My favorite form of fermentation is wild fermentation. Before I started studying Nutrition, I had my own raw artisanal vinegar production and distribution company in Columbus. I have a huge passion for fermentation and since closing my business to pursue a career in dietetics, I’m going to share my fermentation secrets!
To put it simply, Fermentation, as it relates to food is the process of culturing good bacteria in food for the purpose of flavor, preservation, and health benefits. There are many different types of fermentation, some require you have a starter culture (like a SCOBY for Kombucha) and some don’t. Learn more about specific types of fermentation and fermented foods here.
Before you decide to choose wild fermentation, you should probably know what it is right? Wild Fermentation is a type of fermentation that doesn’t require a starter culture.
This means that to start your ferment using wild fermentation, you use the good bacteria present on the food to start the culture. You can do this by making sure you give your ferment a proper living environment and the proper “food”.
It might seem intimidating, but wild fermenting is a lot easier than you’d think. Especially with the tips and tricks, I am going to share with you in this post!
Before we dive into the why and how of wild fermentation, let’s dive into why you’d want to ferment in general. Fermentation has been around for years as a way to preserve foods.
When done correctly, it’s safe and offers many health benefits as opposed to other preservation methods that use sugar and salt. Additionally, using fermentation as a preservation method means a lesser risk of botulism, which is a plus in my book.
Not only does fermentation help make foods last longer, but it also increases the nutrient availability. Many studies have shown that the process of fermentation increases the number of nutrients absorbed when consumed.
This means that fermentation increases the bioavailability of food. Basically, the good bacteria being cultured in a ferment breaks down food into a more digestible and friendly form for your digestive tract.
Additionally, fermentation is a natural food source of probiotics! Probiotics are all the rage these days and for a good reason. Probiotics are thought to have a variety of benefits such as improved digestive health and reduced inflammation.
Not only is fermentation a safe way to preserve foods, but it boosts the health benefits and nutrient contents of already healthy food.
To choose wild fermentation is a no-brainer for me. I love wild fermentation. My options seem limitless as I am not constrained by the need to find starter cultures.
On that note, wild fermentation saves money. No more tracking down SCOBYs on the internet and paying a fortune for them to be shipped safely to you. Some people even suggest that wild fermenting helps with allergies, especially if you use locally grown / organic food in your ferments.
Every artist has a favorite way to approach their craft, and for me, wild fermenting allows me to be creative in ways that other types of fermentation don’t.
There are a few things to consider when choosing wild fermentation. You need to consider ingredients, prebiotics, distilled water, vessels, and more. So let’s talk about it all!
First you need to pick your wild fermentation ingredients. Local and organic are always best when it comes to wild fermentation but I have had success with conventional produce too. For whatever produce you choose to use, make sure you wash it well.
Your ingredients should include prebiotics to help feed the good bacteria (probiotics) you’re trying to cultivate. Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that feed probiotics. Common prebiotics include raw garlic, raw ginger, onions, chives, apples, and honey.
Lastly, your ingredients should include distilled water. This is essential as you don’t want to introduce any minerals or things that will impact the good bacteria’s ability to grow. So when it comes to any type of fermented, but especially wild fermenting, use distilled water.
Next you’ll want to combing your ingredients in a sterilized vessel. By vessels, I mean whatever container you are fermenting in. I always use a glass jar or jug for fermentation (using plastic just feels wrong to me) and that makes the sterilization process easy. I sterilize my vessels by washing them well and then placing them in an oven on high heat (400 degrees and up) for 2-4 hours. After they are done heating up, I allow them to cool in the oven before starting my ferments. This helps make sure you’re not introducing any bacteria that my impair the growth of your probiotics.
Lastly, depending on the type of wild ferment, like these fermented carrot sticks, you’ll want to make sure you’re burping your ferment to prevent it from exploding. Yes, exploding. I found this out the hard way when I was fermented honey wine in my basement and heard several loud gun shot-like sounds coming from my basement, to find a very sticky mess.
If you are culturing an anaerobic ferment (like sauerkraut, fermenting pickles, and ginger bug), you need to make sure you burp your ferments at least every two days. However, if you are experiencing hotter temperatures burping every day might be necessary.
This because anaerobic fermenting builds pressure and trust me, you do not want to clean up the mess that occurs if you forget to release that pressure by burping your jar.
Now, I know a lot about fermenting but if you want to learn more about fermentation, I highly suggest the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. It’s how I learned everything I know.
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