastes and health benefits, and with this festival as my proof, now I can say that it also offers community.
I owe thanks to my dear friend, Mariana, for suggesting we make this festival our weekend excursion. I went out of curiosity, and came home with even more knowledge, inspiration and nourishment from this fun and educational day. Always looking to ferment what’s in season, I’ve now got my crocks ready for these new projects: hard cider, cider vinegar and kraut with curry and turmeric, inspired by the delicious Gochu Curry Kraut I sampled (and bought) from Hosta Hill.
I hope you’ll share your favorite fermented foods and recipes here so we can keep this conversation bubbling!
Eat clean live well!