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Fermentation and Daily Life (notechmagazine.com)
183 points by colinprince 26 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments



I got seriously into fermentation several months ago. I really enjoy Bon Appetit's "It's Alive with Brad" series, which prompted me to read some of Sandor Katz's books. I'm doing two ferments usually at a time, cycling between: sauerkraut, full-sour dill pickles, Russian pickled tomatoes (my favorite recipe so far has been this Indian-style 'kraut: https://myheartbeets.com/indian-sauerkraut/). I also started maintaining a sourdough starter. I want to try hot sauce and mead next.

There is very little chance of getting sick or infecting oneself with Botulism with active vegetable ferments (i.e. not sanitizing then canning). Vegetables are covered in natural bacteria, and the conditions created inside the ferment make it essentially impossible for Botulism to thrive. Canning can be dangerous because the process of heating (i.e. killing off microbe activity) of a ferment leaves only Botulism because it has spores that protect it from heat. Some meat ferments require more care, and I've heard of some issues with say: fermenting garlic inside of olive oil. Overall, though, fermentation is one of the safest food preparation techniques we know of.


None of this is meant to contradict your point that fermentation is safe and a wonderful thing to do. I think fermentation is fun, and it makes delicious things!

But...I'd like to get some terminology and what appears to be a small misconception straightened out here:

> infecting oneself with Botulism

It's not an infection, it's poisoning.

> heating [...] leaves only Botulism because it has spores

"Botulism" is the condition of being poisoned; the poison is "botulinum toxin". It is named after the organism that produces it, Clostridium botulinum (and there are other closely-related species). And it is that organism that has the spores.

> the conditions created inside the ferment make it essentially impossible for Botulism to thrive

I think this is important to get right. Specifically, it's the highly acidic environment. The acid remains effective even when the food is heated, inhibiting bacterial growth and toxin production.

Also worth noting is that the spores can indeed be destroyed by getting them hot enough for long enough. The difficulty is that the "hot enough" temperature is above boiling. This is why pressure canning is required for low-acid foods like soup or fish. (The toxin itself can also be destroyed by proper heating.)

Initially -- before canning -- the presence of oxygen is an essential factor. The bacteria won't produce toxin except in a low-oxygen environment. You mentioned garlic in olive oil -- the lack of oxygen is precisely the problem here.

(For completeness, another factor in inhibiting growth is what's called "available water": a large amount of dissolved sugar sort of "locks up" the water in the food. This is the main factor preventing spoilage in jams/jellies.)

Final side note, FWIW:

> Some meat ferments require more care

Indeed; if they're sealed in a casing (e.g., salami), sodium or potassium nitrite is necessary to ensure safety.


When I was in India I had this thing called “idli”. It tastes amazing dipped in a soup called “sambar”. And dipped in a few pickles which they call “chutney”. Upon inqurring I came to know th at It’s made from mixing fermented rice and fermented dals. Not just the taste but it also feels light on the stomach and it feels ( I am not sure if it actually is) healthy. They also have something called the “dosa” that is like a crepe made from fermenting rice and dals. I strongly suggest trying it. Not all places in the US serve good idli and dosa though. I tried making it in my apartment but the fermentation failed a few times so I gave up.


Dosa and Idli are from the South Side of India. I have roots there, specifically Kerala. In my childhood days, my mom used to make Idli and/or Dosa every single day. She soaked the dals and rice around midday in water and used a blender(Indian blender btw, they start at 500W motor rating and are the 4x4s of the blender world) to grind them to a batter, add salt and kept overnight on the kitchen counter for fermentation. Next day morning, we'd make amazing Idli and/Dosa for breakfast. Here in Amsterdam, we have a 'Saravana Bhavan' restaurant in De Pijp, they have the best South Indian cuisine in the country. They are a global chain and you may find 'Saravana Bhavan' in North America and in the UK.

The chutney you have encountered is most likely one of the following

https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/red-coconut-chutney-recipe...

https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/2615806-kerala-coconut-chutne...


Nice to know you liked idli and dosa. I do too, and so do plenty of Indians. They are staples of the diet in south India, and at least dosa/dosai (particularly masala dosa) has spread in popularity to many parts of the world.

