Most of these recipes come from either Sally Fallon and her book Nourishing Traditions or from Sandor Katz and his book The Art of Fermentation.
To begin with, you need a set of tools for proper fermentation. Invest in some air lock lids or create some yourself. Mason jars will do for most fermentation processes. I bought my airlocks from a brewery, then drilled a hole in the top of some canning jar lids. I also drilled a hole in the top of a 5 gallon bucket. I bought some washers that would fit the hole then pushed the air lock down inside the lids. The air lock allows gases to escape during the
fermentation process and prevents explosions which could be very dangerous. Fill the airlock 1/2 full of water. That prevents bacteria and other germs from getting into the jar.
Crocks are also a must buy. Large batches of sauerkraut and pickles will do best in a crock. You also need something heavy like a flat rock or weighted plate to keep all veggies under the liquid in your crock. Some crocks come with weights.
I love fermented drinks! It’s such a treat to sip on some homemade gingerale and know that I’m enjoying a truly healthy drink. In fact I’m sipping on some root beer right now.
In order to make most drinks, you need to create your starter. This is called whey or ginger bug. I use whey for the beet kvass, and ginger bug for gingerale and rootbeer and whatever other kind of fruit juice I want to ferment.
To make your own whey buy a quart of raw milk. Let it sit out on the counter until it separates into milk curds and yellowish curds. (This is where we get the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffett. She was eating curds and whey. Sounds pretty yucky!) Strain off the curds and save the whey. Dr. Christensen recommends a paint strainer for this activity. I haven’t purchased one of those yet, but it should probably be added to your lit of tools. Place the whey in a cloth bag (cheesecloth will do) and allow it to drip. When it is done, you have cream cheese! Refrigerate and enjoy. The liquid is called whey and you want to keep it in the refrigerator with a lid on it. This is what you will use as a start for all of your lacto-fermentation recipes.
To make the ginger bug, take a clean glass quart jar, fill it 1/2 full of water, add 2 Tbsp. of chopped ginger and 2 Tbsp. of sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of whey. Set this on your counter and every day for 7 days add another 2 Tbsp.’s of both sugar and chopped ginger. In seven days your ginger bug will be ready. Place it in the refrigerator to keep until you need it.
My children were selling our beets at the market one day when an older woman came to the stand. She leaned over and with a toothless grin stuck her finger in the air and exclaimed, “raw beets, that’s what cured my son of cancer, raw beets!” Then she proceeded to buy the rest of the beets and upon leaving raised her finger up in the air again and repeated her story. They didn’t quite know what to say or think. It was one of those crazy experiences at the market that we laugh about today.
Lightly wash beets and remove stems and leaves. Cut into pieces and place in 2 quart glass canning jar with all other ingredients. Fill the jar with filtered water. Put a lid with an air lock on the jar. Keep at room temperature out of the sunlight for 3 – 4 days. The longer you leave it out, the stronger and zippier it is. Move to the refrigerator and drink the liquid. When it is gone, fill the jar up again. I have used the same beets for months at a time before the flavor got too weak. The used beets are still good to eat, compost, feed to chickens, or put into soup when you are done.
Benefits: Beets are high in many nutrients. They are an excellent blood purifier, liver cleanser, treatment for kidney stones, alkalizer, and they promote regularity. I guess they cure cancer too!
This is the family favorite. We always try to have a batch brewing for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, weddings, or whatever celebration we might have around the corner.
Dissolve sugar in the water. You can heat it if you wish, but just a bit. Fill container with sugar water. Water needs to be between 75-100 degrees. Chop the ginger and blend it up with water pour liquid into container through a strainer. Add water to mash one more time and pour through the strainer again. Add the juice of the lemons. Stir and put the lid on with an air lock. If you don’t use an air lock, you need to release the gases from the container at least once per day. Refrigerate when the Ale is to your desired flavor and tanginess.
