Have you always wanted to start fermenting foods but you’re not sure where to start? Try our beginner’s guide to fermentation. 

Once considered the next food fad, it seems fermentation is here to stay. At last year’s swell of food festivals, kimchi and sauerkraut were at every turn. From kombucha to kefir, krauts and kvass, the real ‘special ks’ are now as mainstream as their bread brother sourdough. But, of course, fermented foods have been with us since humans figured out how to cook – it is one of the oldest forms of food preservation and it even happens by accident when we’re not looking.

Honey from a hive of bees that falls into water will ferment into delicious mead. Wheat, when wet and left in the sun, will ferment and bubble up, becoming an early form of bread. On a daily basis we enjoy an array of fermented products, including yogurt and wine, beer and dark chocolate – just maybe not in those combinations.

But what’s so great about fermented foods that have brought them back into the food limelight? Why now – when we have freezing and canning to cut though all the effort of doing this ourselves at home?

We often hear the expression ‘listen to your gut’, and indeed the gut is recognised as the second brain. It is thought that all disease begins in the gut and it is the centre of control for our feelings and emotions. It’s exciting to think that eating some fermented cabbage (much more delicious than it sounds) can improve our mood but much research shows this to be the case.

Vegetables, when grown without chemical pesticides, are full of natural yeasts and bacteria that feed our good gut flora. When we ferment these foods in a simple mixture of water and sea salt, they undergo a lacto-billi fermentation process that not only keeps them fresh, crunchy and delicious for months, but it also ramps up their nutritional profile and boosts their vitamin content. Fermented foods are natural probiotics and, by adding a small amount of sauerkraut or any fermented veg, and some plain, natural yogurt to your diet every day, you will give your gut all the good bacteria it needs to thrive. A healthy gut will support a strong immune system as good digestion is the basis for health and vitality.

The best part about making fermented foods is that it’s fun, very creative and doesn’t cost much. All you need is a few nice, big jars and bottles, some good sea salt and a good source of water. Go out and get some nice fresh vegetables and a few spices and let the fun begin.

Credit: Valerie O'Connor

For Fermentation Recipes, check out:

Fermented Beet Kvass

Fermented Tomato Ketchup

Fermented Whole Grain Mustard