A few minor points: the chutney is not a pickle in the sense of not being a fermented item, it's made and eaten fresh, just some ingredients ground up together, maybe fried lightly or not.

>mixing fermented rice and fermented dals

Close, but not quite. The rice and (urad/udid) dal (black gram - not black chickpea, a different species), are wet-ground together and then left to ferment overnight or so. Then the same flour/batter is used to make either idli or dosa. I don't have scientific evidence but idli is likely healthy, so is dosa, due to the fermentation, and idli is nice and light, as you noticed.

>I tried making it in my apartment but the fermentation failed a few times so I gave up.

Try asking an Indian or South Asian friend or acquaintance for advice, or ask on the IndianFood reddit.

Edit: Added Wikipedia links.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idli

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masala_dosa


P.S. A fantastic variant (IMO) of masala dosa is Mysore masala dosa - at least, that is what it was called, in a small nearby restaurant where I used to have it regularly, when in college in Chennai. The variation is that the filling for the dosa is a dry (actually just a little wet, with the spice mixture), boiled and spiced cowpea (lobia) curry, instead of the potato curry (which is what is called the "masala" in the original). Damn tasty. I used to regularly polish off two of them for lunch in my college days. (Lobia is heavier than potato, and they used to put in a generous amount, so it was a pretty good and heavy enough meal.)


If you live in the US you can find the fermented mix ready to cook at local indian grocery stores. https://shasthaonline.com/collections/batter/products/batter...


I am a North Indian so idli dosa is not a native food for me, but I use my vitamix to blend up some rice and urad dal into a nice paste, ferment it in a preheated oven, and next day we have excellent dosa. I really like mine crispy so the key is to really cook it until it gets nice and crispy on a nonstick surface.

Tastes great with a coconut based chutney, or even a nice Spicey peanut sauce.


Fermented hot sauce (instead of vinegar) is a revelation, and not hard to get right!


What kind of hot sauce is that? Sounds like a generic term (a sauce with heat from spices or chillies/chiles), but I suspect it may mean something more specific in the West, because of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_sauce


He is probably referring to hot sauces made out of fermented ingredients. The most popular one I can think of is the `sriracha` sauce [0].

I eyeballed my brine solution and got mold growing on my chilis though, for what it's worth. I was roughly following youtube channel `Brother green eats` video [1]. I guess I should have followed more carefully.

[0] https://www.eater.com/2015/3/20/8253411/new-sriracha-chef-ho...

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiNl0Jv6xTw


Peppers take more salinity than most vegetables. Just make sure you have them covered 100% as well, or they mold guaranteed.


Thanks. Interesting, will check out that video.


It's pretty flexible, but I'll usually cut up a dozen jalapeños, half a head of garlic, some coriander and cumin, pack it down in a jar, and cover it with water and somewhere around 3% salt by weight. If you don't have a scale, just mix up some water that's saltier than you would really want to drink, but not so salty that you'd be unable to drink a few cups of it.

Ideally nobody is sticking up out of the water, as that's where mold will form. You can use a plate or some kind of weight, or stir it all once a day, or just let it sit and throw out anything that starts getting moldy.

Let this sit on the counter for a week or two until the brine and the peppers get sour from lactobacillic fermentation. It's up to you. When you like the taste, blend it all smooth and put it in a jar in the fridge. You'll get the same sour spiciness you're used to in hot sauce, but much more umami and depth in the flavors. Vinegar-based hot sauce is quite one-noted in comparison.

Note: I really recommend Katz's "Art of Fermentation" as a source of inspiration. I used to get annoyed by the fact that he doesn't actually give recipes, but have come to realize that you don't really need them. There are really only a few core processes with infinite variations, and precise measurements would most likely just lead you astray because you'll invariably need to respond to different produce and different temperatures.

Troubleshooting: Sometimes the brine starts to get cloudy, or a thin layer of surface yeasts forms. It's harmless but can lend a funk to the flavor. If you don't like this, change the conditions to select for the desired bacteria: make the brine saltier and/or keep it somewhere cooler. You can even keep it in the fridge, but then fermentation will be much slower. Also, sometimes the garlic turns blue. Also harmless.

