The Cultured #7 – What ya Fermenting?

Last week we asked The Cultured Community what fermenting projects they had on the go? Fermenting at home is a hobby to many and the community is about sharing of knowledge and experiences while also getting exposed to the professionals through meet-ups and demos.

First off let’s explore what is Fermentation? The Noma Guide to Fermentation  is an incredible game changing resource for home fermenters and covers a wide range of ferments including Lacto-fermented fruits, kombucha, vinegar, misos and much more. The Guide fundamentally narrows down the process, “by which microorganisms converts sugar into another substance in the absence of oxygen”. Organisms such as bacteria and yeast create a magic which science does not completely understand yet. By exploring home fermenting you are essentially guiding nature. The process is an attempting to create a suitable environment. You need to ensure your environment is receptive to the artist micro-organisms and not the destroying rotting ones that have given fermenting a bad name post invention of refrigeration. Total control is just not possible as there are so many variables. The out come can be spectacular with flavours so deep and complex that nothing else can rival it. It also can go horribly wrong which is why the challenge is so rewarding.

The Noma Guide expounds on what makes fermentation delicious, ” on their own starch and protein molecules are too large for our bodies to register as sweet or umami rich. However when broken down into simple sugars and free amino acids through fermentation foods become obviously more delicious.”.

I kicked off the conversation with my first attempt at brewing Kombucha. I was gifted a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) 8 mounts ago by a friend who knew I like consuming the fermented tea beverage at work. The SCOBY is an ugly thing that looks like an alien jelly fish. I though I had killed it to be honest. Assuming it would not survive 8 months of non use and no refrigeration grossly under-estimated the culture. Those micro organism have been around millions of years before humans without our intervention. Luckily it was sitting in some of it’s food. In this case sugar rich tea so it was still healthy when I eventually decided to put it use.

I used a Theonista Homebrew Kit which came with a loose leaf tea blend and sugar and importantly instructions. I went with my own SCOBY but they also provide highest quality healthy magic making cultures. I highly recommend this as a starting point. Theonista is best known for pioneering kombucha commercially in South Africa. I created the a tea with the loose leaf provided and sugar, added SCOBY and backslop. The backslop is kombucha from the SCOBY’s previous ferment which is was slowly feeding off while I neglected it. This is a method of creating a suitable environment through lowing the PH for the good bacteria and yeast to thrive while keeping out the destroying types. I popped on breathable cloth on top of the glass jar and placed it in a dark warm environment away from strong odours. I checked it often as its my first time and anxious. I am glad to report that after 9 days it has developed a beautiful acidity and blanced complex flavours that makes Kombucha so delicious and invigorating. I will now decant into bottles add various fruits and citrus for added flavour and watch it carbonate. A good start but just that, a start. My fermenting journey has begun.

Noma Guide helped me understand the science behind the flavour transformation. ” Kombucha is produced by collective of microbes that works in sync to first turn sugar into alcohol , then alcohol into acetic acid ( the same acid as vinegar)…the bacteria’s quick work transforming alcohol into acid”, means that Kombucha has low levels of alcohol usually below 1%.

Experimenting with different fruits and citrus.

Let’s see what the rest of The Cultured were up too. They guys have been busy with lacto-fermented vegetables ( Sour kraut, Kimchi and pickels), brewing beer and kombucha and baking sour dough.

Fermenting is a rewarding hobby that starts off as curiosity which then opens doors to an exciting journey that more often than not ends with somethings delicious. I encourage you all to get started.

If you want to join the weekly conversations and share knowledge and be part of The Cultured Community email murray@fermented.co.za

Website coming soon with blogs and podcast with industry experts and passionate home fermenters. The journey has just began.

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