Fermenting For Dummies
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A starter culture is a microbiological culture that actually performs fermentation. Starters usually consist of a cultivation medium — such as grains, seeds, or nutrient liquids — that have been well colonized by the microorganisms used for the fermentation.

Here are various options for some great, nondairy, fruit-fermentation starters:

  • Finished water kefir: You use this at the same rate as whey: about 1/4 cup per quart of ferment.

  • Leftover fermented juice: The juice of previously fermented pickles, sauerkraut, or other ferments is rich with bene�?cial organisms. You use it at the same rate as whey, a commonly used fermenting substance from milk. However, keep flavor matching in mind; a pickle juice starter probably won't taste very good inside fruit ferment.

  • Vegan probiotic starter: You can purchase this easy-to-source powder and mix it with water or nondairy milk to make the equivalent of a whey starter.

  • Water kefir grains: You use 1 tablespoon extra water ke�?r grains per quart of ferment and scale up from there. Similarly (although not nondairy), you can use 1-1/2 teaspoons of extra dairy ke�?r grains per quart of ferment.

What if a recipe doesn't specify a starter culture and you want to use one? Generally, 1/4 cup of liquid starter works for 1 quart of ferment. Scale up accordingly. If a recipe calls for another amount, by all means follow the wisdom of the recipe author. However, like many aspects of traditional cooking, starter culture usage isn't an exact science, and a range of amounts will probably work.

When using whey in fruit fermentation, recipes just say: No whey, Jose! Whey is derived from cheese and is a milk product. It may be familiar to you as a nutritional supplement; bodybuilders use it as an added protein source. If you do choose to explore using whey as a fermentation starter, keep in mind that the whey used as a nutritional supplement isn't the same type of whey used for fermentations, so you should explore making your own at home.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Marni Wasserman is passionate about real food. She inspires people to eat well and live well everyday. She shares many of her recipes and tips at www.marniwasserman.com. Amy Jeanroy is passionate about healthy, homemade foods and has been making and eating fermented food for 20 years. She shares daily recipes on her site, www.thefarmingwife.com.

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