A Beginner’s Guide to Fermentation

We’ve already heard how Fermented Foods Can Heal Your Gut and Make Your Skin Glow thanks to health and wellness expert, Simone Samuels. But where does this ancient preservation technique come from and why has is gotten away from us? Could it be our busy, fast paced, instant-gratification lifestyle? Have we lost the patience for cultivation?

As I delve into the complex history of fermentation within human culture, my eyes are opened to a long lost art. Those on the forefront of whole foods nutrition and healthy digestion are not privy to this ancient preservation technique but they hope to share its secrets of longevity and well being for the benefit of all.  Fermentation has been around as long as humans have cultivated crops. Once we gave up living in small nomadic groups and settled into larger communities, the need for a constant, reliable food source was apparent. With seasonal growing patterns, farmers began to farm on a grander scale and preserve harvests in various forms. At the forefront of this preservation was fermentation. Fermentation gives us our basic staples – bread and cheese. It also gives us our sinfully delicious desserts – chocolate, coffee and wine.

The process of fermentation begins when decay consumes one form and new life takes over, new life in the form of millions of microscopic interactions and processes. Complex organic molecules begin to breakdown and form smaller, more digestible organisms. The microscopic wizardry happens as bacteria and fungi, yeasts and molds do their thing, an absolutely essential process in the complex cycle of life. With the addition of salt and the air barrier created by the brine, harmful bacteria are kept at bay. This also creates the right conditions for beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli to thrive. When we eat food that has been fermented, these microorganisms help us digest efficiently and stimulate our immune system to function as it should.

There are misconceptions that while fermenting, one must use precise and complicated technology. According to the research of Sandor Ellix-Katz in his book Wild Fermentation, “cave paintings in locations as geographically diverse as India, Spain and South Africa depict images of people gathering honey in the Paleolithic period, as long as 12,000 years ago” (13). Still to this day, honey collectors from Ethiopia use nothing more than common sense, a keen sense of smell and a whole lot of patience when brewing mead, a fermented honey wine. While discovering the western world, Captain Cook knew the benefits of fermentation. With barrels upon barrels of sauerkraut on board, he and his crew evaded scurvy due to high amounts of Vitamin C present in the sauerkraut. In Korea today, kimchi is on the table at every meal and tempeh, originating in Java is one of Indonesia’s staple sources of protein. If it can be done with limited resources then we can certainly brew up a multitude of fermented magic in our own kitchens.

My intention is to inspire you to experiment for yourself. With a little patience and a little effort, you’ll discover what has been common knowledge for millennia, the way to build a healthy army of intestinal flora to boost your immunity and improve your digestion in your very own kitchen.I do indeed have an array of jars with many a veggie inside, fermenting nicely under the protection of its salty brine. My husband and I experiment by making our own cold brewed rooibos kombucha, strawberry vanilla coconut kefir and of course a random sampling of herb and veggie kraut, the most recent being a fine-tuned Bold Brassica Kraut. It was so yummy, that I just had to share it!

Bold Brassica Kraut

Time frame: 1-4 weeks (more salt, more time)

Special Equipment:

  • Ceramic crock pot or one-gallon food-grade plastic bucket
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • A weight of some sort (a jug filled with water, a scrubbed and boiled rock)
  • Cloth or mesh to cover and an elastic band to secure it with (a clean dish towel, a mesh nut milk bag)


  • 5 pounds of mixed vegetables including a medley of at least 50% cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and kale.
  • 3 tbsp. pink Himalayan Crystal salt
  • 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp. crushed, dried curry leaf
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, minced (about 1 inch)


1. Thinly Slice the Cabbage/Veggies (leave a few large leaves for the top layer)

2. Layer and Salt the Cabbage/Veggies Slices

3. Punch the Cabbage! (or pound it with a pestle). In order to get the culturing process started you’ll need to press (punch) the cabbage down into the crock or food-grade bucket for 5 or so minutes. Combined with the salt, this draws the water out.

4. Weigh Down the Cabbage. When ready to cover, arrange the whole leaves of cabbage over the top and make sure it is totally covered. The kraut should be submerged in its own brine after all the punching. Over the first 24 hours, check the kraut often and press it down to make sure that the water level rises to just above the cabbage. If after 24 hours there isn’t enough water to completely cover the cabbage, mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt with 1 cup of water and use this brine to fill in the water line to just above the level of the cabbage.

