Do I Have To Use A Starter When I Ferment Things?

Lately wild fermentation has been getting quite a bit of flack. Wild fermentation, not to be confused with the book, is the practice of letting the natural bacteria and yeasts on vegetables or fruits start the ferment. Obviously there are many proponents of fermenting in this way, and people in the past more than likely did this as well. But now that we have the technology to isolate specific strains of bacteria, it means that we can make better ferments…. right? Maybe, maybe not.

I personally have not found much of a difference between using a starter and going without. I do have some on hand that I bought on sale, though, so I do use it sometimes. But, I’m horrible at remembering little things like that so most of the time I don’t. I’ve used a powdered starter for sauerkraut twice, as supposedly that brings down the amount of time needed for a successful ferment from 12 weeks to 9 or 10 (I’ve heard different things). But I always forget!

I do routinely remember to use it when making fruit ferments, such as this one or this one. I like to use a starter culture for fruit ferments because I’ve read they’re more likely to go bad. Sometimes I use a powdered starter, other times I use either a little water kefir or ginger bug. I never use whey–it does not belong in vegetable and fruit ferments, changes the flavor, and friends of mine have also said it made their ferments more susceptible to mold. And I don’t skim mold, I’d just toss…so I definitely don’t want that!

Long story short–no, you do NOT need to use a starter when you are making your fruit and vegetable ferments. I would recommend using one for fruit, and definitely if you’ve had lots of issues with ferments going bad. Your ferments should be pleasant in taste and texture, and if this is not the case… you should do some troubleshooting! Truly enjoying your ferments will help you to eat more, and help your family to love them as well. That has certainly been the case here, and it’s just one more reason I am grateful for my Boss Pickler jars!

Another reason I’ve heard of for using a starter is if you are not sure where your vegetables came from, especially if they are not organic. Our soil isn’t as rich in probiotics as it was in days of old, and this is definitely a bigger problem when organic practices are not observed.

So, you see that starters can affect flavor (positively or negatively!) and aren’t completely necessary. However, they can be beneficial in some circumstances. Do YOU use a starter or different types of starters? If so, I’d love to know what kind(s) and your experience fermenting with them!

Milk Kefir: Food From The Gods

I have read about milk kefir extensively and consider it something that we should all have in our daily lives, barring an allergy/intolerance of course. Milk kefir when fermented properly is very low in lactose, my son who is still lactose intolerance can drink it without issue. It may also be OK for some who are intolerant to dairy proteins, as the proteins are pre-digested by the kefir grains and easy for our bodies to absorb properly.

Milk kefir has a very interesting story and no one is really sure where it came from. A story has been passed down for generations that it was given to the people who inhabited the Caucasus Mountains by Mohammed, who also taught them how to use the culture.

Since beginning to drink kefir, I have experienced sounder sleep, increased energy, better elimination and an overall feeling of well-being.

Milk Kefir In Mason Jar

Highlights Of Milk Kefir

It is a potent probiotic capable of strengthening the immune system

It contains many strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that are especially helpful in rebalancing the gut and creating vitamins like biotin, folate and B6, as well as K2. Probiotics help us naturally cleanse our systems and absorb nutrients better. It can greatly help with digestive disorders including IBS and Chron’s. Probiotics are also known for helping with depression, ADHD and autism.

It has anti-cancerous properties

It is high in essential vitamins and minerals necessary for the body to repair itself, reduces tumors1 and has the antioxidant CLA which is a very beneficial also higher in grass-fed milk2. CLA has been noted for its effects on breast tissue, and therefore kefir should be a regular part of anyone’s diet who is at increased risk for breast cancer.

It has the correct form of folate

Folate deficiencies have been getting quite a bit of attention lately, and with good cause. The folic acid in fortified grains are not healthy, and those with MTHFR mutations may experience severe health issues from including these unhealthy products in their diet. It actually tricks the body into thinking it has real folate and can complicate the body systems that need it, including the detoxification system. This is one of the factors that leads to lip ties, tongue ties and even autism. The folate in milk kefir can further be increased by doing a 2nd ferment.

It is a great source of healthy, saturated fat and protein

It is full of essential amino acids that are very easy for our bodies to absorb. The saturated fats and cholesterol in healthy animal foods such as dairy are important for fertility and proper brain development. For this reason, it is best to make kefir with full-fat milk… I even add extra cream! Animal fats are the best sources of vitamins A, D, E and K2, which are essential for healthy babies and optimal health.

The minerals it contains are bioavailable

It is primarily high in calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for many important functions in the body. Vegans will argue that the best source of calcium is spinach and nuts, but this simply is not true. Much of the minerals in plant foods are bound to anti-nutrients such as oxalates, which can actually cause kidney stones and a whole host of other issues, including tooth decay. Especially when not getting enough K2–which is difficult without animal fats!

It is very EASY to make!

All you need are kefir grains, a glass jar and milk. It doesn’t even have to be raw milk, but preferably it will be FULL FAT, NON-UHT milk.

Sources: 1, 2

Fermented Pear Chutney

Fermented Pear Chutney

Fermented Pear Chutney Recipe (Makes 3/4L)

3 Pears
1/4 cup dried apricots (click here for my favorite)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped almonds (click here to buy already sprouted)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Ginger to taste
1 Tbsp honey

1. Cut pears and dried apricots into bite sized pieces.

2. Add raisins, almonds, nutmeg, salt and honey. Add ginger to taste. I prefer to juice the ginger then use the juice instead of putting chopped or powdered ginger.

3. Mix it all together (it’s OK if some pear chunks get mushed to release juice!) and put in your jar. It should have a brine that is somewhat thick, but mostly covering the fruit. You may add a little water and/or freshly squeezed lemon juice if needed.

4. Close jar tightly and let ferment for 24 hours at room temperature, then move to the fridge.

Do you eat chutneys? If so, I’d love to know what you eat it with!