4 Reasons I LOVE Fermented Foods

Fermented Chilli Sauce

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?

Yes. Obsessed.

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…

Temperature matters!

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.

For breakfast:

My go-to is with poached eggs, salad leaves and a slather of home made mayo.

For lunch:

Add a few spoonfuls to a salad or your leftovers from the night before. Also great with natural yoghurt for a savoury twist.

For dinner:

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.

For dessert:

Just kidding! Even I’m not crazy enough to suggest fermented veg with ice cream or chocolate ;)

Want more?

For more recipe ideas check out:
My Yoghurt recipe
My Sauerkraut recipe
My Fermented Veg recipe

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 Sauce-2

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.

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Variations

green – use green chillies!

mild – deseed the chillies or use mild ones

hot! – use some super hot chillies like habanero or Thai birds eye.

Video Version of the Recipe.

Big love,
Jules x

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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!

71 Comments

  • I’m definitely a lover. I was introduced to fermented foods via the Nouishing Traditions book and it just made sense to me. I have experimented with quite a few fermented foods and there hasn’t been one that I didn’t enjoy eating.As a matter of fact, once I started with them I found myself craving them, as if my body was saying “feed me more of this.” Would love to see more of your fermented recipes.

  • Been making my own sauerkraut (most recent batch of ruby kraut was great), yoghurt, and kefir, so would like to add some more probiotic variety to the microbiota.
    Do you think this would work with frozen chillies or would the freezing have killed all the good bugs? Just that my habanero plants have slowed down now, but I’ve got plenty of this summer’s chillies put away in the freezer.

    • Yes frozen chillies will be fine Ian! Lactic acid bacteria are everywhere so you’ll pick them up from the environment. Plus freezing just slows them right down and doesn’t actually kill them :)

  • I would love to incorporate more homemade fermented foods into my diet! Please, include more recipes. It would be very helpful to those of us with little experience – and who worry a bit overmuch about poisoning ourselves – if you would include things to look out for: for example, colors, smells and textures that are expected vs potentially dangerous.

  • Yes, please, to more fermented food recipes. I’m a Nourishing Traditions fan and I have Sandor Katz’s book though I haven’t done much with it. We bought a Harsch crock and then broke the lid so we need to replace it. We also found that our first batch of sauerkraut was lovely and crunchy but later batches were too soft and nowhere near as good (we think we left it too long and/or our salt content was too low). We make homemade creme fraiche and kombucha primarily. I used to make kefir and would love to try making yogurt too.

    Also: Is your homemade mayo recipe on your site somewhere? I’m going to go hunting for it right now. :)

  • I couldn’t believe the topic when I got the email! I also am a freak about fermented foods. Mmmm – veins in blue cheese. More recipes please.
    Question – how is chocolate fermented? I’ve never heard of that.

    • They ferment the cocoa beans after harvesting.. Without this step they taste really bland… And yes! Veins in blue cheese! A girl after my own heart Mary :)

  • Yes please! Definitely post more about fermenting. I have seriously gotten into it recently & always have something bubbling away on my kitchen benchtop. I do Kombucha, Jun, coconut water kefir & have recently been experimenting with sauerkraut & other veggie ferments too. My hubby recently asked me if I was turning into a witch (lol) as I have so many potions bubbling away! He does love his kombucha though & soon tells me to krank up the cauldron if we’re running low.

  • I recently made my first (and ongoing) sourdough to bake delicious fresh bread so fermented food is my new obsession. Yes for more recipes please!

  • Hi Jules,
    Never made the stuff, chilli ferment. My friends go crazy for hot stuff. So I will make some I have loads of fresh chilli from the garden. And my fridge is overflowing. I have a chilli called, Trinidad Scorpion, you have to use disposable gloves, or else you may brush your eye oƓoooooo. Do you want some seeds ? I can send them to your PO no. Box. Quentin, happy chilli.

  • More information about fermented food would be welcome. For example the Kombocha in the supermarket is not refrigerated. Does that mean it’s been heat treated and the bacteria is no longer alive?
    If so, is there any point in drinking it?
    The health store sells it refrigerated- but it is very expensive.
    Kombocha is made with lots of sugar- where does the sugar go?
    On the label there appears to be very little sugar.
    Sourdough bread has been baked. Aren’t the organisms killed? Why eat it in that case?

    • If it’s not refrigerated it’s probably pasteurised so yes no love culture… But I guess you drink it for the flavour (or for people who don’t know any better). The sugar gets used by the culture to produce flavour and some alcohol… It still contains a reasonable amount of sugar so I don’t drink it… Much prefer fermented veg! And yes the yeasts & bacteria used in sourdough die off during baking but the benefit is the ‘predigesting’ which makes it easier for some people to tolerate… So many questions Jan!

  • Love your site and Irish humour
    With respect it’s the membranes not the seeds that have the intense heat

  • Hi
    One of the staple and much loved food item in Indian cuisine is the humble ‘Idli’. It’s a steamed cake made with fermented rice and lentils.