Bonus: Sauerkraut couldn't be easier: Shred a bunch of cabbage (it's such a pleasure to use a mandoline for this) and add 1.5% salt by weight. Squeeze and knead the cabbage until it feels like wet laundry. Pack it into a jar; there should be enough liquid to submerge the cabbage. Again, find a way to keep it covered and wait 7-10 days. If you keep the brine from an old batch, you can dramatically speed up the next batch by mixing some in.


Thanks, those sound like good techniques. I said something similar to what you say in your 5th paragraph, about responding to variations, in another comment in this thread, about making yogurt. Good stuff. Will check out the book too - had read about it a while ago somewhere, and had it on my radar.


Assuming you leave the jar uncovered? Or do you close it?


I'm not the person you asked, but IME it should be closed, airtight, in fact, would probably be the best way. Otherwise you risk spores / molds etc. getting in and spoiling it, not to mention insects and other tiny creatures, if they are around in the environment, even inside a house, and some often are, unless your house is a sterile, sealed environment.


I agree with the other responder--it's better to have the jar covered. However, fermentation produces CO2, so you can't have it sealed. Fermentation crocks have a water ring for the lid to sit in so excess gas can bubble out, but you can also just put a jar lid on but not screwed tight.


7-10 days? I do my kraut for 3 weeks minimum ~70°.


Lactofermented hot sauce is just Chili's and salt and water left to ferment. Comes out something somewhere between Tabasco and Sriracha.


Got it now, thanks. Coincidentally, had just been making some green chilli pickle - just with salt and water and onion, although other methods and ingredients exist, because sometimes I like to keep it simple. Will try out another batch with fermentation.


It's Alive is great because Brad isn't overly cautious or rigorous himself. I used to be intimidated by fermenting because all the guides I saw had stuff about having to sanitize everything or you'll get botulism, or having to get the brine perfect in ratio. But really, it's not that strict. Sure, the brine has to be in the right neighborhood, but a few grams won't kill your ferment. Also he's hilarious


To amplify this, it's also worth noting that botulism is not a real risk if you don't even bother canning, and just refrigerate the food after it's fermented. (As I mentioned in response to the parent, lack of oxygen is required for botulinum toxin production.) Canning is only necessary for long-term storage at room temperature; the significant bacteria in food generally don't like the cold.

Storing your product in the fridge makes getting started with fermentation really simple!


I'm in the same boat with The rotating ferments. I just did a hot sauce and it turned out delicious, but is a bit runny. I would say don't add brine until you've tried it first. Can you share your pickled tomatoes recipe?


Excellent article! The first 3 § are a little off-putting but then it gets great.

This amused me: "She grew up in a family where, when concerned if the milk was OK, they wouldn’t look at the expiry date but instead sniff it."

Everyone in our family always did this and so do I; I never realized people did otherwise. If it smells good (or doesn't smell at all), eat it. If it smells kind of bad, wash it. If it still smells bad after washing, then throw away.


Yeah, it definitely surprised me in my 20s when I'd have a new roommate/girlfriend who would go through the fridge and throw out anything with an overdue best before date.

> "Best Before" doesn't mean "Bad After"!

At our house now, when we look through the fridge and see something approaching/past its Best Before date, we brainstorm something we can make to use it up before it spoils. Pudding is a great way to use up any quantity of milk. Random Vegetable Soup: throw all of the questionable vegetables in to the Instant Pot with some chicken stock, pressure cook for 10 minutes, blend with a stick mixer. If cheese grows a bit of mold, we just cut it off and put it in a new container. Meat gets kept in a fridge that is just a hair too cold, and either gets used right away or frozen.

Writing all of this, I just realized that we produce very little food waste here. Occasionally some leftovers are forgotten in the back of the fridge and get moldy, but that's pretty rare.


I always enjoy buying old things on sale at the super market. My favourite is cheese (not that there is much of a selection in rural Japan :-P). They've got this relatively nice artisan gouda in the grocery store which is insanely expensive. Once it goes past the best before date, it's marked half price. I'm always thinking, "Thanks for ageing my cheese" as I buy it ;-)

My wife calls me the "Half price king" because I wander around looking for things. Bizarre stuff you can get on sale includes wine (where they have no room on the shelves and have to sell their old stock to accommodate the new stock -- companies pay for placement!), but also stuff like cultured butter or yogurt (yogurt fermented with a theromophilic culture by a reputable supplier will last months and months), natto (well... I like it), pickles, etc. I also look for beef that's gone off colour, or deep sea fish that's been kept frozen. Also, fruits are often great just before they go off, so as long as you intend to eat it that day, you can often get really good discounts.

