Deliciously tangy foodstuffs like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and kombucha have been earning the seal of approval from health-conscious folks, including nutritionists and dietitians as well as chefs and food bloggers over the last few years—and the interest in fermented foods such as these shows no signs of slowing down.
Toronto-based nutritionist Meghan Telpner explains that unlike other wellness-related trends, such as adding activated charcoal to ice cream, the purported benefits of fermented foods actually have some science behind them.
“There’s a lot of research being done about the microbiome, which is basically the ecosystem [of bacteria] in the gut and how important the health of that ecosystem is for our overall health,” she says. Fermented foods are filled with probiotics (good bacteria), which might help improve digestion, for instance.
Telpner’s the author of the bestselling book series UnDiet and promotes plant-based, gluten-free eating. She also runs the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, an online cooking school with students around the world.
“People are doing a lot of DIY fermenting projects at home,” says Telpner, noting how easy it is skip the grocery store if you’re looking to add more fermented foods to your diet.
For a simple DIY project, Telpner suggests making what she calls coconut kefir. For the uninitiated, kefir is a slightly fizzy fermented milk beverage — it’s like liquid, or drinkable, yogurt. Telpner says her dairy-free recipe is pretty much foolproof, considering all you need is a can of coconut milk, one probiotic capsule (available at most drug stores) and time. Telpner knows not everyone would consider this true kefir, but this recipe is an easy way to start playing with the prospect of fermenting.
She eats this homemade kefir-like dairy alternative alternative with fruit and granola and says it’s a great substitute for sour cream or even buttermilk. She’s also used it to make raspberry and honey popsicles. Here’s Telpner’s recipe:
- 1 can (500 mL) full fat coconut milk (she uses Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk)
- 1 probiotic capsule (about 1/4 tsp of powder). Any live kind will do.
- 1 clean 1 L mason jar.
- Stir together the coconut milk and the probiotic. If the coconut milk is very separated, you may want to toss it in the blender or warm it over low heat before adding the probiotic.
- Transfer to your mason jar and fasten the lid on loosely.
- Let sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. You can try it periodically with a clean spoon until desired taste is achieved.
- Once ready, reserve 1/2 cup of coconut kefir for your next batch in a new mason jar. Place your coconut kefir in the fridge.
It will keep for three to four days in the fridge or about two weeks in the freezer.