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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Fermentation: Food For Thought!

In February last year, pre the horrors that were to come, I did a fermentation course at Ballymaloe Cookery School with Penny Allen. We learned how to make Kefir, Kombucha and sauerkraut, which are all surprisingly easy to do. I got into fermented foods whilst living in Korea, where my obsession with kimchi was curated. It was not until I did the course that I came to know just how beneficial these fermented foods are to our bodies.

Fermented foods are exceptionally good for your gut biome, helping to replenish the good bacteria in your stomach, which in turn helps to counteract the bad bacteria that lingers in your digestive system like E-Coli, amongst others. Your gut can become overrun by these bad bacterias through poor diet, stress and over-use of antibiotics. If the body can't rectify this imbalance, you can end up with chronic illness. Upping your consumption of fermented foods or drinks can have many overall health benefits, not least for your healthy bacteria. (They have been linked to an increase of histimine production though so if you have a histimine intolerance, it's best to check which fermented foods are the most beneficial for you!)

Some of you with notions like me may already be familiar with the rise in popularity of fermented foods. You may even have bought Kefir or Kombucha for €4 a pop at a health food store. But with the right ingredients, water kefir is very cheap, easy to make and only takes a few days to ferment. It is made using a starter culture or 'grains', which are a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This sounds pretty unpalatable but essentially, all of our food contains bacteria in some form and our entire system is teeming with microorganisms. The SCOBY is just packed to the brim with the good stuff. These grains convert sugar water into a probiotic, enzyme-rich drink which is full of friendly microorganisms to help balance your microbiome. It's literally just sugar, water and grains. Add fruit to the mix too for flavour for a second ferment for a day. You can buy grains online or at the Ballymaloe store in East Cork. Check out the recipe for Kefir below:

Water Kefir:

  • 80g water grains or three heaped tablespoons for a three-day ferment

  • 2-4 tablespoons or organic sugar (the less sugar you add the quicker it will take to ferment but it could taste quite sour if you leave it too long)

  • 2 organic apricots or other dried fruits such as figs, dates, prunes or raisins. (Bigger fruits are easier to separate from the starter so I usually use figs or apricots.)

  • 1 litre of filtered or dechlorinated water (You can do this by boiling and cooling water in a kettle or with a good water filter)

  • 1 slice of organic UNWAXED lemon or lime


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