This is a little weird. But I feel compelled to share it with you anyway…
I love microbes.
Yep. Bacteria, yeasts and fungi have fascinated me ever since I learned about them in science class. (My favourite subject btw… I know I am a freak).
There’s something about these microscopic fellas that that really capture my imagination.
And more importantly my taste buds!
So you won’t be surprised that I chose to major in food microbiology when I was doing my food science degree. And that my honours thesis investigated the changes in the bacterial populations of blue vein and Camembert cheeses as they age.
Oh and did I mention I also had a career as a wine maker?
You know those ‘anti bacterial’ cleaning products and hand sanitizers. I HATE them. Just because there are a few ‘bad egg’ species doesn’t mean we should be eradicating a whole form of life.
Calm down Jules.
So before I start going on a rant that would make my Dad proud (He loves them too. More than me even. He once stopped showering because he wanted to cultivate his ‘beneficial bacteria’).
But I digress.
Today I m sharing why I love fermented foods, how you can incorporate them in your diet AND the recipe for my fermented chilli hot sauce!
4 Reasons I LOVE Fermented Foods
1. They’re delicious!
Cheese, wine, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi… And chocolate! Need I say more.
2. They’re (mostly) easy to digest.
Basically during fermentation bacteria and fungi start digesting food for us. For example in yoghurt making lactic acid bacteria turn lactose into lactic acid. And for miso paste fungi and bacteria digest soy protein to make it easier for us to use (and much more delicious!)
3. They’re a great source of probiotics.
Probiotics are microbes which result in some benefit when we eat them. Typically they’re live cultures of lactic acid bacteria.
According to Sandor Katz in ‘The Art of Fermentation’ There are many health benefits linked with probiotics. My favourites include preventing colds, preventing respiratory tract infections, improved liver function and preventing cancers. For more on this (including citations of scientific studies see Katz’s book).
4. They’re an easy way to eat more veg!
Well fermented vegetables are at least. I love just grabbing a jar from the fridge and plonking it on the table for an instant extra serve of veg.
How to easily include fermented foods in your meals
You probably don’t need me to tell you how to eat yoghurt or cheese. Or chocolate or wine for that matter. So I’ll share my fave ways to eat fermented vegetables…
The major thing to consider is heating above 115F (47C) will kill the live bacteria so best to serve chilled or at room temp.
A little goes a long way.
Fermented veg pack a big flavour punch and they do provide a decent amount of salt so I wouldn’t want to sit down to a whole bowl of kimchi or ‘kraut. Better to use more as a condiment or side dish.
My go-to is with poached eggs, salad leaves and a slather of home made mayo.
Add a few spoonfuls to a salad or your leftovers from the night before. Also great with natural yoghurt for a savoury twist.
Plonk your jar in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. You’d be surprised how well some fermented veg can add zing to pretty much any meal.
Just kidding! Even I’m not crazy enough to suggest fermented veg with ice cream or chocolate ;)
For more reading inspiration, I highly recommend:
‘The Art of Fermentation’ by Sandor Katz
‘The Good Gut’ by Justin & Erica Sonnenberg
‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson (for more easy ferment recipes)
Fermented Chilli Hot Sauce
My Irishman loved his hot sauces and is always bringing new ones into the house. The ingredients lists on some of these things makes me feel ill just thinking about them. Artificial colours anyone?
This sauce is a vibrant red. And I just love the fresh fiery flavours. Of course the heat level is all about the type of chilli you use (always a moving target!).
makes about 2 cups
takes 15 minutes + fermenting time
500g (1lb) large red chillies, halved
5g (1 teaspoon) fine salt
1/2 cup water
1. Whizz chillies, salt and water in your food processor until you have a chunky paste.
2. Transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover with a lid and leave on the kitchen counter out of direct sunlight. I put mine on a plate to catch any spills if it overflows.
3. Leave for 2-5 days until the sauce tastes as tangy as you want. It’s a good idea to open the jars every day to release any gas buildup.
4. When you’re happy it’s good to eat.
5. Will keep in the fridge for a few months.
green – use green chillies!
mild – deseed the chillies or use mild ones
hot! – use some super hot chillies like habanero or Thai birds eye.
ps. Which camp do you fall into? Bacteria lover or anti? And would you like to see more recipes for fermented foods? Let me know in the comments below!