Fermenting For Dummies book cover

Fermenting For Dummies

By: Marni Wasserman and Amelia Jeanroy Published: 04-09-2019

Fermenting For Dummies (9781119594208) was previously published as Fermenting For Dummies (9781118615683). While this version features a new Dummies cover and design, the content is the same as the prior release and should not be considered a new or updated product.

Want to ferment at home? Easy.

Fermentation is what makes foods like beer, pickles, and sauerkraut delicious—and nutritious. Fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics that aid in digestive and overall health. In addition, the fermentation process also has been shown to add nutrients to food, making already nutritious food even better! Fermenting For Dummies provides step-by-step information for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, and food lovers of any kind who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation.

Fermenting For Dummies gives you the scoop on the fermenting process, the tools and ingredients you'll need to get started, and 100+ recipes for fermenting at home. So what are you waiting for?

  • Shows you how to ferment vegetables, including slaw-style, pickles, and kimchee
  • Covers how to ferment dairy into yogurt, kefir, cheese, and butter
  • Explains how to ferment fruits, from lemons to tomatoes, and how to serve them
  • Details how to ferment beverages, including mead, beer, kombucha, vinegar, and more

If you're interested in preserving food using this ancient method, Fermenting For Dummies has everything you need to get started.

Articles From Fermenting For Dummies

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33 results
Fermenting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 04-05-2022

Fermenting foods requires a little bit of planning, research, and preparation before you can begin. Understanding the terms used in fermenting recipes is vitally important. And once you're ready to start fermenting your own food, you must make sure that your tools and equipment are completely clean.

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Glossary of Fermenting Terms

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Fermenting foods and beverages requires a little bit of know-how. It's definitely more complicated than grilling a chicken or baking a cake. But if you take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the processes and ingredients, you'll have a much easier time creating delicious fermented items. The following glossary should help: amasake: A sweet fermented rice drink that has traditional roots in Japan. anaerobic: This term refers to environments without oxygen. In fermentation, an anaerobic environment is necessary for breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into sugar. brine: A saltwater solution. A brine is made for pickling or fermenting and acts on the food by drawing out the water from its cells and killing any bad bacteria that might spoil the food. enzyme inhibitor: An enzyme inhibitor decreases the enzymes function and can interfere with one's digestion. incubator: Any object or supply that will help to keep your fermented food at the desired temperature during the fermentation process. koji: A fermented starter made from cultured soybeans and rice. It is responsible for breaking down the carbohydrates and sugars in food products. kombucha: A healing fermented drink that has its roots in Asia. It is made from a SCOBY (see below), tea, and sugar. It has a slightly tangy taste kvass: This fermented beverage began as a Russian brewed drink made from rye bread or beets. Has a flavor that's similar to root beer or cola. lactic acid: This acid stops the growth of bad bacteria that might spoil your food, turning it into consumable fermented goods! Lactobacillus: A bacteria that helps to produce lactic acid from carbohydrates. It is responsible for turning starches into sugars and acids and is essential for fermentation process. phytic acid: These anti-nutrients are naturally occurring in some grains and can prevent healthy minerals from being absorbed by your body. probiotics: Like lactobacillus, probiotics are micro-organisms that are healthy for our body and especially our gut! They are naturally occurring in foods. SCOBY: Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. It is an essential culture needed for kombucha making, an ancient healing fermented drink. starter: Just another name for any pre-fermented product. Starter cultures can be purchased commercially or made at home. All starters are made up of naturally occurring microorganisms, most notably the Lactobacilli, and a combination of other food products such as water and flour or dairy product such as milk or yoghurt. wort: In homebrewing, the name for the beverage or soda mix before you have added your starter and initiated fermentation.

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Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Fermenting Tools

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When fermenting, having a clean work space and tools ensures that your good bacteria outnumber the bad. Cleaning your work area and equipment is essential to for creating a delicious final product. Here are some general steps you should follow when preparing to ferment food: Wash all containers, utensils, and weights that you’re going to use in a dishwasher or by hand with hot, soapy water just before use. Sanitize or sterilize equipment and containers, as called for in the recipe you're following. Rinse items in cool, clean water. (Sterilized items don’t need rinsing.) Air dry items or dry them with paper towels; use a fresh paper towel for each item. Store items on clean paper towels on clean countertops or tables until you use them. Remove pets and small children from the room before you begin to work. Before beginning to work with food, tie back your hair if it’s long, and scrub your hands, including under your fingernails. Don’t use dishcloths or rags to dry the cleaned items. Cloth is notorious for holding huge quantities of harmful microbes, and you spread those from item to item as you wipe them. Instead, use a clean paper towel for each item if you need to dry them. Aprons made of cloth also spread bacteria, especially if you wipe your hands on them, so keep paper towels close by for wiping your hands.