On the downside, I have to warn my wife about buy bread and spices on sale -- some things really go down hill with age.


In the UK, and I guess there are similarities elsewhere, food dates come in two forms.

"Best before" is product quality information. "Use by" is product safety information. If a product says "best before mm/yyyy" you can use the product after that. There'll be a gradual deterioration in quality. But it may well be safe for years after the date (depending how it's stored and whether the packaging stays in shape).

"Use by" means you risk illness if you eat it after the date. Obviously there's a bit of a safety margin built in, and some people are at much higher risk of illness than others.


For what it's worth, I'm in Texas and the dates printed on the prepackaged food in my fridge have similar language; some say "best before", some say "best by", and some say only "b.b." (which is disturbingly ambiguous). I'm sure I've seen products with "use by" or "expires on" labels here though, but I've never interpreted any of them differently. Just seems like a guideline to me, I guess. Products that have an admonishment to "once opened, use within 7 days", like packaged deli meat, get my more thorough smell test.

But I have two questions for you:

- where I live, most beer has only a "born on" date, and apparently never expires. What about over there?

- and my only test for egg goodness is that good ones sink and bad ones will float. I've heard that eggs in the UK are prepared for sale differently - does this test work for them?


Cheese though. Obviously it probably won’t make you sick, but when you see mold on the surface it has permeated the cheese. Recommend throwing it out. All the other stuff you mentioned is fine.


The USDA claims that in the case of hard cheese, it is sufficient to trim 1 inch from the mold:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a87cdc2c-6ddd-49f0...


As far as I understand there are no pathogenic moulds that will grow on hard cheese (it is too acidic). Just to be clear, this is not the case for soft cheeses (camembert, brie, some blue cheeses, really soft washed rind cheeses, etc), though. If that starts to go off, throw it out. The pH can get up all the way to 7 on those cheeses, so they aren't safe.


I’ve lived my whole life breaking this advice. No ill effects yet!


Me too, more often in my student days rather than recent past though.

If I found mould on my cheese I'd just slice it off, and eat the rest. (Though now I think about it, if I saw bread with mould on it I'd throw the whole loaf away.)


I agree, the bread-type mold must be different from the cheese-type. Maybe the loose structure of the bread makes it easy for the mold to spread thin and quick through the air gaps, while in cheese it propagates more slowly.

Idk, but if there's mold on one part of the loaf the whole thing smells funky.


Hard cheeses are acidic (usually around a pH of 5) and salty. There are only a few types of mould that will grow on it. Lots of cheese producers grow wild mould on the rind of the cheese and it is perfectly edible.


What?

Cheese is already off milk, many have added mold, its a feature.


They have specific varieties of added mold, such as particular Penicillium species, that don't produce chemicals that make you sick. Plenty of other molds have the potential to be bad if you ingest their output.


Sometimes milk ends up spoiling before the expiry date, so checking if it's still good is a good idea anyway.


Yeah off milk smell is really obvious.

The only thing that I'm aware you should be really careful about is leftover rice. Bacteria can produce a toxin which isn't destroyed by heat and can be deadly. I cant think of any other counter examples to where, if it isn't obviously off, it's ok.


how do you wash milk ?


Ha! ;-) I don't wash milk; if it smells bad, the whole bottle goes down the drain. But everything that's solid is washable, esp. cheese, meat, etc.

And indeed, keeping rice for too long is really not recommended.


(I don't know why you're downvoted).

I guess they mean "wash the neck of the bottle". The neck can gather milk that goes off and smells even if the rest of the milk is ok.


Luke warm water for 45 seconds


no boiling? My mother always boiled it a little bit and checked how it coagulates.


This article was frustrating because it danced around my main issue: I'd be worried about getting sick. There was maybe one sentence that acknowledged this:

> I think the fear of contamination and making one’s self sick is the biggest barrier.

This is a big deal, but the article makes light of it, doesn't even give it its own section, and instead presents a bunch of flowery prose about making death a part of life.

