The Role of Cultured Foods in a Sustainable Food System: Introduction

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Branching off from our series on ancestral fermentation, I thought I’d start a series on how exactly cultured foods play an integral role in a truly sustainable food system. But first, I think it’s important that we address what a sustainable food system looks like, and how the current food system is broken.

Anyone who is interested in nourishing their family probably takes an interest in avoiding GMOs, chemically sprayed foods, and improper animal husbandry. But what is the alternative and where exactly have we gone wrong?

Not long ago, things looked very different at our table, in our kitchens, and on our lands. We could point to anyone of these three places and find an enormous shift from just 100 years ago. Let’s take a look at each.

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Shannon

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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Ancestral Fermentation: Catching a Wild Sourdough Starter

Sourdough cultures have been credited with keeping the Pioneers alive as they traveled across country to start a new life in the West. They carried with them very little in supplies – accounts of flour sacks, molasses jars, and salt pork telling the tale.

I have always enjoyed reading of this time period, as I think it gives some great perspective. But you don’t have to go much further than the Little House on the Prairie series to hear how one or two meals of pancakes and salt pork a day made up a good part of the diet while traveling.

And those pancakes were often made with the sourdough starter the family carried with them. It makes sense to me. If you’re going to subsist mostly on flour products, then fermenting them first – both for nutrition and taste – makes a great deal of sense.

Back then, if a sourdough starter wasn’t given to you by a friend who had already established one, then you were going to have to make one yourself. It’s certainly not complicated, but it does take a bit of dedication, and it might surprise you a bit that we’re not just catching yeast from the surrounding air.

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Shannon

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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Ancestral Fermentation: Living in a World Without Refrigeration

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During my earliest days of being introduced to the world of fermentation, I was apprehensive and a bit worried.

Worried that I might poison my husband by putting milk in an oven with a pilot light with nothing more than a few tablespoons of yogurt to do the culturing.

Worried that those vegetables were going to smell putrid, not pleasantly sour after a few days bubbling away on the counter.

But, you know what, they were fine. Actually, they were great, and they opened up a whole new way of thinking about food. A world where pasteurization and refrigeration aren’t necessary, a world somewhat similar to what our ancestors would have known.

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Shannon

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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Ancestral Fermentation: Fermented Grain Porridges

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Many of us see bread as the staff of life, and certainly sourdough bread has been for many cultures. But there is a fermented grain-based food that has probably been more available, easier to make, and the base of a very simple diet.

These are fermented porridges. Lightly cracked grains don’t require heavy milling as flour does, which would have been very difficult and tedious before mill-access was widely available.

So it is quite possible to grow your own grain, harvest and thresh it, and then turn it into a nourishing porridge base for many meals – not just breakfast.

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Shannon

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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