I make 5 gallons at a time and find that 10 days is a good amount of fermentation time for our taste buds and the location that we use to ferment (which is under our stairs). In the summer time it will take less time. Refrigerate to slow down the process. Buy some fun bale top bottles, a carboy, or dark bottles to store your brew in. One of my readers said he uses dark bottles to store his root beer in because the light changes the flavor. That is good to know!
The recipe for root beers or bark beers are pretty much the same. Use the ginger bug and the whey just as you did for the ginger ale. The water and sugar amounts are the same as well. What I do for the different beers, is buy the cut herb, steep it in water on the stove, then strain off the liquid into my brew rinsing a couple of time to get as much out of the plant as I can.
1/2 oz sarsaparilla cut herb
1/4 oz sassafras root – cut root
Licorice root – 1/8 oz cut root
birch bark – cut herb
sassafras root – cut root
licorice root – cut root
When using cut root herb, steep them in water for 1/2 hour to extract the essential oils, flavor, and goodness. You can also add drops of the essential oil to the brew for added flavor.
Kefir is another really great drink that we enjoy all the time. We love mixing it with fresh or frozen fruits and honey or stevia. Its a great morning pick me up and an excellent pro-biotic. We often use it as the base for our green drink smoothies as well. It adds a little zip that I really enjoy. The effervescence common to Kefir is why kefir is sometimes called “the champagne of milks.”
From “The Art of Fermentation” we learn that Kefir starters are distinctive biological forms that reproduce themselves as cohesive communities. Kefir is made of rubbery blobs, polysaccharides inhabited by a community of some 30 distinct bacterial and fungal species. It is not possible to create a Kefir grain from scratch. They reproduce in the nutritive medium of milk, and kefir begets kefir. You need milk to keep it going. It is its own biological entity known as a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY. Kombucha mothers are another example of the SCOBY phenomenon. Feed your Kefir regularly or you will lose it.
Sounds kind of disgusting, drinking bacteria and fungi. But, without the good guys inhabiting our guts, all kinds of bad guys will and they will allow bad stuff to enter our bloodstream as well. The name for that is leaky gut syndrome. It causes lots of problems. Its rampant. So make friends with the good guys. Feed them regularly and enjoy their goodness.
I received my Kefir start from a friend over a year ago. We have grown our rubbery blob of nodules, split them and gifted 1/2 to our friends many times over the past year. I don’t know the geneology of my Kefir, but I will bet it goes back longer than I’ve been alive. Many Kefir cultures are descendants of ancient lineage co-evolved with their human keepers, fed regularly over more generations than anyone cares to count. Kind of cool.
To make Kefir, you must find a start. If you’re having trouble finding someone who can give you a start, check with your local health food store. People have been know to sell kefir starts there. Once you have your start, the only difficult thing is to remember to feed it. I leave my kefir out where I see it all the time. It sits next to the refrigerator and I can’t help but take care of it when I see it every day.
No heating is needed, but you could bring your milk up to room temperature if you want. It will speed up the process. All you have to do is add kefir grains to milk in a jar. Use a heaping spoonful per quart or liter of milk. Don’t fill the jar all the way up and don’t screw the lid on tight. That way you won’t create too much pressure in the jar and there will be a little room to grow. It usually takes a 24 hour period to make kefir, but I’ve left it out for as long as 3 days. Put it in the refrigerator and use it in anything that calls for milk or buttermilk.
Strawberry Pineapple Smoothie
6 – 8 strawberries
4 -5 chunks of frozen pineapple
stevia or honey to taste
6 cups of Kefir
Blend and serve. If you don’t drink it all, put it in the refrigerator, it will continue to bubble throughout the day and be delicious later on.
Green Giant Smoothie
4 -5 chard leaves (collards or kale will work)
1 c. spinach leaves
2 T. mint leaves (dried)
6 ice cubes
stevia or honey to taste
Blend and enjoy.