3 Easy Fermented Foods

You know and your gut knows you need wild foods--what to do?

There are hundreds of fermented foods! Some are easy to get going at home and others require special starters or inoculation to get the fermentation magic going--starters that you might not have access to or don't want to invest in quite yet. Are you really going to make tempeh regularly? Or maybe you don't have the schedule to tend to ferments that require lots of attention. Or maybe you killed the kefir grains or the SCOBY was forgotten or you can't keep up with making fresh batches of yogurt. Or maybe you just want to start with some easy ferments.

These ferments that don't require anything too special.

 fruit scrap vinegar is super easy and super tasty. be sure to keep the bugs out with muslin and label your creations.

fruit scrap vinegar is super easy and super tasty. be sure to keep the bugs out with muslin and label your creations.

Important notes: Use water free of chloride, chloramines, and fluoride. You can use organic evaporated cane sugar or granulated sugar. Salt should be free of iodine and pouring agents--use kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, or other pure salt. Keep in mind that salts do vary in volume to weight, so proceed with care to be always be safe when using salt to preserve. Use lead-free, non-metallic containers. Keep these ferments out of direct sunlight.

Fruit Scrap Vinegar

Really, that's it: Water, sugar, fruit scraps, and time.

  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Apple cores and peels (use at least a quart of trimmings for a decent size batch), you can use other fruit but it's apple season right now
  • Vessel
  • Muslin, tea towel, or other cloth to cover vessel
  • Narrow-mouth bottles for maturing vinegar
  • Rubber bands or elastic to secure the cover on the vessel

Dissolve sugar in water. You can use between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup of sugar per quart of water. You'll need enough water mixed with sugar to cover the apple trimmings.

Place the apple trimmings in the crock. Cover apples with sugar mixture. Cover vessel and place out of direct sunlight. Stir once or twice daily for 7-10 days.

Strain fruit out of liquid. Pour would-be vinegar in bottles and cover each bottle securely with muslin. Yeasty strands (aka mother) should develop in a few days. Of course, when you are ready to get fancy you can age the vinegar in a wooden barrel.

Allow the vinegar to mature at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for 2-8 weeks.

Once the vinegar has the flavor that you like--simply cap and store. 

Bonus: Create a shrub by mixing vinegar with sparkling water. Or vinegar, fruit juice, and water. Experiment until you find something that you like!

Get a Ginger Bug & Enjoy Ginger Beer*

So easy: ginger, sugar, water, lemon juice, and time. I highly recommend bottling in swing-top bottles (as pictured above).

  • First you'll need to invite a ginger bug into your home: Combine 2 teaspoons of grated ginger, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 cup of water.
  • Cover and keep in a warm place.
  • Grow your 'bug': Every day add 2 teaspoons each of sugar and ginger (remind yourself by measuring out the sugar into little dishes and placing near the coffee pot or tea kettle)
  • Your ginger bug is ready once it starts bubbling and this could take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. Strain.
  • Now for starting the 'beer': Boil 2 quarts of water with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Add 2-6 teaspoons of ginger and boil for 15 minutes. Cool. Strain.
  • Combine strained bug and strained ginger water with the juice of 2 lemons.
  • Add enough water to make 1 gallon.
  • Bottle.
  • Allow to ferment at room temperature for about 2 weeks. 
  • Refrigerate and enjoy!

*Inspired by Sandor Ellix Katz, Wild Fermentation and Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions.


Simple: Cabbage, salt, and time.

An easy container for sauerkraut is a 1-gallon crock. Chop cabbage and salt as you go. Plan on about five pounds of cabbage for a 1-gallon crock. How much salt? 3-4 tablespoons.

You can add whole spices if you like: grains of paradise is one of my favorites, dill seed, caraway, juniper berries, or experiment with other spices.

As you add the chopped cabbage to the crock simply sprinkle a bit of salt. Pound and push the cabbage down to release the water.

The tricky thing is that you will need to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid. There are a couple  ways to do this without special equipment:

  • Place a plate on top of the cabbage and hold it in place with a container filled with water.
  • Take a gallon food grade plastic bag and fill it halfway with brine (1 tablespoon salt per cup of water) and place it on top of the cabbage. Plastic isn't the greatest here but it's a workaround until you find something better.
  • Next, be sure to cover the container with a piece of muslin!

Allow to ferment at room temperature for a few days or weeks. You can start enjoying it young or wait a week or longer--let your taste buds decide.

Be safe and eat well.