April 2014 archive

HEX Ferments: Good for You and the Community

If you read the Taste section of the Baltimore Sun on April 22nd you would have been introduced to Meaghan and Shane Carpenter of HEX Ferments. Below, the Carpenter’s have answered some of the most common questions about fermented foods. Continue reading below to learn more and then visit their shop located in Belvedere Square for some delicious fermented foods.  Trust me you (and your body!!) will thank me later.

 What are Traditionally fermented foods?
Traditionally fermented foods, meaning the use of high mineral sea salt, brine created by the vegetables and salt and fermentation time are key flavor and nutritional components missing in our over-processed American diets. Every culture has fermented foods. Wine, beer, cheese, bread, olives, pickles and sauerkraut, salami , vinegar, yogurt, chocolate, coffee and on and on, though with varying nutritive qualities of course.

Why should I eat fermented foods? What can they do for me?
Fermented foods have a high amount of Lactic Acid Bacteria, the good bacteria that our bodies need to properly digest,  assimilate nutrients, keep our immune system in-check, help with moods and enhance the flavors in the foods it is eaten with.  Incorporating fermented foods into your diet will help with digestion and elimination, metabolism, make certain foods more digestible (meats, grains, legumes and some fruits and vegetables), and assist in an assortment of microbe-driven bodily functions. They also enhance the flavors in other foods they are paired with. For example, adding a scoop of sauerkraut on a piece of toast with avocado enhances the riches of the avocado and makes the good fats in the avocado more bio-available to our bodies.

How much and how often should we eat fermented foods to fully reap their benefits?
Feed your micro-biome everyday with a variety of ferments like krauts and kombucha!   A diversity  of fermented foods in your daily diet, also diversifies your microbiome, aiding in the aforementioned functions.

Can’t I just eat yogurt from the grocery store to get my probiotics?
Yogurt is certainly a great way to get a few probiotics and calcium in your diet. But commercial yogurts have patented strains of just a few (some have 6) of their probiotics. Traditionally fermented foods can have many different strains of probiotics, in communities (not extracted in a petri dish), plus by eating ferments made from local and organic produce you are benefiting from the already high level of vitamins, minerals and enzymes of peak freshness that remain intact from being distributed locally.

Why did people start fermenting foods historically?
Fermentation is the oldest form of food preservation known to humans. We preserved the abundance from the harvest to feed ourselves through the winter and for times when fresh food was scarce. No one invented fermentation, in a sense it invented us!

How do you ferment foods? Can you briefly explain the process you use?
HEX Ferments stays true to the traditional process of fermentation. We do not use heat, white vinegar or unfiltered water. Our sea salt is a high quality mineral sea salt that tastes clean and wonderful, local and organic produce whenever possible and carefully vetted/ source ingredients when not available locally and/or organic. We also avoid GMO products! Our process involves much hands on work. We start with fresh produce, sea salt and spices. Instead of pounding our krauts we massage the salt and spices into the vegetables to draw out their moisture, once we have an ample amount of brine we push the kraut underneath to create an anaerobic environment for the proliferation of lactic acid bacteria to grow and preserve the vegetables. We then carefully monitor the krauts over time until the desired flavor and texture is achieved. We then jar and refrigerate to slow down the fermentation. However, they are alive and will continue to develop over time even while refrigerated. Like a fine wine!

How are Hex Ferments fermented foods different from the sauerkraut I buy in the supermarket? Our ferments are different in many ways; most sauerkrauts you buy at the market are pastuerized (non-living foods), heated, or have vinegar which undermine many of the healthful aspects. Most come from distant places and remove revenue from our local community.

What led you to start a business that specializes in fermented foods?
We enjoy making delicious traditional foods and wanted to share our love with our community. Keeping the tradition alive is a passion for us and we saw the need for a company like ours in Baltimore that specializes in the making and teaching others about the benefits and deliciousness of fermented foods. We use the traditional method of fermentation to preserve and transform vegetables into vital foods – presently seasonal sauerkrauts and kombucha tea. The goal is to produce nutrient-dense, probiotic rich foods that look and taste superb. As both science and intuition remind us, the need to enhance and diversify our personal microbiome is crucial to our well-being. We strive to use local and organic ingredients and see our relationship between farmers and consumers as one of utmost importance. As food alchemists we work with our farmers to obtain the most optimal produce to ferment and be available to people’s pantries and bodies.  Though we are a recently launched enterprise, the work stems from a life of both food and art practice.  We are inspired and in awe by the magic of fermentation and the elemental role that it plays in our health and culture. As Baltimore revitalizes and transforms itself, we too see the need for local food systems and our bodies to join in this renaissance.

Find out more about HEX Ferments on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HexFerments

Read the Baltimore Sun article here: http://touch.baltimoresun.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79898675/