I didn’t grow up eating lacto-fermented foods, and when I first became aware that it was a Thing, I was nervous about it, like many other people. I remember making my first batch of sauerkraut with my own home-grown cabbage, and how absolutely stunned I was when it actually tasted delicious. Not just ‘good’, but DANG good. And it didn’t make anybody sick. That was my biggest concern, and one I hear over and over from people I talk to. So this is what I want to tell you today: Don’t worry about it, you aren’t going to make anyone die from eating your fermented foods.
Sandor Katz, (I think of this guy as being the Bruce Springsteen of the fermentation world) in his book “The Art of Fermentation”, quotes the USDA’s vegetable fermentation specialist Fred Breidt: “There has never been a documented case of foodborne illness from fermented vegetables. Risky is not a word I would use to describe vegetable fermentation.” *
There, doesn’t that make you feel better? It sure made me feel more comfortable about experimenting and expanding my fermentation repertoire!
One new thing I tried this summer and loved is a wild berry kvass. Don’t let the word Kvass scare you off, there is no rye bread or funky smell involved.** It’s simply a naturally carbonated soda, where the carbonation comes from the fermentation process. It is SO simple:
- Get yourself some berries. (I used wild blackberries this summer, and I’ve had good success with frozen berries I purchased at the grocery store. I’ve also made it with apple chunks and other fruits as well.)
- Take any size jar, and fill it 1/3 full of your berries or fruit.
- Top off the jar with water you have sweetened with a bit of sugar – a quarter cup of sugar per quart is a good starting point, and you can adjust that to your taste. I’ve also had success using maple syrup and honey. Although, one time my wild apple kvass that I sweetened with maple syrup turned out thick and, well, syrupy….it was a weird texture violation, so I composted that one.
- Cover loosely and let it sit in a warm spot for 3 or 4 days. When you see lots of bubble action, it’s ready to drink! And you can use the berries/fruit at least one more time, for another batch.
This type of ferment has some healthy probiotics from lactic acid production, and it also will have a teeny bit of alcohol. If you were to leave it sit for a longer time, you would get a bit more alcohol content, and if you let it sit for a really long time, it would turn into vinegar. All good!
*This quote is on page 135 of The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. You can also read an interesting article about fermentation safety in this link.
**Often, when someone talks about Kvass, they are talking about the Russian drink made from fermented rye bread.