Choose Wild Fermentation – How to Ditch the Scoby
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!
What is Fermentation?
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.
What is Wild Fermentation
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!
Why Ferment at All?
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.
For more information check out this post on live foods!
Ditch the Scoby – Why Choose Wild Fermentation?
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.
Wild Fermentation Basics
Picking your Ingredients
Local and organic are always best when it comes to fermentation but I have had success with conventional produce too.
For whatever produce you choose to use, make sure you wash it well.
Culture with Prebiotics
Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that feed probiotics.
Essentially they are plant parts that feed the good bacteria and allow them to thrive in your culture.
When wild fermenting, it is especially important to use prebiotics in your ferments to ensure that your probiotics can thrive.
Some common prebiotics involved in fermentation include:
• Raw Garlic
• Raw Ginger
Use Distilled Water
I cannot stress this enough. Buying distilled water from the grocery store is important.
Simply boiling your water is sometimes not enough (especially if you live in a city where they have a bad algae problem)
Using distilled water is important as it makes sure you are not introducing any unwanted bacteria into your ferment.
It also makes sure you are not introducing chemicals or compounds that might inhibit the growth of your probiotics (like chlorine).
So when it comes to any type of fermented, but especially wild fermenting, use distilled water.
Sterilize your Vessels
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.
While not 100% necessary, this step can help ensure your ferment gets a healthy start.
I highly recommend doing this especially if you are using conventional produce in your ferments.
Burp your Ferments
This only applies to ferments that are anaerobic, meaning you are fermenting them without oxygen present in an airtight container.
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.
If your ferment is healthy, when you burp it you should see bubbles rise to the top of the jar (the more bubbles the more active and healthy the ferment is).
Not only will burping your ferment indicate its health, but it will also help prevent your jar from exploding (if you are using glass).
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.
Looking for more information? The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is an excellent read.
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