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10 Reasons to Eat Fermented Foods

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

There are so many reasons of why you should consider fermenting your foods. Not only can you improve your health and change your entire experience with foods and flavors, but you also get to play with new kitchen gadgets! The following list gives you good reasons to get started with some fermenting recipes today. Helping your body to function efficiently Because fermented foods are loaded with probiotics and enzymes, they help your body digest foods efficiently. Your body has to do much less work to break down the fermented item. What's more, the boost of beneficial flora that's delivered to your gut helps you with efficient and effective elimination, which is key to digestive health and overall health and vitality. As they say, better out then in! Boosting your immunity Eating fermented foods help to boost your immune system. You are less likely to get sick when fermented items are part of your regular diet. Just a little dose of sauerkraut or kombucha can work wonders to keep you feeling well all year long! Many fermented foods have also been known to decrease allergic responses! Becoming friends with bacteria As you start to ferment, you gain an appreciation for all the little microbes that are at work in your food to generate the process of fermentation. They are not doing harm to your food as many worry; in fact, they are enhancing it. They busily work to create something delicious and wildly different for your palate. Helping the environment When you ferment your own foods, you are minimizing the consumer waste associated with driving to the store, purchasing a product, bringing it home in a bag, and discarding the packaging. In addition, you are saying "no" to food processed and packaged in large-scale industrial operations. Think of all of the fossil fuels and water it takes to run these factories and ship food internationally. Finally, plant-based fermented foods are a healthy alternative to pharmaceuticals, which is another industry dependent on fossil fuel. In other words, fermenting your own foods helps you reduce your overall environmental impact. Saving money and time Fermenting your own food allows you to become financially self-reliant. When you buy in bulk and purchase produce directly from the source (like at a farmer’s market when it’s in season), or if you grow your own food, you inadvertently save money! And you get to avoid the high costs of buying hand-crafted, artisan food products. Furthermore, fermented foods can last for years without refrigeration, which means fewer trips to the supermarket. Finally, fermented foods make inexpensive gifts that are bound to impress your family members and friends. Getting to know your food Fermenting is a time-honored tradition that's been practiced all over the world. Fermenting provides you with an opportunity to connect to your family, your heritage, and your culture. This intergenerational knowledge exchange is important in our technology-driven society, as it helps nourish relationships. Not only will you get to know your food better and recover lost knowledge, but you’ll learn about the cultural significance of food and witness its role in community building. Making your food last longer Fermenting is a great way to manage the abundance of a seasonal food, and it's a way to take advantage of sale items at the grocery store or farmer's market. Fermenting doesn’t need much room or money to get started, and it can be done in the smallest of kitchens. The real food savings comes from buying foods in season and being able to preserve them quickly. Fermenting makes it easy and delicious. Testing out new and fun culinary tools Who doesn’t love gadgets? The great thing about the renewed interest in fermenting foods is that there has been a wonderful increase in new tools to work with. If you love to find easier ways to do everything, kitchen gadgets give you so many options to explore. Experimenting with new flavors Probably one of the best reasons to begin fermenting foods is the range of flavors you can create. Every food changes flavor at different times during the fermenting process, and you can enjoy eating a fermented food across a range of sour or fizzy stages. The art of fermenting adds flavor to basic food items and is definitely a more creative ways of cooking. Learning new kitchen techniques Working with fermented foods forces you to become more intimate with your subject. You have to know the stages of fermenting, the flavor profiles, and the different textures that foods go through during the fermenting process. After beginning to appreciate fermented foods, you will start to learn new techniques for working with all the foods you eat. Your cooking will change and improve as you incorporate these new foods into your diet, and you will develop new recipes for creating delicious meals with fermented ingredients.

