Fermented Foods

My Journey Down the Bubbly Road

It started with a drive to economise. No, that’s not quite true; it was a serendipitous combination of events. To be honest it started upon our return from countries around the Mediterranean some years ago and our dissatisfaction with the available breads here in Perth, Western Australia. While some of the ‘artisan’ bakehouse breads were of better quality, but outrageously priced, they still didn’t match up to their European equivalent. The ingredients were also a puzzlement – the inclusion of additives that, for a commercial product that is removed off the shelf after one day, seemed quite unnecessary. As were the extractions from the grain itself, some only to be added back as if this were something to be proud of.

Sourdough bread- homemade fermentation

Anyway, my journey started with bread. The first experiment was making Rewena Bread (Rēwena parāoa); a traditional New Zealand Māori sourdough bread made from a potato starter. From there I progressed to a new starter made from Spelt wheat (sourdough, still). From this, hundreds of sourdough loaves and pizzas have been baked in our old gas-fired barbecue. This same starter also makes an excellent base for pancakes, deep fried dough balls, and even batter. When we go away for long periods it is dried off. When we return it is restarted by the simple addition of flour and water. Wholemeal flour (as freshly ground as can be sourced) is now my preferred flour to feed the starter.

Sourdough breadmaking at home

Moving on apace, sourdough’s fermentation process and the digestive benefits of sourdough bread has led to more investigation into a whole raft of fermented products:

Yoghurt – the starter made from chillies from our garden and using non-homogenised milk
Kombucha – from a scoby given to us from a friend
Red Wine Vinegar – from a ‘mother’ in a bottle of commercial RWV plus a bit of home-made kombucha added
Hard Cheese – incorporating home-made yoghurt
Cultured Butter – made from churning the cream topping from a cream-added yoghurt trial – a great success
Cultured Butter Milk – still working on this one 🙂
Olives – harvested from local trees, then prepared for preservation in salted brine

I use the excess whey from my yoghurt, butter and cheese-making in stocks and soups, or for watering our vegetable garden.

home-made-labne-straining-yoghurt

It probably needs saying, that a thermometer has never been used; even our old barbeque only has a ‘hot’ to ‘very hot’ needle gauge. Over time, through trial and error, I have learned to use my fingers, eyes, nose and ears (tapping the loaves) to succeed. A digital scale, though, has been very handy.

But behind all this is a firm belief, backed by historic research, that fermented products aid digestion, allowing the body to better absorb, and thereby benefit from, the key nutritional ingredients. There are, of course, many more traditional fermented products historically made and used all over the world, but my journey thus far, while not finished by any means, is keeping me plenty occupied.

And that classic fermented product, alcoholic beverage? I’ll leave that to my husband who currently is happy enough to leave its manufacture to the experts.

4 thoughts on “Fermented Foods

  1. Excellent Rachel. And very interesting. I’ve had rewena paraoa from a little (Maori) artisan bakery on Gisborne. It was scrumptious.

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