Read an Excerpt
Sourdough bread, cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, sauerkraut, kimchi, sweet chile sauce, soy sauce, pickles, and even chocolate are just a few of the fermented foods that are part of our everyday diets. In the United States, we love a wide variety of savory and sweet ferments that many of us probably don’t even realize are fermented.
Have you ever noticed that many cuisines serve fermented foods with their meals? In Asian cuisine, it’s a small dish of pickled vegetables or spicy kimchi; in Indian cuisine, a fabulous chutney or lentil dosa; in the Mediterranean, an aromatic herbal beverage after the meal. Yes, these fermented foods and beverages are delectable players in the overall dance of flavors, textures, and tastes of a meal, but just as important as their flavor, ferments play a valuable role in the digestion of the meal and subsequent health of our digestive system. Fermentation makes those foods more digestible and therefore more nutritious. It’s a bonus that fermented foods also taste great.
In many supermarkets today, overprocessed versions have replaced many foods that were traditionally fermented: processed cheese has taken the place of farmhouse Cheddar, pasteurized beers that all taste alike have overtaken regional ales and lagers, preservative-laden bread has replaced homemade loaves made with natural starters. The abundance of these foods throughout our food system makes us believe that these processed versions are safer and healthier for us. But they are not. Many ready-made foods have been robbed of many of their naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms by pasteurization and some extreme high-temperature food-safety processes such as ultra-pasteurization. Not all bacteria are bad for us. The presence of certain bacteria is essential to good health. It is important to our overall health that we get back to the practice of having real fermented foods as key elements of our diets. This is not a fad but a trend back to foods that are good for us, many of which we can make ourselves. Once you’ve tasted real fermented foods, you’ll want to stick to them, if only because they simply taste better.
So why do fermented foods taste so good? Fermentation promotes the growth of desirable bacteria, molds, and yeasts in foods, either food-borne or through the introduction of various “starters” to create an enzymatic action that transforms the food into an elevated state of flavor and nutritive value. Acidified milk turns into creamy cheese, hard barley kernels mellow into refreshing beer, simple cabbage turns into sauerkraut.
While on this unpredictable fermentation path, you’ll discover numerous unexpected gifts that the foods give you. You may start out to ferment one specific food, and in the process of doing so, be given the bonus of one or more beneficial by-products, what I call “many from one.” As an example, you may start out to make a fruit vinegar or shrub and find that you have a delicious pulp by-product to turn into a marinade or use to flavor yogurt. That vinegar can become a tasty salad dressing or even flavor a carbonated beverage.
In Mastering Fermentation, I present a contemporary approach to fermenting popular, useful foods any cook would want in their pantry, as well as extensive tips and recipes for using these fermented foods. I’ll share with you the many ways you can make delicious world-class ferments at home using safe, contemporary methods of fermentation and how to easily incorporate them into your cooking repertoire. You can’t rush fermentation nor can you wield total control over it, but with proper guidance and encouragement, you can achieve a high level of success.
In addition to recipes for creating more than seventy fermented favorites are twenty-two globally inspired contemporary recipes featuring those fermented foods in chapter 9. Once you’ve got a pantry (or refrigerator) bursting with flavorful ferments, it’s time to put them to good use.
I invite you to join me on this adventure into the intriguing world of fermentation. Together we’ll explore some popular categories of cultured dairy and cheese, fermented fruits and vegetables, sourdough breads and sprouted grains, cured meats and fish, legumes and nuts, and of course fermented beverages. Beyond the pages of this book, you’ll find a companion website—www.masteringfermentation.com—full of additional recipes, tips, charts, and Q & A sections designed to keep information current. It’s also a way for us to keep in touch. Let’s get fermenting!
Basic Dijon-Style Mustard
Yield: About 1½ cups
Start to Finish: 10 minutes to make + 3 days fermenting + 3 days refrigeration
3⁄4 cup mustard powder (milder Brassica powder preferable)
1 teaspoon unrefined fine sea salt
1⁄8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons raw, unfiltered honey
½ cup filtered water
1 tablespoon basic whey (see page 13) or vegetable brine from a fermented vegetable (such as sauerkraut)
2 tablespoons raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Whisk the mustard powder, salt, and garlic powder together in a bowl. Add the honey, then the water and brine, and whisk to combine. Place in a jar, cover tightly, and ferment at room temperature for 3 days. The mustard will thicken, so stir in more water or brine after 1 day to create a consistency you like. Transfer to refrigeration. Allow the ingredients to blend together for 3 days before using. Mustard will keep for up to 2 months in refrigeration. See photo on page 44.