Fermented Foods




I’ve been watching a cooking show on the Food Network called “Giada in Italy,” in which Giada De Laurentis is visitis the Amfali Coast to learn about her family and local foods. I’ve been learning charming things about Italy. One day she told us about how one village grew tomatoes because it was more inland and warmer while the next village made pasta because they had seaside breezes to dry the pasta hanging on rooftops. The two villages would trade and everyone had pasta with tomato sauce.

A few weeks ago, Giada made a big sandwich that contained giardiniera in a jar. She told us that traditionally giardiniera is served at the beginning of Italian dinners.

Well that made sense to me because I knew that even though giardiniera is now made with vinegar—like pickles—originally it was a fermented food.

The word giardiniera is Italian for “from the garden.” Originally, it was made from whatever vegetables were left in the garden at the end of the harvest. So it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I can see that over time, homemakers didn’t wait for the end of the season, but made it with whatever leftover or seasonally abundant vegetables they had on hand.

Having made Garlic Dill Brine PicklesI am becoming accustomed to simple fermentation, and eating home fermented vegetables instead of commercial probiotics. And that’s probably why it’s traditional to serve giardiniera at the beginning of Italian dinners—to populate the gut with microgranisms needed for good digestion. We can do the same.

Pickles are great for summertime, when cucumbers are available and affordable, but now that it’s autumn, I wanted to shift to seasonal vegetables, Thus giardiniera. I used colorful rainbow carrots, celery, onions, red bell pepper, and garlic.

The vegetables smelled so fresh and delicious as I chopped them. And I used the whole vegetable. The chopped vegetables went into the giardiniera bowl and the trimmings went into a soup pot to make a vegetable broth, which now is lentil soup. No waste here. I got every bit of nutrition from these vegetables.

After fermenting the giardiniera for four days it is…oh so delicious! I just took the vegetables out of the ferment and I’m just sitting here eating them as I’m typing. The vegetables themselves are a bit mellower but with a pickle-like crunch and an aliveness from the fermentation. I’m even drinking the brine, which is full of nutrition. Oh yum!

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Garlic Dill Brine Pickles



pickles-bowl1Now that it’s getting to be summer, I’ve been thinking it’s time to make pickles! And, lo-and-behold, there were pickling cucumbers in my local natural food store. And fresh dill!

These pickles are very simple to make, and very fresh because they are completely raw. Most pickles nowadays are made with hot vinegar poured over the vegetables—which cooks them—but brine pickles are made the old slow way with fermentation breaking down and preserving the vegetables.

Fermented brine pickles are also supercharged with enzymes that aid digestion. They contain the natural full spectrum probiotics of the place where you live and make your pickles.

I love these crunchy garlic dill cucumber pickles.

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Water Kefir



Diann DirksLast week I interviewed my friend Diann Dirks on Toxic Free Talk Radio, where we talked about how to make water kefir.

I had no experience with water kefir or any idea even of what it was, but Diann explained it’s benefits so well that I immediately ordered “water kefir grains” to get started.

Water kefir is a fermented drink made by placing a specific starter in water. Add sugar, and in a couple of days the sugar is practically disappeared and in it’s place are all kinds of good things for your body that are the result of the fermentation process. No, it’s not alcoholic. It’s fizzy and you can put all kinds of flavors in it. And it’s a great way to hydrate your body through the summer.

Listen to the archived show about water kefir with Diann Dirks

And there’s more about Water Kefir at
How Fermented Foods Help Your Body Detox

Diann’s Instructions for Making Water Kefir

Start with good drinking water which has no chlorine, chloramines or fluoride in it, and has chemical waste taken out. Don’t use regular tap water as it usually contains chlorine and other chemicals which will damage the grains and not be healthful. Well water, spring water, and good filtered water are all good. Don’t use structured or ‘alkanized’ water. Only remove contaminants. Good filtered water like the PureEffect water filtration systems Debra recommends is perfect as it leaves the good minerals in but removes all the chemicals, industrial waste, radiation, fertilizers, animal waste, radon, heavy metals and prescription medications from the water.

If the water is without minerals, add some minerals using a pinch of high mineral content salt such as Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, a pinch of baking soda (not powder), or liquid minerals now and then.

You can use coconut water instead of water for first ferment.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar – Sucanat, organic cane sugar or organic brown sugar (if using Sucanat or other unrefined dehydrated cane juice, take 1/2 cup boiling water to dissolve it first, then add cold water up to the 4 cup mark)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons Kefir grains

Sugars can supply the minerals such as Sucanat, jaggery or rapadura, or black strap molasses 1/4 tsp with 1/4 cup white cane sugar – preferably organic – to give the minerals the grains required.

