I attended the class as a guest of Trupp’s Cooking School
No doubt you’ve seen by now that fermented foods are making a rather large comeback in Australia right now, with drinks like kombucha and foods like kimchi becoming much easier to find in our shops and restaurants. I’ve been trying to introduce them to my diet but hadn’t gotten to the point of actually making my own at home, so when I was invited along to the Lost Art of Fermented Foods Class at Trupp Cooking School I jumped at the chance to learn more!
The cooking school is run by Walter, a world renowned chef who has worked at 2 & 3 Michelin Star restaurants across Europe, and his wife Dorota, a nutritionist who specialises in digestive health. They run cooking classes that cover everything from French food to BBQing and everything in between! The fermented food class is a little different to the others as it is less hands on due to the nature of the food, but there’s no doubt that I learnt a lot!
After we were fed by Walter, Dorota took us through an incredibly informative session on the importance of good gut health, the ways in which we can impact our gut health and some of the symptoms you might experience if your gut is struggling. We then started learning about ways in which we can help improve our digestive system, which brought us to fermented foods! Luckily we were giving an extensive handout to take home which covered not only the recipes we were using, but also all the background information to our digestive systems because I know I’ll need to refer back to it again and again!
We started by learning about the different kinds of fermented drinks, namely kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir, and had a good look at the kombucha mushroom and the kefir grains responsible for these wonder drinks.
I found the mushroom the most fascinating, I mean, look at that thing! It’s not actually technically a mushroom, but rather a fibrous, spongy membrane that is formed by the bacteria and yeast cells in the kombucha tea. It was really interesting to learn that it doesn’t matter what kind of sugar you use in the brewing process, it all ends up being used up in the fermentation process anyway, just don’t use honey due to its anti-bacterial properties! You can also brew your kombucha in almost any kind of tea, except peppermint, and you can add fruits like berries or citrus to the tea after fermentation to add new flavours. I have so much experimenting ahead of me! Luckily the process seems extremely straight forward, which was such a relief to learn!
The water and milk kefir were equally as straight forward to prepare, it all really just comes down to clean jars, a bit of patience (24-48hrs generally) and keeping an eye on how things are progressing. Dorota did recommend storing them somewhere you can see them (ie not in a cupboard!) so you don’t forget to check them regularly! The milk kefir will get thicker and more sour the longer you leave it, so you probably don’t want to leave it too long, especially in summer! The water kefir can have fruit added afterwards as well, and you can even use the milk kefir grains in non-dairy milks like coconut, almond or cashew, although Walter recommended using full cream dairy milk every 2nd or 3rd ferment as the grains do need the lactose occasionally.
We got to taste some of each of the three drinks (made the day before by Dorota!) and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of them all, even the milk kefir which was quite thick and yoghurt like.
We then moved on to the fermented foods – sauerkraut and kimchi!
Again, I was impressed by how eaaaasy these are to make yourself! Plus, the cost of buying ingredients for making them at home is significantly cheaper than buying pre-made sauerkraut at the health food store, and you can alter it to you liking! Dorota gave us a demonstration of how best to bash the cabbage to release as much of the liquid as possible, which apparently they used to do with their feet as kids – much like squashing grapes! She recommended a good 20 minute bash session, so you can combine your sauerkraut making with an arm workout too!
If you find your getting white or grey mould on the top of your sauerkraut while it’s fermenting, don’t panic – it’s not harmful to you, so just skim it off and throw it away, no need to bin the cabbage along with it! You can also pour out some of the liquid while it’s fermenting to use for other things, like in soups, as it is full of great probiotics. Just be sure not to pour too much out at once (no more than half the liquid) and then top it up with fresh water. Sauerkraut is the only food where the probiotic content changes the longer you leave it, and all of the different probiotics are really good for you, so eating it at different stages of fermentation is a great way to introduce all the different probiotics into your system.
We were also shown how to make kimchi, as well as given a huge range of optional ingredients to flavour the end result. I wasn’t able to taste this one as it had shrimp paste in it, but it got the thumbs up all round the table!
Here are some of the other top tips I learnt:
- When introducing fermented foods into your diet, start small – especially if you’ve been having digestive problems. They might make you feel a little nauseous, but that will be the good bacteria killing the bad bacteria, which then releases its toxins into your blood stream. Stick with it and slowly increase how much you have as your body learns to handle the fermented food better.
- Ideally we should be having up to 5 different kinds of fermented foods every day, but only small amounts of each. This could include a glass of kombucha, making a smoothie out of water or milk kefir, some pickles with lunch, some sauerkraut with dinner and yes, even a glass of wine (but y’know, wine & beer can’t make up all 5 serves!)
- Never seal the jars while you’re making kombucha or kefir, this will either kill the fermentation or cause an explosion due to built up pressure. Instead, cover the jar with paper towel, muslin, or a thin tea-towel.
- Avoid using metal spoons, use wooden or plastic instead. If possible use a plastic sieve when separating the grains from the liquid, but a metal one isn’t too bad as long as you don’t leave the grains in their too long.
Phew, I think that’s it! It was a really great class and we got to bring home a little container of the kombucha starter, milk kefir and water kefir grains, so I’m getting my ferment on in my kitchen right now!
I’d highly recommend checking out the class (and others!) at the Trupp Cooking School, it was a really relaxed, friendly environment and Walter & Dorota were more than happy to answer questions, provide detailed explanations and just chat generally about good food and good health. There were 10 of us in my class and at least 4 of them had been to classes there before, which I think is always a good sign!
If you’re not in Melbourne, never fear, they also have a cookbook called Trupp’s Wholefood Kitchen, which you can buy through their website. It’s full of delicious sounding recipes covering all meals of the day, as well as kitchen & cooking tips and detailed information about the certain ingredients and why they cook with them.