As one example of this, how are you supposed to protect these fermented foods from pests? I get the sense you're supposed to leave them out, uncovered, but that assumes you live in an area that allows you to do that.


I think by "leave them out", you meant to say "leave them outdoors". That is not the case. FTA:

"Lewin learned to keep his projects out in the open: ‘One thing I do is I leave all of my fermentation projects in plain sight. I see them every time I go in the kitchen."

So the article is saying they keep their ferments indoors, which is what other posters say they do. I think you might be worried that the ferments are left out of the fridge? Well, they mostly have to be because fermentation almost shuts down at temperatures that cool.

Fermentation is exceptionally safe. The lactic acid created in the fermentation process plus the salt makes for a badass combination against bad bugs. Sandor Katz wrote in the Art of Fermentation that if it tastes bad, throw it out. Even if a bit of mold grows on top, you can pick it off and let the fermentation continue (only if the mold grows for too long and it gets really rooted into the ferment should you throw it out, and that is just because it would taste terrible). If you are worried about botulism (a nasty toxin that has no taste), you shouldn't be:

https://www.masontops.com/pages/botulism-and-fermenting-shou...

I'm far more worried about getting sick from e. coli in romaine lettuce bought fresh from the grocery store than from any of the ferments I make.


re the part about removing mold: does that only hold for fermentation?

I somewhat recall having seen an interview of a doctor talking about mold (in e.g. jams) and stating that you should be generous with the part removed because mold has roots that go far deeper that what you actually see. Furthermore, he mentioned it (or byproducts, I don't recall) being carcinogenic, i.e. definitely not just bad taste.


Here, we do all fermentations indoors.

Leaven is happy in a small jar, just let the cover on top, unscrewed to prevent pressure buildup. When stored in the fridge, you can screw the cover, only not too tightly.

Vegetable pickles are happy in a mason jar (or Le Parfait jar, in France), just open carefully a few times at the start of the fermentation to let the gas out.

We ferment kefir and kombucha for several days (kefir) or weeks (kombucha) at ambient temperature in a large (~2 litres) jar, covered in gauze to stop airborne contamination and flies.

I imagine fermenting things outdoors would be a bit more tricky, mainly because you need stop things bigger and smarter than fruit flies.


So you need a bit of knowledge about what keeps you from getting sick, but actually preventing the sickness is very, very easy. In fermentation, there are several ways of doing this, but salinity and acidity are the most important factors, and those are built into your fermentation recipes. Kahm yeast can be scooped off the top when you see it form, and while molds can (but don't always) ruin a ferment, they're uncommon if you're maintaining proper salinity, using fermentation weights, and starting with very clean equipment.

You don't leave your ferments uncovered, and while you can do fermentation in ways that you'd need to worry about pests, cheap fermentation equipment that will make the question irrelevant is easily available.


> As one example of this, how are you supposed to protect these fermented foods from pests? I get the sense you're supposed to leave them out, uncovered, but that assumes you live in an area that allows you to do that.

Typically the recommendation is doing ferments indoors with a cloth on top to protect from pests. I use jars with one-way valves that allows gas out but not in. Vegetables are covered in natural microbes and you don't have to keep them uncovered or out. I do my ferments in a city apartment with no issues. :)


I'm no expert, but here are some details.

If microorganisms gather on the surface of your fermented food in large enough numbers that you can see them, you have two choices: (A) try to save it, or (B) throw it out. If you don't see any, then there hasn't been an environment suitable for them to grow, meaning they aren't there in nearly enough numbers to get you sick.

As far as pests, you're generally expected to cover your fermentation somehow. Something like a tea towel or cheese cloth can work, or even a pot lid, probably depending on the fermentation in question. Just follow the instructions and it should turn out okay, but I don't see any reason to keep it uncovered.