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Choose Locally Sourced Foods for Fermenting Projects

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The practice of fermenting helps you get the most out of your food in terms of nutrients and flavor. Before you start your next fermenting project, be sure you know where your food is coming from and how it was raised. Food is our main source of fuel, yet few of us have ever seen it through its entire life cycle. Our food often travels a long way before we get a chance to eat it. Just take a moment and think of all the people and processes involved in, say, raising cows. In addition to feeding and raising the cows and keeping them healthy, they have to be butchered and processed in a humane and sanitary way. And the meat has to be shipped to distributors who then get it your grocery store. With so many processes and so much labor involved, it's no wonder that the demand for local and fair-trade food is on the rise, and with this demand comes many different farming certifications that involve organic and sustainable practices. Educate yourself on the various certifications. Even better, plan a trip to your local organic and non-organic farms. Every farmer has different practices, values, and methods. The more you know about the food and where it’s from, the more you can make informed decisions about what goes into your body! Be daring and ask questions.

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Getting Your Protein from Seeds and Nuts

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Many fermenting recipes involve seeds and nuts. But most people don't realize that they're a healthy source of protein. That's right: Protein doesn't have to come from meat. Nut and seeds are a great protein-packed meat alternative. And in addition to protein, they provide healthy fats, which provide your body with the good cholesterol you need. So how can you get more nuts and seeds in your diet? For a little variety, you can soak your nuts and seeds to increase their digestibility and boost your nutrient intake. Nuts and seeds are great as a snack on the go. Or you can sprinkle them on your favorite cereal, add them to yogurt, or top a dessert that may otherwise lack healthy ingredients. Go nuts!

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Kombucha: The Healthy Fermented Beverage

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Kombucha has become a popular fermented beverage you can find in health food stores, yoga studios, and craft breweries. It is said to have many detoxifying qualities, and in small doses, this elixir is full of gut-healing benefits. It aids in digestion, increases your energy, and promotes the growth of healthy gut flora. Making kombucha takes practice, and you may have questions after trying a few recipes. Here are some responses to common concerns: Kombucha that's too sweet or too sour If your kombucha is too sweet for your liking, add more brewed and cooled tea and continue to ferment. If it is too sour, add some more sugar and more tea and continue to ferment. Kombucha that has floaty bits in it The brown strands in your kombucha is yeast that has bonded together after reaching the end of their life cycle. You may choose to drink them, or you can strain them out. It's all personal preference. The other floating strands are just your kombucha trying to create a new SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). Again, you can drink them or strain them out. They often float within the drink or collect as sediment on the bottom of the vessel. The kinds of teas, sugars, or water to use for kombucha Be experimental with your blends and flavors and see what suits your taste. As far as sugars and sweeteners, be adventurous. Molasses, maple syrup, and agave syrups have all been known to work in the past, so try anything you want. Avoid using honey as it contains bacteria that can conflict with your kombucha culture and may cause mold. Try to stay away from heavily chlorinated water. Filtered of distilled waters work best.

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Choosing the Best, Most Healthy Foods for Your Fermenting Projects

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Have you ever picked and tasted fruit fresh from the tree? Or picked spinach straight from the soil? It sure is different from the experience of buying it in the grocery store. And when you know where your food comes from and how it was grown, you can be more confident in its quality. If you're going to the trouble of fermenting foods, you want to start with quality ingredients. Today, many farmers rely on pesticides when growing produce, yet plenty of studies have shown that pesticides have harmful effects on the planet and our health. It is always recommended that you wash your produce well before eating it, but you can try to go one step further and purchase pesticide-free produce. Apples, strawberries, celery, spinach, and peaches are among the most heavily sprayed produce, so look for organic options for these items. You’ll taste the difference and feel great for making one small step in a positive direction.

