How To Make a Fermentation Starter
Ah fermenting! Many of us have been learning the importance of fermented foods for ultimate health especially in this day where most are suffering from various forms of digestive problems.
Finding more ways to get these gut healing probiotics into our diet on a daily basis can sometimes be challenging. For me, I love kimchi and use to make it weekly using the traditional brine method and a long ferment time in cold storage. However, my husband does not like kimchi nor does he like yogurt, so finding new things to ferment and new ways to do it has really helped in being able to get more fermented foods into my his diet.
A good number of years ago I got into making mead by using a ginger bug as the starter instead of store bought wine yeasts. This was not only the healthier way to go but also the most economical.
After doing this for a few years, it dawned on me that I could use this same starter to ferment just about anything and I went on to experiment with different fruits to see if I could do the same with those as I could with ginger and was thrilled to find that I sure could. Which was wonderful because I have yet to be able to grow ginger successfully here (though I plan to keep trying) but I can easily use my own home grown grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and much more to make fermentation starters of all varieties.
The process is extremely simple and you only need three things: fruit, sugar, and a filtered water. For the sugar, you can try using honey or even coconut sugar but I find the organic cane sugar to work very well and keeps a nice color. It is also important that you do not use city tap water as the chemicals in it are not only unhealthy, they can kill the whole process. I use filtered rain water but spring water, distilled water, even a good well water should work for you.
First you start with a small amount of whatever fruit you choose. If using something like peaches, cut them up into 1/2" - 1" pieces first. Place your fruit in a pint sized mason jar.
To this you will add a about a quarter to a half cup of your filtered water, making sure it is enough to cover the fruit, and add about a tsp of sugar. Put a canning lid on and swish to help dissolve the sugar. Leave this in a warm area. On top of the fridge is a good place but I often leave mine on the counter so I see it and do not forget about it.
Later in the day, add more sugar, a few more pieces of fruit, and more water.
Once a day for the next 3 days add more water, sugar, and fruit making sure to swish it each time to mix in the sugar or you can use a small bamboo spoon or chopstick to stir it if you prefer. It is best you avoid metal when working with any ferments.
Usually by the end of the third day, the liquid should be quite fizzy. However, it can sometimes take 5 or 6 days depending on how cold it is in your house. If this is the case and your jar is full, just add about a tsp of sugar each day until it starts to fizz. At this point, it is ready to use or you can store it in your refrigerator until needed, making sure to feed it once a week with a teaspoon of sugar.
Once you are ready to use your starter, simply add 1/4 cup (2 oz) of the liquid to each quart of whatever it is you would like to ferment. Be sure to strain out the fruit and put it back in the jar.
I have used this to make beet kvass, kimchi, natural fruit sodas, and have even been making bread with it in place of store bought yeast. But that is a post for another day! :)
Before storing your starter back in the fridge, give it a bit more sugar and top off with water and let sit for a few hours on the counter until it starts to fizz again.
Below you can find my most recent video demonstrating how I made starters from raspberries, blueberries and raisins.
Hope you found this helpful and will start experimenting soon and be watching for future posts showing the different ways I like to use my fermentation starter.