Making cultured foods and beverages are not hard if one follows some basic rules, common sense, and of course safety factors. Our ancestors have been doing this all around the world for a 1000 years or more. Wild fermentation can produce some great ferments, however, the results can very from batch to batch depending on the types of wild yeast and bacteria
within the food stock.
Having a traditional starter culture ensures the same results each time. An example is making beer with wild yeast vs. using a brewers yeast. The outcome could be close in taste and flavor to each other or very different, with the wild yeast sometimes making the beer unpalatable. Having a tried and true recipe helps to make sure the results are the same every time, too. Checking acidic levels and having the correct microorganisms, like lactobacillales, ensure cultured food safety.
Especially in wild fermentation.
Now For the Errors…
Being busy here in the lab sometimes it is easy to forget a step in a recipe or process (Why to double check and taste things). A resent example that I have done was when making a batch of ginger beer/brew. I have made this recipe so many times I don’t even refer to it anymore. Well being in a rush one day had all the steps completed…water heated, sugar dissolved, lemon added for a small batch of brew. Waiting for temperature to decrease to room temperature and then on to bottling. Batch was then bottled
and set out for 3 days for the ginger culture to
produce a fizzy beverage.
After the waiting period is was time to try it out. A nice chilled ginger brew on a long hot day…yeah! The bottle is opened and to my surprise, no fizz. Then tasting it I knew what had went wrong…no ginger starter culture was added before bottling. No flavor and no fizz, just lemon sugar water. At that point nothing to do but uncap them all, dump it, and start over.
The lesson here is to taste and follow a recipe to get the results one wants. Don’t try to get to crazy with flavors and adding to many things at a time. A great example is people adding to much fruit or juice when bottling kombucha tea or water kefir and then wondering why the bottles explode all over. Another example is trying to make a crazy kimchi blend and it turning out ‘wrong’ or not having a good flavor. Hard to tell what went wrong with to many factors vs adding one or two things to the mix and waiting for the outcome. I hope this short post will help everyone to become a better fermenter and produce
great tasting fermented and cultured foods.
There are many tried and true recipes on our sister site here.