Fermenting Already-prepared Foods
There will be times when even the easiest fermented foods seem like they take too much time to tackle. If you are at such a point take a deep breath and relax. With very little effort you can still improve the quality of foods your family eats. A packet of vegetable starter culture (like Caldwell’s), or a little bit of whey reserved from other culturing projects, allows you to add health-promoting probiotics to a number of processed foods. Don’t let the term “processed” trip you up. Everything that gets cooked is processed. Naturally, you will want to buy the healthiest version possible of whatever food your budget will allow, so be sure to read labels carefully.
When looking for foods you can improve with fermentation, it’s important that there not be too many chemicals or preservatives added, since preservatives tend to interfere with fermentation. A little vinegar is fine, but if vinegar is one of the primary ingredients, that food may not ferment well. With a little practice at label reading you will find the brands of food that have few or no additives.
Some processed foods that can be improved by fermenting include salsas, ketchup, mustard, and hummus. Simply stir in a tablespoon of the prepared starter culture or whey to a small jar of the food you want to culture (2 to 4 tablespoons for larger jars), cover, and let sit on the counter for 2 to 3 days at a moderate room temperature (68° to 70°F) before moving the food to the refrigerator. Try some of the following quick-to-prepare fermented condiments using prepared foods.
Mash one can of refried beans with 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder. Stir in 2 tablespoons of prepared vegetable starter culture or whey. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
Add 2 tablespoons of prepared vegetable starter culture or whey to a pint of prepared hummus. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
Although making ketchup from scratch takes mere minutes, if you need to buy it, look for an organic brand without high fructose corn syrup and preferably bottled in glass rather than plastic. The corn syrup does not ferment well, and the plastic can leach chemicals during fermentation. Pour out enough ketchup to make room for stirring in 2 tablespoons of prepared starter or whey. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
Look for an organic mustard that has no sugar added. (Sugar will cause over-fermentation and an undesirable result.) Add 1 tablespoon of prepared starter culture or whey to an 8-ounce jar. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
Look for a brand without preservatives. There are some organic brands that have only citric acid added and that does not seem to interfere with fermentation. Add 1 tablespoon of prepared starter culture or whey per 8 ounces of salsa. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
Ideally, you should use applesauce without any sugar added, as that may ferment too quickly. Do not use applesauce with high fructose corn syrup as that may interfere with fermentation. Add 2 tablespoons of prepared starter culture or whey to a 14- to 16-ounce jar. Cover and let ferment at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating.
While buying already-prepared foods may not be ideal, you need not feel badly about not making all your food from scratch. Every little step you make to improve the nutrient content of prepared foods will be beneficial. Getting accustomed to nutrient-dense eating (and cooking) is a journey of many small steps. Including probiotic-containing foods is more than just a small step in terms of the benefits realized.
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