I've made a sourdough starter before, and there was some initial activity before fermentation appeared to stop, and then after a few days it started again and settled into a steady state with consistent activity after feeding. I don't know what caused the initial activity, but one candidate is Clostridium perfringens, which is potentially fatal if eaten raw. Clostridium perfringens is actually used as a raising agent in "salt-rising bread", which is generally considered safe if thoroughly cooked, but what if I was fermenting something intended to be eaten raw, like sauerkraut sometimes is? I expect harmless lactic acid bacteria will eventually kill the competing microbes, but they won't necessarily be the first to colonize the food.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt-rising_bread


I've had my starter going for many years. What you saw was extremely unlikely to be Clostridium perfringens. The very article you linked says "salt-rising bread starter requires a shorter incubation period of 6–16 hours and a higher incubation temperature, ranging from 38–45 °C". I've made salt-rising bread before a number of times, and I use my immersion circulator to maintain the temperatures that encourage its growth.

I think salt rising bread is delicious, though my wife is a bit put off by the smell. And from the fact that she wrote up a bunch of necropsy reports on animals where one of the factors that led to their demise was Clostridium perfringens. But, as Howard McGee (author of the amazing On Food And Cooking) writes, there is a "lack of any known cases of the bread causing illness". His article on the topic is pure awesome.

https://www.popsci.com/article/science/clostridium-it-can-ki...


My wife was making pickled eggs yesterday. I asked her "How much salt are you using?" "Oh... I forgot the salt. How much should I use?" I told her to look at the recipe. She said she wasn't using a recipe and was just going to wing it. I told her I didn't want to die. :-)

This is the real danger. Although we weren't fermenting the eggs (vinegar recipe), no matter what you are doing, you need to be very careful about the amount of salt/acid you are using. Additionally you need to be very careful about sanitisation (For our pickled eggs, I showed my wife how to sanitise the jars using iodophor). Once you have that sorted out, there really isn't anything that can go wrong.

Basically follow the recipe to the letter. Read it ahead of time a few times so that you know what you are doing. Double check that you did every step and that you measured the amounts correctly. Avoid any recipe that has a "Oh it's natural, you don't have to measure anything" approach and you will be fine.

As for pests, I suppose some things may be fermented uncovered, but I've never done that. For fermented pickles, I just loosely cover the jar. The biggest pests you are likely to encounter is fruit flies -- but they really only go for yeast fermented products (they eat yeast). For things like that (i.e. making beer, etc) you want to use a covered vessel with a fermentation lock.

I've never had problems with lactic fermented things including lactic pickles, sauerkaut and even cheese (though my cheese is in the fridge most of the time and when it is air drying, I've got a cheese cloth over it). We've got every sort of beast you can imagine here (rural Japan), including 2 inch long cockroaches that can fly, venemous foot long centipedes, skinks, hunter spiders, etc (the skinks and spiders eat the cockroaches, thankfully). In my old falling down shack that I used to live in, I even had a rat that would eat all my chocolate and cold medicine, but leave the yummy, yummy grain alone (go figure).

Basically, you are right to be cautious, but you have no need to worry if you are cautious.


do that indoors and just put a rubber glove on top of a jar [0] if you are concerned about contamination or smells

[0] https://www.google.com/search?q=fermentation+rubber+glove&so...


There's another kind of fermentation: beer. I learned to make my own beer last summer. The first few batches were barely drinkable, but I'm glad I didn't stop there. I'm getting pretty good by now. The process is rather simple once you get a hang of it, but it does require patience: 6 weeks for most ales, longer for lagers (which I don't brew because they're harder to get right, and IMO not as tasty). It's also incredibly therapeutic, for me at least, especially if you drink a couple of cold ones from an older batch on the brew day. Relatively cheap and satisfying hobby. All you need is a large stock pot (4 gallons), 2 3-gallon glass carboys, 5 gallon cooler from Home Depot, gravity pump, some nylon bags (large for grain, small for boiling hops), and coiled copper tubing chiller. Sub-$250 all in all. With this primitive gear you can make ~2.5 gallons of beer every 2 weeks once you establish the pipeline (which takes 6 weeks).


I've been experimenting with fermentation on and off over the years. Every time something goes wrong I get so put off that I stop fermenting anything for a year or so. I think the article does a great job at explaining how fermentation really clashes with our culture. Outside of the fermentation context or community you will hear guidelines like having to throw out food that was left out for longer than two hours. It's very hard to consolidate these two. Food safety guidelines in a way are infantilizing us by being overly simplistic and not giving us ways and learning experience that allow us to determine if something is truly not edible. If we get trained to throw out food that's not actually bad, of course disease agents in food become this invisible force that might kill us when eating anything after the expiry date. Let alone something that was on the counter for the week and now has bubbles that somehow look unexpected.

