The earliest record of fermentation dates back as far as 6000 BC in the Fertile Crescent regions in the Middle East and nearly every civilization since has included at least one fermented food in it’s culinary heritage.

What are fermented foods?
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food and creates beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and various strains of probiotics.

EASY KIMCHI AT HOME
Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional dill pickles.

PREP: 30-45min
INGREDIENTS:
1 medium head Chinese Cabbage (about 1kg)
1/4 cup iodine-free sea salt or kosher salt
Water, preferably distilled or filtered
1 tablespoon grated garlic (5-6 cloves)
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce or salted shrimp paste or 3 tablespoons water
1 – 5 tablespoons pepper flakes
225g Korean radish or daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

 

METHOD
1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise through the stem into quarters, cut the cores from each piece and cut each quarter crosswise into 5cm wide strips.
2. Salt the cabbage and place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the cabbage until it starts to soften a bit. Add enough water to cover the cabbage and weigh it down with something heavy, like a jar or can of beans. Let stand for 1 to 2 hours.
3. Rinse and drain the cabbage under cold water 3 times. Set aside to drain in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spice paste.
4. Rinse and dry the bowl you used for salting. Add the garlic, ginger, sugar and fish sauce, shrimp paste or water and stir into a smooth paste.
Stir in the red pepper flakes, using 1 tablespoon for mild and up to 5 tablespoons for spice (we like about 3 1/2 tablespoons); set aside until the cabbage is ready.
5. Combine the vegetables and spice paste. Gently squeeze any remaining water from the cabbage and add it to the paste. Add the radish and scallions.
6. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, gently work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. The gloves are optional here but highly recommended to protect your hands from stings, stains and smells!
7. Pack the kimchi into the jar. Press down the kimchi until the brine (the liquid that comes out) rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1-inch of space at the top. Seal the jar.
8. Place a bowl or plate under the jar to help catch any overflow. Let the jar stand at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 1 to 5 days. You may see bubbles inside the jar and brine may seep out of the lid.
9. Check it daily and refrigerate when ready, opening the jar and pressing down on the vegetables with a clean finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine. (This also releases gasses produced during fermentation.) Taste a little at this point, too! When the kimchi tastes ripe enough for your liking, transfer the jar to the refrigerator. You may eat it right away, but its best after another week or two.

HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUT:
The simplest way to make classic sauerkraut – a fermented food that’s great for your gut.

PREP: 30min
INGREDIENTS:
• 2kg very firm, pale green or white cabbage (any leathery outer leaves removed), cored
• 3 tbsp coarse crystal sea salt (or 6 tbsp flaky sea salt)
• 1 tsp caraway seeds
• 1 tsp peppercorns

METHOD:
1. Thoroughly wash a large mixing bowl, then rinse with boiling water from the kettle. Make sure that your hands and everything else coming into contact with the  cabbage are very clean. It’s wise to use a container that will comfortably fit the softened cabbage, allowing 5cm of room at the top to avoid overflow.
2. Shred the cabbage thinly – a food processor makes light work of this. Layer the cabbage and the salt in the tub or bowl. Massage the salt into the cabbage for 5 mins, wait 5 mins, then repeat. You should end up with a much-reduced volume of cabbage sitting in its own brine. Mix in the caraway seeds and the peppercorns.
3. Cover the surface of the cabbage entirely with a plate, then press out all the air bubbles from below. Weigh the cabbage down using a couple of heavy plates, or other weights that fit your bowl, and cover as much of the cabbage as possible. The level of the brine will rise to cover the cabbage a little. Cover the tub with its lid
and leave in a dark place at a room temperature (about 18-20C) for at least 5 days. It will be ready to eat after 5 days, but for maximum flavour leave the cabbage to ferment for anywhere between 2-6 weeks (or until the bubbling subsides).
4. Check the cabbage every day or so, releasing any gases that have built up as it ferments, and give the cabbage a stir to release the bubbles. If any scum forms, remove it, rinse the weights in boiling water and replace the plate. You should see bubbles appearing within the cabbage, and possibly some foam on the top of the brine. It’s important to keep it at an even, cool room temperature – too cool and the ferment will take longer than you’d like, too warm and the sauerkraut may become mouldy or ferment too quickly, leading to a less than perfect result.
5. The cabbage will become increasingly sour the longer it’s fermented, so taste it now and again. When you like the flavour, transfer it to smaller sterilised jars
and keep it in the fridge for up to 6 months.

DILL PICKLES:
Use this simple dill pickle recipe to make easy and delicious homemade pickles.

PREP: 15min
INGREDIENTS:
• 500g fresh cucumbers
• 650ml brown vinegar
• 2 cloves
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 50mm whole cinnamon bark
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• 1 whole red chilli
• 50g salt
• Screw top jars

METHOD:
1. For the soaking process, select a large glass bowl, pour in 650ml water, add 50g salt and make sure it dissolves. Add the cucumbers.
2. After 3 days, select a large standard pickling jar, sterilise the lid and the jar. Remove the cucumbers from their three-day soak in brine, rinse them and dry
with paper towels, then pack them into the large pickling jar.
3. Now for the pickling agent. In a stainless-steel saucepan, pour in the brown vinegar and the spices. Don’t crush the spices, keep them whole. The same applies to the solo red chilli. Bring the pan to the boil and let it boil vigorously for 10 minutes or so. Taking great care, pour the hot spiced vinegar over the cucumbers in the large pickling jar. Close the lid and store for 24 hours.
4. After the 24 hours has passed, pour the spiced vinegar out of the pickle jar and back into a stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to the boil, then pour the pickling liquid back over the cucumbers which are still in the original large jar. Do this process twice, 24 hours apart. Sterilise the smaller screw top jars by heating them and their lids in an oven at 110°C for 15 minutes or so.
5. Allow them to cool and remove the cucumbers from the large jar and pack them carefully into the smaller jars. Pour in the spiced vinegar, topping it up if necessary with plain brown vinegar. Seal the jars and label them with the date. Store the cucumbers in a cupboard for at least a week, noting that the intensity of the flavour increases with time. Once you have opened a jar, keep it in the fridge with its lid on.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR:
Apple cider vinegar has an array of benefits and super simple to make at home with some organic apple scraps and in little time.

PREP: 5min
INGREDIENTS:
3 small apples (core and peel included, no stem)
3 tsp raw sugar (muscavado works well)
filtered water to cover

METHOD:
1. Wash and chop your apples into medium sized pieces (or use the peels and cores or 6-7 small apples after making apple pie and puree).
Place them in a clean, rinsed and sterilized wide mouth jar.
2. Mix the sugar with 1 cup of water and pour on top of the apples.
3. Add more water if needed to cover the apples.
4. Cover the jar with a paper towel or a cheesecloth and secure it with a band. This keeps nasties away while letting the liquid breathe.
5. Place the jar in a warm dark place for 2-3weeks – in your pantry works well.
6. Strain out the liquid and discard the apple pieces.
7. Return the liquid to the same jar and cover it again (some paper or cheesecloth).
8. Return the jar to the same warm, dark place and leave it do its thing for roughly 4 to 6 weeks, stirring with a plastic or wooden spoon every few days or so.
9. After the first 4 weeks, you can begin to also taste your vinegar and once it reaches an acidity you like, you can actually transfer it to a bottle with a lid and begin using it.