in ferment

Since discovering I had coeliac disease about six months ago I've been deep in research and experiment with foods that heal the gut and boost the immune system. Two books that have provided much insight and inspiration are Wild Fermtation by Sandor Katz and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Both explore the simple and healthful properties of traditional diets rich in fermented foods and beverages. Almost every traditional culture be it in Asia, Northern Europe, Middle East or Africa have recipes for preserving grains, vegetables, dairy, meats and fruits through fermentation. 

For the last couple of years I've fermented by own yoghurt, sourdough starter and milk kefir - the sourdough being my most regular practice. Many of you have seen the results of those adventures on here - but of course with my coeliac diagnosis came the sad news that my body cannot tolerate even the tiniest amount of gluten, fermented or no. So I stopped thinking about bread recipes and let my starter die a slow death undisturbed in the fridge. 

Then we moved to the countryside and began to farm. I had opportunity to ferment milk for yoghurt and ricotta from the farm's own swiss brown cow. I had cabbages ripe for picking to shred for sauerkraut - and spurred on by success and my gut's happy reaction I began brewing kombucha tea tonic and experimenting with other fermented condiments - "krauts" made from beetroot, ginger, carrots and caraway seeds, "poor man's capers" from young nasturtium pods, tangy salsa from home-grown corn, capsicums and tomatoes, peach relish and egg-rich mayonnaise. 

The mayonnaise is a revelation. It is just so simple to make - it takes about five minutes and the addition of whey and the seven hour ferment preserves it for up to five weeks in the fridge. Not that it ever lasts that long! We make a big batch every fortnight or so and serve it over steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, cool chicken salad, mixed into salad dressings and atop beef steak or eggs.  The best part I think is knowing that it is free of gluten, emulsifiers, syrups, refined vegetable or seed oils and preservatives. And it tastes damn fine. 

Purple Kraut (Beetroot + Red Cabbage + Purple Carrot Kraut)
1 large beetroot
1 red cabbage
3 large purple carrots
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 heaped tablespoons sea salt 

Choose vegetables fresh as possible as they will have a higher water content which you will need for the fermenting process. Shred cabbage finely. Grate beetroot and carrots. Fill the bottom of a large glass/ceramic bowl or crock pot with the vegetables - sprinkling the sea salt as you go. Stir through seeds.

Using a pestle (from a mortar and pestle) bash vegetables down together in the pot to release the water which the salt helps draw out. You need the vegetables to be covered with a layer of liquid for them to ferment properly and not form mould. You may need to add an extra cup of brine - but I usually don't need to if I keep pressing the mixture down with clean hands. 

Finally place a plate on top of the mixture and press down firmly till you can see liquid cover the vegetables. Keep the plate weighed down with a large jar or jug filled with water, stone or something similar. Drape a piece of cotton muslin over the crock and place it in a cool dark place for 7-10 days.

Every few days check on your kraut - the liquid may even rise up higher as the salt brings out more water. Taste the kraut after 7 days and if it's at your desired "tanginess" spoon into a sterilised glass jar with a lid and store in the fridge to enjoy at your leisure. 

(I highly recommend a visit to Sandor Katz's website for more recipes and how-tos)

Lacto-Fermented Mayonaise
-makes two and half cups -

5 free-range egg yolks
4 teaspoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons whey (easiest way is to strain the liquid that pools in a tub of yoghurt)
optional seasonings: chopped fresh parsley/rosemary/thyme, dried smoked paprika,
small clove of garlic, crushed

In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice and salt. Now using a handheld stick blender blend the eggs in an up-and-down motion as you slowly pour in olive oil from a jug. 

The mixture will thicken considerably as you add more olive oil - if the consistency is still too runny add another 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir in honey, mustard, whey and any additional seasonings like spice or freshly chopped herbs. 

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 7-12 hours. Transfer to a jar or any lidded container and store in the fridge for up to five weeks.