Fermented Foods: Starting With a Starter


Loaves of Sourdough Bread

Fermented Foods such as Makdous(Middle Eastern eggplant), sauerkraut, kimchee (Korean fermented cabbage), and bread and butter pickles do not require a starter to kick off fermentation. These foods rely on the natural yeasts and bacteria on their contents, and in the kitchen, to start off the process. 

Sourdough bread, depending on the process used to make it, may or may not require a starter. Some of the simplest varieties of sourdough simply require the use of baker's yeast...the sourdough is a result of natural bacteria in the air and on the flour. Other fermented items require starters. Some of them have become very simple to acquire, some haven't been easy to come by since the 1970's, and some of them are very difficult to get. Today, most starters are becoming easier to get than they were a decade ago, which is good news for the palate and for your health.

It is simple enough to pick up a bottle of kombucha at a local health food store in order to give one a try. Many grocery stores and some major national discount stores are carrying them as well. To make kombucha at home,  starters, known as SCOBY's can be ordered online, or acquired from friends and neighbors. There are even Facebook groups for people who wish to trade cultures. Similarly, there are many recipes and guides to the process. It is worth a try, and may be an important step towards a healthier life, as this can be a stepping stone for reducing or eliminating a soda habit.

Kefir grains, as the starter culture is called, is a little more difficult to find than a SCOBY, either requiring the use of similar channels, or by ordering them online. This is more difficult because fewer people are fermenting kefir.  

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