Patience has never been my thing but fermenting is. The two are just not compatible.
Dealing with living cultures that need feeding, burping, warmth and much love, can be challenging. Then you also have to contend with fluctuating ambient temperatures, light, air and possible contamination.
Fermenting takes time and there is no way around it. The bacteria and yeast in cultured and fermented foods have a mind of their own and oftentimes can be darn bloody-minded. Just as you think that you have mastered the perfect timing for tasty milk kefir, the weather cools down and so instead of a 24-hour ferment, you have a 48-hour ferment. Or vice versa, it gets hot and ferments in a matter of a few hours.
How about fermented veggies? You excitedly spend ages shredding and chopping and coming up with imaginative recipes. It goes into the fermenting crock or jar and then you wait and wait some more. For the first few days, you diligently keep a check on the brine level and the bubbling and frothing. After the first week, you become a tad bored with looking at shredded veg. Thereafter you give it a cursory glance to make sure that there is no contamination. You debate how long to leave it to ferment because you desperately want to taste your new invented recipe. Two weeks, four or six? Then the end arrives and it is time to bottle. You taste it and it is delicious. Yaaay. The only problem is, six weeks down the line you can’t remember what went into the veg because you did not write it down. Oh dear! Let’s start again with another batch, another recipe and some more waiting!
Then of course honey fermented berries are just so appealing but ummmm, two months to ferment! The same goes for honey fermented garlic. You have to plan well in advance if you want them ready in time to cure those wintertime colds and flu.
And then there is sourdough bread which can prove (pun intended) to be massively frustrating. Starting a starter from scratch has been one of my greatest lessons in patience. The first few that I tried, I decided after a few days that they were not behaving according to plan. So, I discarded and tried again. I convinced myself that it was all about the method that I had chosen to use and had nothing to do with my lack of patience. Eventually I convinced myself to persevere and allow the yeast to develop in its own time and not in my time. Guess what? Success! I now have the most amazingly robust, tasty and versatile starter.
Of course, when you eventually get around to baking the long-awaited bread, patience is key. You cannot rush the readiness of the dough at each stage of the process. After activating your starter which can take a day or two. Add another 2 days at least for preparing the dough, stretch and folds, standing, proving and baking. Voila, at last you have a steaming hot loaf of bread. Hold on though, you need to leave it to cool before slicing. By now I have salivated myself into extreme dehydration.
Far more than improving my gut health, fermenting has indeed taught me the art of patience. It has also shown me how to become intuitive, observant and creative. I surprise myself with some of my inventions – Kefir crumpets with yoghurt, honey fermented berries and vanilla infused cultured butter. Sourdough bread using whey from kefir cream cheese and honey fermented garlic and chili.
Most importantly my journey with cultured and fermented foods has afforded me the opportunity to meet a gallimaufry of wonderful people who attend my workshops.
I am now capable of spending time in My Cultured Kitchen, preparing my delights with huge respect for my quirky wild ferments with their individual personalities. The cherry on the top is that through my newly developed patience, has come the ability to create with great love. Trust me the patience is well worth the end result!