An Introduction to Ancestral Fermentation

Before we could share recipes on the internet, before you could purchase specific cultures for consistency and reliability, before food was shipped across continents or even state lines… there was fermentation.

Here on the blog I’d like to start a series on ancestral fermentation. We’ll explore the roots of fermentation, how it was done historically with no special equipment, and how various cultures have used it around the world for as long as food has been eaten.

But first, lets explore some of the very basic historical tenets of fermentation.

Fermented foods, at their most basic, are foods that have been preserved from rot by friendly bacteria – either wild-caught or intentionally inoculated. For this reason, our ancestors practiced food fermentation as a means of food preservation.

Refrigeration is very new. For most of history man lived without electricity and the ability to freeze vegetables, meats, and dairy. Instead, they fermented it and buried it deep into the ground when they needed to preserve it. Or, they ate it in a fermented state because, as is the case with dairy, it does not stay fresh long without refrigeration.

They were probably not ignorant of the health benefits of these foods, either.

Our ancestors would not have over-analyzed the constituents of sauerkraut to find that it boosted the vitamin content and aided digestion through lactobacilli. They probably just learned and passed on to the next generation that you add salt to cabbage and keep it in a cellar or a burrow in order to preserve it.

And when they had no fresh or raw foods through the harsh winter, they found that the crock of sauerkraut helped them make it through.

That is just one example. There are many examples of fermented grains, beverages, vegetables, fruits, and dairy throughout history that stem from the need to preserve food, make it healthier, and make it delicious.

And that is what we’ll be exploring in this series titled Ancestral Fermentation.


Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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  1. says

    Awesome! I am excited for this series! I am creating a cocktail/spirits course and have just recently had to REALLY understand fermentation as it pertains to alcohol creation. It is a beast of knowledge and it is pretty stinkin’ cool. Speaking of stinkin’ and fermentation, can you say Kim-chee?!?

  2. Rebekah Gambrell says

    This sounds like a wonderful place to share and learn more. I have been doing water kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, but I would like to find out how to do more vegetables.

    • says

      Rebekah – You can click on the Fermented Vegetables link under topics to the right to read some content we already have on the site. We will also be continually adding information, recipes, and tips about vegetable fermentation so stay tuned.

  3. mpbusyb says

    Shannon – glad to see this topic and know that you are going to develop it further. I have been making sauerkraut for years unknowing the digestive benefits and terminology all this time. I just knew I liked to make it more than buy it from the store. Since last summer I have been reading, reading, reading about natural fermenting and trying my hand at whatever vegetables I can get them on. Two weeks ago I made two batches of fresh, whole garden carrots (garlic-dill and ginger-garlic). My surprise and delight hit an all-time high to see how my adult children all dove into them. This is not the kind of foods they were raised with and so are not completely sold on the health benefits as reason enough to eat them. I am hopeful this is the beginning to a new beginning. Love your blog. Love Cultures for Health.


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