Pure organic fruit juice can be used instead of water but it is recommended that several batches of just water and sugar be used because it stresses the living Tibico to only use juice. Alternate juice with water every 5 or 6 batches to preserve your grains if you really love that flavor. Or, just add fruit juice in the second ferment, or combine the finished water kefir with fruit juice just before drinking. Use 2 quarts of juice for 4 Tablespoons of grains when using only juice.


  1.  Pour the liquid, whether water, coconut water or fruit juice and 3 or 4 Tablespoons of grains into a glass container
  2. Cover with a cloth held with a rubber band – or paper towel – to let in air
  3. Set on the counter away from direct sunlight, and in enough of a warm space to allow the fermentation to take place. If it’s comfortable for you without a sweater, it’s a good temperature.
  4. Let the mix set for 24 to 48 hours.
  5. Strain out the grains with a non-metallic strainer (grains are damaged by contact with metal except non-reactive stainless steel), then start the next batch. The grains do not have to be rinsed nor the glass jar washed out between batches. Just start with new water, sugar and your grains as usual. The grains should be fed sugar and water every 48 hours to stay healthy, and should have some form of minerals like minerals in good water, minerals in the sugar, or added salt or baking soda – pinch or two. Grains will change color and size over the different seasons or depending on the kind of sugar used from clear to dark brown. They last indefinitely as they are a live organism when provided with water, sugar and minerals, not refrigerated for long periods of time nor often, and get some minerals. The grains are quite forgiving.


  1. Take the finished water kefir juice and pour into quart jars.
  2. Add your favorite dry or fresh fruit, fruit juice, flavorful herbs etc. and cover tightly.
  3. Leave the second fermenting jars on the counter for 4 or 5 days, checking the carbonation (be careful, it can build up), then refrigerate.
  4. The finished second fermentation can last several months in the refrigerator covered. If you are using whole fruit – fresh or dried, or herbs, you’ll want to strain them out and rebottle and cover tightly. You can puree fresh fruit and leave it in without straining.

Cream Soda Water Kefir
Add 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract to a glass.

Ginger Soda
2 coin sized pieces of ginger

Fizzy Lemonade
2 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon

2-3 tsp quality organic orange zest (not juice) to standard batch 24 to 48 hours in first ferment for orangeade flavor.

Blueberry-Pomegranate soda
1/2 cup Knudsen juice/quart of water. Can substitute cherry, raspberry, grape, apple or other flavored juice in the same proportion in with the grains, strain out grains when finished.

Or experiment with your favorite flavors, fruits, herbs or spices such as cinnamon.

* The double fermented flavors can be made into popsicles.
* Can be used as a base for smoothies or ices in hot weather.
* It can be used with gelatin to make a kind of delicious jello.
* Can be used as a facial wash or as hair rinse.
* Grains are edible.
* Water Kefir can be fed to dogs to help their digestion and general health.
* Can be used as a starter for breads or pancakes like sourdough starter.
* Can be cold-infused with medicinal herbs for another way to deliver benefits.
* Excellent source of pro-biotics for gut health, to cleanse the endocrine system and liver, builds strong bones, eases aches and pains, improves vision, boosts immune system, good for digestive problems, good source of enzymes, good source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for protein building, and balances the internal eco-system of the whole body. It aids the nervous system, promotes good sleep, and helps with depression, ADHD and autism per recent research.
* Great beverage to replace soda pop and sports drinks, coffee and tea. Can be drunk in large amounts with no ill affects, and no sugar overload. The sugar is digested in the fermentation process.

Can grains be stored?
Yes, 4 to 5 days in small glass container with sugar and water. Can be frozen when strained well, placed in plastic or glass containers and frozen. Can be dehydrated – spread on plate, covered with paper towel, well ventilated area (or in dehydrator low heat or just air), turned each day to detach them from place so they don’t break. They’re done when they’re crystallized and not sticky. Good way to ship them in padded envelope. Rehydrate them by soaking in water at room temperature till they get jelly like, then use with sugar and water as usual.

Do they get alcoholic?
Water Kefir might get up to .5% to 3% alcohol depending on time. The longer it ferments, the more alcohol. If made into mead using honey instead of sugar (thought this will damage the grains after a few batches), less alcoholic content than usual methods of making mead – low alcoholic percentage.

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