I started fermenting tea, decaf green tea. It's called Kombucha or mushroom tea. I have been doing this for 2 years and really enjoy it. I believe it has helped, boosted my immune system. Kombucha led me to Sally Fallon's book and I started "pickling" or fermenting vegetables. Sauerkraut was the easiest, next was beets and I have added carrots. Lacto-fermentation with the lacto-bacillus bacteria produces lactic acid which is a food preserver. The metabolism that takes place when the bacteria are consuming vegetable sugars, (or with Kombucha, regular white sugar) also produces enzymes and other bio acids besides, lactic acid, which are incredibly good for human consumption. Vitamins are also produced. Vitamin C is one of them and for this reason ancient mariners and warriors usually packed barrels and barrels of sauerkraut or other preserved and fermented foods.
My husband and I have greatly benefited from these fermented vegetables. But where do you get the friendly bacteria? Well, they are everywhere especially from the earth, the garden produce you bring in has lacto-bacillus all over it. They can be killed by high temperatures (over 116 degrees) or with chemicals. You can also get them from cultured dairy products. Lacto means lactose or milk sugar. Once the lacto-bacillus get started in a culture, milk, chopped cabbage, beets, etc. and conditions are right for them and they reproduce, the bad, spoiling bacteria have no foothold and they dwindle. Lacto-bacillus are very tolerant of salt which also discourages the bad bacteria. The fermenting process does produce some alcohol but with vegetables it is really minuscule. You can use the same bacteria with fruit, but the higher sugar content of fruit produces more alcohol and less lactic acid and that is why I do not ferment fruits. I find that the lactic acid produced satisfies my taste much better than vinegar. I used to consume a lot of pickles but all that vinegar just pulled my entire system down making my more acidic than I needed. Naturally produced lactic acid has the opposite effect. Vinegar now tastes too sharp and I avoid it.
For my vegetable ferments I now use whey from goat milk yogurt. I have found a brand of goat milk yogurt "Drake", from So. Jordan in Salt Lake County) that has very satisfying and sour lactic acid in it and I strain a quart of that every week to get the lacto-bacillus rich whey and that's what I use to ferment a lot of my kitchen products. You can use plain yogurt from cow milk but the "commercially" produced yogurts don't have enough lactic acid for my taste. They do consumer research and find that the general population does not like yogurt or kefir
to be sour tasting so they don't let the bacterium do their "thing" for enough time and then they fill the yogurt with "gums" and other thickening agents and super sweet syrups so the end product doesn't really resemble real yogurt at all.
To strain whey from yogurt you will need a large metal stainer with a bowl big enough to hold it. You will also need a cloth. Some kind of fabric that will hold the milk solids and allow the whey or milk water to drain out. I use a silkscreen fabric, 12xx which is 11x14". Put the fabric into the strainer and pour in the yogurt. Gather the 4 corners together and clip the short edges if needed
I have installed a hook on the underside of a kitchen counter and this is where I hang the safety pin. Put a bowl under the hanging yogurt to collect the whey. 24 hours is enough to separate the whey and the cheese. I love this goat yogurt cheese and serve it with fresh fruit and my homemade jam for breakfast. The cheese and whey are kept in separate containers in the fridge.
The collected goat milk yogurt whey can be used for vegetable ferments, muffins, quick rise breads, soaking cereals, smoothies, salad dressings and more. You are supplementing a high protein, living liquid to your food. Just remember, that if you cook the product or bake it, the bacteria will die, which is OK really if you have given them enough time to deconstruct or digest the sugars or starches present and that alone is beneficial. If you don't heat whey but just add it to a smoothie or salad dressing, you will be getting a very nutritious, probiotic supplement to your food.