The Fabulous Art of Fermentation

The vegetables, ready to ferment

The vegetables, ready to ferment - Credit: Archant

Åsa Linéa Simonsson is passionate about fermenting foods.

Made in Hackney fermenting class

Made in Hackney fermenting class - Credit: Archant

The 44-year-old Swede, who credits looking about half her age to a raw food diet, which includes plenty of fermented food, waxes lyrical about its myriad benefits.

As we sat in on the Made in Hackney workshop about fermentation, Åsa explained how it is a natural phenomenon which even animals do, and how “no culture exists without fermented food”.

Since ancient times fermented foods have been part of our diets, from Sauerkraut in Germany to Kimichi in Korea – but sadly, with the advances in technology, these time-honored traditional foods have been largely lost in our society.

As a nutritionist and naturopath working in Lower Clapton, a big part of Åsa’s practice is to promote fermented foods to put people on a path to better health.

Asa, who teaches how to ferment vegetables

Asa, who teaches how to ferment vegetables - Credit: Archant

Fermented foods have been through lactofermentation, a process in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid.

As well as preserving the food, the process also creates beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various good live bacteria (probiotics) breaking food down into a more digestible form.

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Autistic children with damaged stomachs can benefit from eating it, and for anyone with digestive problems, like flatulence, bloating or indigestion, eating fermented foods every day would make a big difference.

For meat eaters, it’s even more important because the digestive enzymes help break down protein.

The good thing is it’s simple to do, and Åsa explains to us how we can ferment virtually anything we want, from any type of fruit or vegetable, and even nuts and seeds – although cabbage is probably the easiest thing to start experimenting with.

Making sauerkraut is really quite simple – you chop up the cabbage, and ‘massage’ some salt into it. You then pack it right down into an airtight glass jar, making sure there is no oxygen in there or else it could go mouldy.

Then you leave it for a minimum of two weeks, and up to six weeks for the more adventurous ‘fermenters’, opening the lid quickly once a day to let any gases out.

We learn how to make a “nut cheese” out of almonds which have been soaked overnight to remove any enzyme inhibitors, and then blended down with a probiotic capsule and a little bit of water and left it to ferment overnight, before being strained through a muslin bag.

We go on to use some nut cheese which Åsa had already whipped up to make the most delicious chocolate cheese cake, with a cashew nut, date and dessicated coconut base, which we devour at the end of the four-hour class.

The next Made In Hackney masterclass is about preserving and takes place this Saturday at Food For All, Cazenove Road, Stoke Newington from noon to 4.30pm. It costs £65 or £52 for concessions.

All profits fund free community classes promoting a local, organic, seasonal plant-based diet.

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