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3 Kinds of Wine You Can Make at Home

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

So, you're all set to try your hand at winemaking. The following recipes can get you started with the right ingredients for delicious homemade wines, but take note: Making a bottle of wine from start to finish may take six months or a year. Importantly, everything hinges on what happens in the week or two of fermentation — the period in which yeast activity extracts all the flavor, aroma, and texture goodies from the grapes and skins and converts the sugar to alcohol. This process is known as the primary or alcoholic fermentation, to distinguish it from the optional secondary, malolactic fermentation. Fermentation can be fast and furious; the snap, crackle, and pop of gases escaping from the fruit or juice can be downright noisy; the aroma can carry a block away. Fermenting white wines turn strange, greenish colors and grow a head of foam on top; they look like a pot of pea soup gone bad. But not to worry — that's just yeast at work. The spectacle of those tiny microbes making such a huge commotion is truly awesome. Simple grape wine recipe In its most basic sense, wine is fermented grape juice. The quality of your homemade wine depends on the grape berries you choose to send through the destemming, crushing, and pressing process. Preparation time: 10 minutes Fermentation time: 6 weeks Yield: 1 gallon 6 cups white sugar 3 quarts boiled water 1 quart ripe, mashed grapes 1 packet yeast Dissolve the sugar in the boiled water. Add the grapes to the sugar-water mixture. Sprinkle yeast over all. Allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours and stir gently. Continue to stir the mixture once every 24 hours for a week. Add 1 quart boiled, cooled water to the mixture. Place the mixture in a container with an airlock and allow it to ferment for 6 weeks. Strain and rack the wine into a second container, lightly capped, for 72 hours. Elderberry wine recipe Each summer, American elderberry shrubs produce clusters of deep-blue berries that have long been favorites for jams, jellies, and pleasing wines. Preparation time: 30 minutes Fermentation time: 11 months Yield: 5 gallons 3 gallons black elderberries 3 gallons water 1 packet champagne yeast 10 pounds cane sugar Clean the berries of all stems. In a food-safe bucket, boil 3 gallons of water and pour it over the berries to cover them. Cover the container loosely and allow the berries to cool and sit overnight. Remove 1 cup of the liquid and dissolve the yeast in it. Pour this yeast/liquid mixture back into the berries and water. Stir and cover the container. Allow the mixture to ferment for 72 hours, stirring every 4 hours. After 72 hours, place the cane sugar into a large kettle and add enough water so the sugar doesn't scorch and dissolves into a syrup. Cover and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. Pour the sugar syrup into the berries and leave to ferment for an additional 5 days, stirring every 6 to 8 hours. When fermentation starts to slow down, strain the mixture into a 5-gallon carboy. Using the remaining berry mash, pour additional water over it and mash. Strain this water into the carboy with the first mixture, leaving a few inches of head space. Insert an airlock and store for 8 weeks. After 2 months, rack the wine into a clean carboy, insert an airlock, and ferment for an additional 9 months. The wine is now ready to drink or bottle for longer aging. Dandelion wine recipe Just when you thought dandelions were nothing more than annoying weeds, you discover how well they work with your winemaking! Preparation time: 48 hours Fermentation time: 9.51 months Yield: 1 gallon 1 gallon dandelion flowers (all green parts removed) 1 gallon boiling water 4 organic oranges 4 organic lemons 4 pounds cane sugar 1 packet yeast In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the flowers. Allow the flowers to cool and sit, loosely covered, for 48 hours. Strain the liquid into a large glass jar or bowl. Zest and juice the oranges and lemons. Add the zest, juice, and cane sugar to the dandelion liquid. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture. Cover loosely and ferment for 14 days. Stir the mixture four times a day during this time. Strain and rack for at least 9 months. The wine is now ready to drink or store for additional aging.

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10 Tips for Troubleshooting the Fermented Food You Make