On top of that most of us will have had food poisoning from restaurant food where you didn't actually get to see the potentially spoiled ingredients before it was used in a dish. So an experience where you got sick from food that seemed totally fine to you. You might have actually refused to eat it if you had seen or smelled the raw ingredients that ended up making you sick, but we aren't getting those experiences anymore.


The article makes it sound like fermentation is some far off concept and modern life has made it difficult to ferment things.

Fermentation is all around us. If you eat bread or drink beer, you can thank fermentation.

Also the author references the "ethics" of fermentation. Give me a break...


I don't think the article says it is difficult. I think it more laments the fact that it is a bit of a lost art and that some people are afraid of its safety (as comments to this article can confirm). If more people took the time to give it a shot, more people would get hooked on it and do more of it. I swear that sauerkraut is like a gateway drug.

The ethics stuff in the article comes off a bit strong to me though. My ferments are a bit like a pet. Heck, many people name their sourdough cultures!


From the article: "Modern life makes fermentation unintuitive and difficult."

I bake bread and brew beer at home. If you search Youtube for these topics there is no lack of DIY videos... Youtube never ceases to amaze me because you can deep dive into almost any topic - even something as mundane as baking bread.


Love this article.

I have been doing home sourdough for years. A couple of years ago my partner got kefir grains from a relative, and she's been using it weekly. A few months ago we got a kombucha mother when giving away a rescued kitten, and the second batch (kombucha, not kitten) is in progress. She also started fermenting vegetables (carrots, cabbage, so far), that's great for spicing up salads. Hint: do not throw away mature leaven, keep it in a jar in the fridge, it makes awesome waffles.

Really, every household should be doing fermentations. It's easy, tasty, rewarding, safe and very good for your gut microbiome.


"Hint: do not throw away mature leaven, keep it in a jar in the fridge, it makes awesome waffles." So much this!!! This recipe is my goto and my lunch for today (might as well just shred my other waffle recipes). Which is your tried and true?

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/01/bread-baking-sou...

Try a kraut of 2/3 cabbage and 1/3 onion with 2% salt by weight and some caraway seeds tossed in (that onion can also be 2/3 white and 1/3 red). I like this a lot better than no onion kraut. Would also highly recommend you look into making your own kimchi. The stuff is freaking delicious and can go on most anything. Baked potato? Check. On Tamago Kake Gohan? Check. Panini? Check. Nachos? Check.

I'm not 100% convinced that ferments are good for the gut microbiome. There is some thought that a lot of the beneficial stuff gets killed off in the stomach and the rest gets simply overwhelmed by the existing gut flora you've already got. But it probably can't hurt (except maybe for the salt that comes along for the ride if you have salt sensitve hypertension - fermenters don't talk about this much). Whatever. I am 100% convinced that fermentation = deliciousness and that is what is most important to me.


Here's the recipe I use:

https://www.byacb4you.com/gaufres-au-levain.html

Yeah, it's in French.

Thanks for the kraut advice!


Having come from tropical country and currently living in a country towards north, I find it extremely difficult to get anything fermented because of how it is cold during significant part of the year.


Can't you have stuff ferment indoors?

When I tried making my own Sauerkraut following a recipe, it told me to keep in the warm appartment for the first week (to kickstart fermentation), and only put it in cold storage afterwards.


In Korea, it is common to use refrigerators (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimchi_refrigerator) to make Kimchi, precisely because the cold is actually good for fermenting cabbage!


Cold inhibits fermentation. Kimchee is stored in the fridge to prevent it from getting overly ripe. Overly ripe kimchee is gross unless you use it for jiggae (soup). Typically the main jar of kimchee is stored under refrigeration, and smaller portions are kept out to ferment to the desired ripeness for eating. Source: am korean


If you like to make yogurt at home then I highly recommend getting yourself a multifunction electric pressure cooker. You probably can get dedicated yogurt makers but I prefer the pressure cooker even though yogurt is made at normal pressure and low temperature since it is great for cooking many other things.

Homemade yogurt tastes so much better to me than store-bought!


