I hear all the time from people who are nervous about getting started culturing. We live in a very germ-phobic society where hand sanitizer is everywhere and the news regularly reports outbreaks of food borne illness or tainted food recalls. For those who have worked in food service, the image of the thermometer proclaiming “Danger Zone” is permanently etched in memory.

So how can you make the leap from over caution about food to leaving a jar of cabbage on the counter for 3 weeks? Or perhaps even leaving milk out for 48 hours!

The answer comes from the food itself I think: Slowly.

Fermented food is the ultimate slow food. It takes anywhere from 6 hours for thermophilic yogurt, to a year or more for a rich miso. Spend the time watching the process and make friends with the microbes. I know, that sounds a bit crazy, but it’s true!

My mother was huge into food safety. She was the county extension agent, and for many years issued food handlers licenses. It took a long time for me to get used to leaving food out, and just slightly longer to get used to eating it. Here are some ideas to ease into the process:

  • Start with what you love. Do you adore a bowl of creamy yogurt? Try a direct set yogurt starter such as the Mild Flavor Starter. It’s easy to use, and is the same type of culture that is used commercially so it will smell and taste familiar. Or start with something like sourdough that will be cooked. You get to watch the transformation and relish the intoxicating aroma of natural bread!
  • Read up. The Cultures for Health website has a huge Expert Advice section. Watching the videos and getting familiar with the how’s and why’s helped me to feel more confident. Or download the eBooks for a treasure trove of information you can read anytime. I’m lover of a good book myself. My absolute favorite right now is Sandor Katz’ book, The Art of Fermentation. Reading his reassuring words and about fermentation around the world will make fermentation seem like the thing you need to do, right now!
  • Connect. Sharing stories, pictures and experiences with others is important for any new endeavor. And the cultured food communities are amazingly supportive! Join Cultures for Health communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to be inspired. You are subscribed here, right? It’s the box just there to the right.
  • Get advice from a pro. The customer support staff at Cultures for Health has a collective decades of experience culturing foods. And we really, really love to talk about food! Stop by and ask your questions, bounce an idea off us, or get help finding the information you need!

Culturing food is a different approach and one that is gaining in popularity. Find a recipe that catches your eye and give it a try. Once you start fermenting, it will become less scary. And maybe just a tad addictive! Before long, you might wind up culturing natto. Or, maybe that will take a while.