|The Power of Fermentation
by Carolyn Herriot
Modern researchers are just beginning to understand the calculable health benefits that fermented foods convey to human immunity, intestinal health, and general well being. Intestinal flora is thought to impact a wide array of human health issues, and there is speculation that many modern diseases are in part caused by abandoning the ancient practice of fermentation.
The Health Benefits of Lacto-Fermented Foods
1. They normalize the acidity of the stomach. If it is insufficient, they stimulate the acid-producing glands of the stomach. In cases where the acid is too high, they have the opposite effect. This means that lacto-fermented foods would be wise to include in your diet if you have ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, lack of appetite, or gas and indigestion.
2. Lactic acid activates the secretions of the pancreas which are important in treating diabetes.
3. People who have taken or are taking antibiotics benefit tremendously from regular consumption of these foods, which help to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
4. Lacto-fermented foods are high in Vitamin C. They can be cooked, but are best enjoyed raw to retain the many vitamins and enzymes present.
5. Lactic acid fermentation decreases the level of phytic acid naturally present in grains. Phytic acid is an “anti-nutrient” that binds up minerals and prevents their full absorption in the gut.
Yoghurt originated centuries ago from traditional Eastern European foods. Friendly bacteria turn milk into yoghurt by lactic acid fermentation; the process allows beneficial bacteria to metabolize lactose—a sugar naturally present in milk. The end result is a thicker dairy product that has a tangy, slight mouth-puckering flavour. Yoghurt is lower in carbohydrates and higher in B vitamins, including folic acid, than regular whole milk. Furthermore, many people who find they are lactose intolerant find they can eat yogurt without a reaction.
Yoghurt is mostly made using cow’s milk, but sheep and goat’s milk are also used. The flavour and consistency of yoghurt will vary according to the region where it is made, because the fat and protein content of the milk and the bacterial culture differs. If sheep or goat’s milk is used, it results in a richer creamier yoghurt, with almost custard-like consistency.
RAW MILK YOGHURT
Raw milk is a sort of Holy Grail for traditional foods enthusiasts. It preserves the enzymatic and probiotic components of the fresh milk in the resulting yoghurt.
This recipe makes 2L of yoghurt; double it to make one gallon (4 L).
To prepare: Sterilize a 2 quart (2L) glass Mason™ jar, fill it with hot water and leave it to stand. Half fill a pot, large enough to accommodate the jar, with water, and bring it to a boil. Let stand with lid on.
5 cups (1.2 L) raw goat, sheep, or cow milk
1 cup (250 mL) organic yoghurt at room temperature
Purchase Bulgarian or Greek yoghurt as culture, or use yoghurt from a previous batch. TIP: Due to the presence of beneficial bacteria in raw milk yoghurt the starter degrades over time, so you need to purchase new starters periodically to protect quality of the yogurt.
Heat the milk to 110˚F (43˚C) using a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature. Not overheating milk preserves the fat-soluble vitamins, enzymes, and naturally occurring beneficial bacteria.
Add the yoghurt culture, whisking while blending together, and bring back to temperature of 110˚F (43˚C). Pour into the hot 2L Mason jar to within 1/2 –inch of headspace, and seal the jar with a snap lid secured by a metal ring.
Sit the jar inside the large pot filled with hot water, and place a lid on the pot. Put the pot inside a cardboard box (or cooler), insulate it with towels and close the flaps on the box to seal. Leave to stand for eight to twelve hours (or overnight) until the yoghurt thickens. Remove the warm jar of yoghurt and chill in the refrigerator. Keeps refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
LABNEH is yoghurt cheese of Middle Eastern origin. Roll labneh into walnut-sized balls and put them into a glass Mason jar. Cover with olive oil and add your choice of fresh herbs for flavouring. Store in the refrigerator.
Recipe makes 6 ounces (168 g) labneh.
4 cups (1L) of fresh yoghurt, preferably raw milk
½ tsp. (2 mL) unrefined sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Fresh herbs e.g. basil, dill, sweet marjoram, parsley, or oregano
Fold a piece of cheesecloth in quarters, set it inside a fine-mesh sieve, and set the sieve above a bowl. Mix the yoghurt with the salt and pour into the lined sieve. After initial straining (10 minutes), twist the cheesecloth into a tight bundle, and tie with an elastic band.
TIP: The liquid whey is rich in beneficial bacteria. Use whey to soak grains to render them more digestible; as a starter for fermented foods; or add it to smoothies for extra probiotics. Whey keeps refrigerated for up to 6 months.
Hang the cheesecloth from a hook, with a bowl beneath to catch dripping whey. Hanging from a hook speeds up straining. Hang at room temperature for at least 12 hours, preferably 18 to 24 hours for best results. Remove the cheesecloth and find labneh, like cream cheese.
Carolyn Herriot grows “Seeds of Victoria” at The Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC, http://earthfuture.com/gardenpath/. She is author of The Zero Mile Diet, A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food. This is an excerpt from her next book The Zero-Mile Diet Cookbook (Harbour Publishing).