Here's your first fermenting project
A couple of years ago, I spent a summer learning about sustainable food systems on a working educational farm in Vermont (coincidentally a photo of me there just ran in the Boston Globe). One of my favorite things about that was experience was how we really dove deep into fermenting all kinds of products at the farm: from yogurt to beer to kimchi and pickles, almost nothing escaped a few weeks in a crock with some airlocks.
Fermenting serves two great purposes in a healthy food system: it helps farmers preserve foods that would go to waste or spoil and it creates probiotic-rich foods that are good for our digestive and immune systems. Win-win!
Fermenting foods is difficult. Well, not exactly difficult. It's actually really easy, because many living foods already have bacteria in them that "wants" to continue to thrive. In fact, fermenting foods has been a part of human history across cultures for at least 7000-8000 years. But for many modern Americans like me, it's unusual and we don't have much experience with it. Even though we know the power of true fermented foods and probiotics on our health, many of us are wary about preserving our own foods this way.
To be honest, the idea of fermenting foods at home intimidated me too (and actually still does). The following questions run through my head:
- Will I do something wrong, accidentally grow the next superbacteria and die tragically upon consumption?
- Will it smell like rotting cabbage in my apartment?
Reasonable, right? With those questions in mind, I tried to come up with a good first fermenting project I could do at home, and not in a supervised farm environment with an instructor and root cellar.
In came coconut yogurt. While cow's milk yogurt is the most common way Americans get their probiotics, many people find dairy upsets their digestion or are trying to cut down on factory-farmed foods. There are some alternative milk yogurts on the market, but all of the ones I've seen are loaded with additives and sugar, making it a hard product to buy ready-made.
So, with only 3 ingredients (which you can totally cut down to 2) and NO smell or open containers, this coconut yogurt is really a foolproof fermentation project. After testing it out, it met both of my requirements of not killing me and not smelling like death. And it got bonus points for being incredibly easy: open a probiotic capsule into warm coconut milk, seal up in a clean jar and the next day you will have rich and lightly tangy coconut milk yogurt.
Inspired and want the full instructions? You can have coconut yogurt tomorrow morning if you make this recipe today.