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Fermenting foods is one of those endeavors that requires patience and sometimes a little trial and error. When things don't seem to be working as you expected, check out these tips about the fermentation process. My fermented food is too salty. What do I do? When you taste fermented food, if you find it extremely salty, try rinsing it in a little water before eating. Taste as you go to find the right salt level for you. Next time you ferment, taste your way through the salting process to see what works for you. Salt is necessary for lacto-fermentation because it encourages an environment where the lactobacillus can thrive and the vegetables will ferment properly. But too much salt is undesirable. A rough guideline is 3 tablespoons of salt to 5 pounds of shredded cabbage. Why is the fermentation taking so long? There's no set time of completion for any fermented creation. Temperature, humidity, ingredients, and your environment all affect the fermentation process. Some fermented foods take a few days and others a few months to reach the right flavor, but remember that time is an essential ingredient in fermentation. Taste your fermented creation along the way and experience its different stages of development. Also know that what is ready for some may not be ready or sour enough for you. By tasting it through the fermentation process, you get a better idea of how long different types of fermented foods take and what level of sour you enjoy. Why are my fermented creations different throughout the year? Warmer temperatures accelerate the fermentation process, and cooler temperatures slow it down. In the summer months, find a cooler place for your ferment vessel and, when it's finished fermenting, refrigerate it. Refrigeration helps slow down the fermentation process, stabilize the ferment, and hold the desired flavor. In the winter months, fermentation slows down and things take longer to sour. Find a warmer place to keep your fermenting vessel. Aim for an environment that's approximately 65 degrees or higher all year round. Why is my ferment too soft or mushy? A few factors can contribute to your fermented food being too soft or mushy: It fermented too fast because the temperature was too high. You didn't add enough salt. Soft or mushy fermented food isn't necessarily spoiled. Some people prefer a softer ferment, but if the texture puts you off, try cooking with it. Why isn't my ferment working? A few factors can derail your fermentation: Did you give it enough time? Some fermented creations take weeks to months to taste just right. Is it too cold in your fermentation location? Anything below 50 degrees will be very slow to get going. Did you use iodized salt? Iodine has antibacterial properties and has been known to affect fermentation. Use a salt that's free of running agents and iodine for best results. Is your tap water chlorinated? If you're making a ferment that involves a brine, use nonchlorinated water. How did you sterilize your equipment? It's important to have clean fermentation vessels and equipment, but avoid using harsh or antibacterial sterilization solutions. Steam and boiling water do a fine job. Why is my fermented creation too dry? Often your fermented creation can start out very juicy and full of brine, only to mysteriously dry up a few days in. As the salt draws out the juice from the vegetables, the brine increases for the first three days of fermentation. This is usually followed by a recession of the brine. This is where weighting your ferment comes in. Weights are very important; they help keep the brine up and the vegetables submerged beneath the brine, which is essential for proper fermentation. In smaller jars you can use a sealable plastic bag filled with water that sits on the top level of the fermenting food, acting as a weight. You can also use boiled rocks, exercise weights, or other jars to help keep the vegetables submerged. What do I do about yeast or mold on the surface of the ferment? If you see bacterial growth on the surface of your ferment, don't panic. This is a common thing. People often overreact to any presence of mold or yeast growth, but such growth doesn't necessarily mean your ferment is ruined. If you see a white film, foam, or chunks of a mold bloom, get a spoon and scoop it out the best you can. If it comes back in a few days, repeat. If the mold has occurred in a larger way and the ferment has dried out or looks discolored on the top, remove a few inches off the top layer and see whether lower layers look better. Most often, a few inches below the affected area you have a perfectly good and delicious fermented food! Make sure you keep your ferment covered to prevent insects and other contaminants from getting into it. A piece of cloth does just fine. What should I do about a ferment jar that's bulging? If you're fermenting in a sealed vessel or jar, it's common for it to bulge or leak. This is caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide as the fermentation occurs. Too much pressure building up can be a dangerous thing if it causes the jar to swell and break. You don't have to use a sealed vessel for fermentation. A cloth-covered, weighted vessel works well. If you notice your jar bulging, open it over the sink and release the pressure. It may bubble or leak. Take a fork and press the vegetables down under the brine again. Why did the color change? The appearance of your fermented creation at the beginning of its fermentation time as compared to the end result can often be completely different! Pink or red vegetables will turn your ferment into a variety of shades of pink, red, and purple. Some green vegetables naturally brown a bit as they ferment. Colors can fade or intensify based on the ingredients you choose. If your batch of ferment has all turned brown, smells off, or tastes bitter, this is a sign that it has spoiled, and it should be composted. Why is my ferment leaking or overflowing? As the salt draws the liquid out of the shredded vegetables, the ferment's moisture content increases, causing your brine to rise and spill over your vessel. Generally this peaks three days after you pack the ferment into your fermentation vessel. Other factors, such as closeness to the sea and a full moon, may affect moisture content. After the brine rises it often recedes, which can dry out your ferment. Use a fork to press the vegetables back under the brine for proper fermentation. Always leave a few inches of space at the top for the expansion, and place a plate or bowl under your vessel to catch any leaks.

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