  • LOVE me some pickled anything. Cukes, carrots, kraut, and most of the rest of them. But… I do have to say, the SEEDS do not make the pepper hot, it’s the placenta that holds the seeds to the pepper. in your hot sauce, no seeds and no placenta- mild(er), no seeds but keep placenta- hot! And the way to tell, (generally) the hot-or-not of a pepper is by the color of and coverage of color in the placenta (when ripe)- white, not so hot; oily yellow, hotter; orange, ouch!; orange-red, say your prayers.

  • I’m a nerdy kinda foodie too. I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoy your posts and “classes”. And I wouldn’t be opposed to trying a fermented veg dessert if you found a good one… ?
    Thank you for enthusiasm for such a misunderstood part of creation. I’m trying to include more fermented foods but don’t know much about them beyond kraut. Keep the recipes coming!

  • Yes I am a fine of fermented foods, pickles especially. Everyone so often I have a craving. I also make my own kefir water, which I drink daily. In reply to Jan Komb0cha is made with sugar, like kefir it is the food that the microbes eat. We also make sourdough bread, in this case you keep a small amount of ‘starter’ culture for the next loaf. Anyway, definitely a subject that Jules can explore.

  • Thank you Jules for sharing your knowledge and expertise. You give us confidence. I find you a creative inspiration

  • I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m fascinated by fermenting foods, but still nervous to make my own. I’d love your help! :)
    BTW – love your blog!

  • Yes, would love more fermented recipes. I have bought Kimchee and it’s very expensive – would love a recipe for that. Thanks for the blog – always good info.

  • I loathe antibacterial products; I think they endorse a mentality of ignorance and fear.

    You neglected to mention a significant fermented product: Beer. Between Australia’s Foster’s and Your Irishman’s Guinness, such an omission is incromprohensible.

    Perhaps you will write about pickling; I realize it is not the same as fermenting, but it also makes delicious foods which are loved around the world.

    I enjoy all your posts and use your advice frequently.

    Thank you.

    • Sorry Leo… I’m definitely a wine lover over beer! But thx for pointing out the omission. And need to perfect my vinegar pickles… Thx for the encouragement! Jx

  • I definitely love all this stuff too. Here in Russia we are fond of sauerkraut itself, soup made of sauerkraut (so called stchi), pickled cucumbers and tomatoes etc. All this food is on our tables, especially in winter. And many people still make wine of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, black and red currants, gooseberry. i.e. from all the berries they can pick in thier orchards.
    And in summer, on hot days, we quench our thirst with kvass (mildly alcoholic drink made from fermented rye bread), drinking it as a beverage and making a cold kvass soup (okroshka).
    And yes, Jules, I’d like to see more recipies of yours for fermented foods.

  • Keep the recipes coming please! I’m a fermentation junkie, and teach classes to willing participants in my area. Right now I have a jar of spring greens bubbling away on my counter. Thanks for sharing your recipe, my hubby loves hot!

  • I have trouble rising bread in my kitchen except during the height of our short summer here in Ontario. I have to put it in the oven after warming the oven. So I’ve been hesitant to start fermenting. But I’d love to. Inspire me please Jules.

    • Veggie ferments are easier than bread Miriam because you don’t need all that gas to be produced to get the rise… It just a flavour change so not so dramatic if they take a few days (or weeks) longer than in a warmer house. You can do it Miriam! xx

  • Hi Jules,
    Thanks for your recipes on fermented carrots and chilis.
    Only fermented cucumbers up to now, but will definetely try other veggies, make my own yoghurt, is it possible to make greek yoghurt/

    Lucia

    • The problem with Greek yogurt is that when you add extra cream to the milk it separates out on top so I haven’t nailed this yet Lucia!

  • I’m keen to add more fermented foods to my diet. I made a batch of red cabbage sauerkraut but it went mouldy and that has put me off a bit (not enough salt?). Definitely keen for recipes to try!

    • Probably needed more salt Tania.. And it’s important that the cabbage is submerged to protect from the air.. The lactic acid bacteria only grow without air whereas moulds need air.

  • After years of reading and cooking from your blog, you finally got this wild beer brewing follower to post.
    Please, more fermented recipes!

  • I would like it if you would explain about your go-to breakfast. Poached eggs, lettuce leaves, a slathering of mayo? Mayo slathered on what? lettuce under, around, or mixed in? And where fermented veggies? Astounded Ari

  • I can recommend Indonesian tape, balls of fermented sticky rice, love it to bits! As it is a celebration dish it can be hard to find.

  • Hi Jules,
    I just watched your video as I am keen to do fermenting successfully. So far I haven’t been lucky. Is it okay to have a thin white transparent film over the fermented vegetables?
    Deb

  • Hey jules I just came across this blog and I love the recipes in it I’m wondering if you have a recipe for Kimchi ? Thanks

  • Hi Jules,
    I just want to let you know that my chillies were a success. I am waiting for the last chillies on the plant to turn red to make more. I also tackled the sauerkraut, yummo, and am now onto my third batch. Thank you so much for your easy to follow instructions and videos.
    Deb.

  • Hi, great post! I love fermented foods too- they’re not only great tasting, but fermenting your extra produce is such a great way to prevent food waste. Three cheers for fermentation!

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