I made a batch as an experiment the morning after I got my Instant Pot Max, and, yeah, that's some mighty fine yogurt. Mine ended up a little bit runny but still tasted amazing! More experimentation needed, but it's a very promising start.


See my comment here - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19012171 - and maybe try the low-tech Indian way next time. Proven for centuries, doesn't need fancy gadgets :) Only thing you may need to tweak is the sitting temperature. Either insulate the dish with cloth if ambient temperature is too cold, or put it in a larger vessel of cold water, if too warm.


> some place in your house which is at the right temperature for fermentation to not only happen but be facilitated

Welcome to Saskatchewan, Canada, where there aren't any places in the house that are at the right temperature in the winter :). That's roughly what the Instant Pot does though. You bring it to a boil first, let it cool off, and then it'll keep the pot at the right temperature while it ferments. Nothing special, other than a nice place that's kept around 43degC in a house that's usually around 17degC overnight.


>Welcome to Saskatchewan, Canada, where there aren't any places in the house that are at the right temperature in the winter :).

Ha ha, good one. I stand corrected, probably, if I didn't mention earlier, that the yogurt-making procedure I gave, was specific to the warmer temps of most regions of India. And even some of those regions get pretty cold in winter (at least by sub-tropical country standards).

>a nice place that's kept around 43degC in a house that's usually around 17degC overnight.

Like where I am now, min temp has been 7 C or even 6 C at night lately, and in some places I've been (which are not even in northern India, which is colder), the min has been known to drop to 2 C at times, though rarely. Goes to zero or below, in some places, sometimes, of course.

(I do know that places in the world further north (or south) can get a lot colder, like -40 C (= 40 F) or more.)


Like with any other venture worth doing, you have to have the patience to tweak the process some, for your local conditions, which will include local microclimate, kind of milk, kind of starter, etc. But after around 10 or so tries, usually, you should be able to get it right. After that you may only need to tweak it if something (like the season of the year or weather) changes, once in a while.


Some electric ovens also have the ability to "cook" at low, precisely controlled, temperature for several hours, which makes it possible to produce yogurt.


I've had success just turning on my electric oven to its lowest possible temperature to heat the yogurt for a while, then switching it off and leaving it overnight. It's not rocket science, and people have been making yogurt without laboratory-grade precision for millennia.


Exactly. Zillions of housewives and nowadays probably singles, househusbands, students or employees living together, or anyone else, have been making curd (Indian term for yogurt) for ages, without thinking it is any big deal.

The basic steps in warm parts of India (which is much of India) are easy:

- boil some milk, say half a liter to 2 liters or so (or it was already boiled for other use and cooled, warm it up some)

- add a spoonful or so of the previous batch of yogurt to it (the starter)

- leave it covered to sit in some place in your house which is at the right temperature for fermentation to not only happen but be facilitated - this could be a cooler part of the house or a warmer part, depending on what climate you live in

- wait for some hours, maybe half a day or so

- eat it


I use a sous vide cooker. Put your milk in sealed mason jars and completely submerge them. A little bit of pressure is produced, but not enough to break the jars.


Recently I've been trying out fermentation with sourdough, ginger beer, kefir and anything else I can find to try out. It has many upsides, preservation, it's healthy and it's fun. In my opinion this article goes a bit too far, it's not a religion. It's just a diet that more people should know about and practice these days.


Love fermenting. So good for you too.

Easiest sauerkraut. Get cabbage. Shred it. Add some salt and chuck it in a jar. Then wait.

I love kefir too. Just milk and some kefir grains replaced daily.

Can get addictive quick though. Before you know it you have jars of pickles, tomatoes, kimchi everywhere


> Easiest sauerkraut. Get cabbage. Shred it. Add some salt and chuck it in a jar. Then wait.

And if you add a bunch of chili powder, it's kimchi.


No. Then it is sauerkraut with chili powder on top. But I will admit that saying there is only one kind of kimchi is like saying there is only one kind of car.

source: my homemade kimchi sitting in my fridge right now has napa cabbage, daikon radish, green onion, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, carrot, sweet rice flour, fish sauce, asian pear, and some other stuff I'm forgetting right now.


Fermented foods should be avoided if you have gastric ulcers




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