5. Check Sauerkraut to see if it is ready. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, the humidity of your climate and the amount of salt used, the sauerkraut will take at least a week to ferment. I always leave it for 4 weeks! After the first day, you don’t have to check it until you are ready to eat it. You may see a slight scum on top, this is normal but I discard this top layer.

6. Store the Sauerkraut. Transfer the kraut to a mason jar and store in the fridge. It will keep for months in the refrigerator. Enjoy as a side dish, in salads, or on its own with a big spoon. Yum!

Suggested Resources and Reading on Fermentation

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World by Sandor Ellix Katz

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermentation and Biochemical Engineering Handbook, 2nd Ed. By Henry C. Vogel , Celeste C. Haber , Celeste C. Todaro

Real Food Fermentation: Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen (Paperback)By Alex Lewin

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Mary G. Enig and Sally Fallon

Making Sauerkraut and pickled vegetables at home: Creative recipes for lactic-fermented food to improve your health by Klaus Kaufmann and Annelies Schoneck

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

Read the original publication HERE

Cranberry Broccoli Curried Sambusa with Banana Tamarind Chutney

Smooth Banana Tamarind Chutney

One ripe banana
One tablespoon of tamarind paste*
A clove of garlic
A pinch of each: cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger powder and sea salt
One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
A tablespoon of water

Just throw all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smoooooooth.

Cranberry Broccoli Curried Sambusa

one cup of cranberries, soaked for an hour
half a shallot
one head of broccoli (minus the stem… this can be used for broccoli coconut soup perhaps)
one cup of carrots
one cup of pack greens – spinach, arugula, chicory or mustard greens
one tomato
half a cup whole flax seeds, soaked in ½ cup of water
the juice of half a lemon
a tablespoon of orange zest
one and one half tablespoon of coconut oil
a thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
one tablespoon of coconut aminos
And now for the spices…
a generous pinch of each of these:
coriander, ground clove, ground cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, cayenne
two pinches of these: fennel seed, cumin

Chop the shallot, carrots, broccoli, greens and tomato in small, uniform pieces. Add all to the food processor except for half a cup of broccoli florets, chopped small. Add the spices, ginger and orange zest. Process until smooth and transfer into a bowl. Drain the cranberries and add them along with the remaining broccoli and the soaked flax to the mixture. Melt the coconut in the dehydrator, making sure the temp is below 115 degrees Celsius. Once melted, add the coconut oil, coconut aminos and lemon juice and stir well. To dehydrate these delicious treats, shape into triangles on teflex sheets and dehydrate on 115 for 4 hours, flip and wait another 4 hours. They are finished when they are soft and chewy! Serve with the Smooth Banana Tamarind Chutney.

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Chocolate Avocado Dream Pie!

I am sure glad this recipe is a little messy. Cleaning the blender with a mini spatula was a great idea until I delved into the depths of the Vita-mix with my fingers and then proceeded to lick them clean! Well, the title says it all! This pie is a dream come true! Loaded with omegas, a slice of this will have you dancing around singing in your living room, spatula as microphone (at least that’s what happened to me). With a raw crust of walnuts and dates, you will taste perfect harmony with a little kick from the Cayenne.  In ancient times, walnuts were considered the symbol of intellect. What do they look like? A brain! They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which lower cholesterol and act as an anti-inflammatory. They are full of phytochemicals which provide us antioxidants to help eliminate free radicals (those pesky buggers who steal electrons from your healthy cells). And who doesn’t just love avocados? They are such a treat when presented in a sweet concoction of whipped chocolate goodness.  Let your inner child sing high and low to the mountains for this one!

the raw crust:

1 cup walnuts (previously soaked and dehydrated)
1/2 cup soaked dates
1/3 cup of shredded coconut
A tablespoon of coconut oil
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a dash of mineral rich sea salt

Blend the crust ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor. Press date and nut mixture into the pie plate with clean hands then cover and place in refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

the filling:

1 large ripe avocados
1/2 cup Raw Cacao Powder
1/2 tablespoon of Spirilina
2 tablesoons Coconut Butter
1/2 cup Agave Syrup
or Maple Syrup (not raw but used in raw food cooking)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

1 tablespoon irish moss *

1 cup of water as needed

will also need:
sliced seasonal fruit

Seed and scoop out avocado into the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth, adding water as needed. Spoon avocado mixture onto the crust and spread it evenly. Pour into crust, then chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Garnish with seasonal fresh fruit.
Pachavega Living Foods Education

marinated beet medallion and avocado skewers

Beets are the most intense vegetable. They stain everything!! I’ve even held a beet between my lips for a pair of rouge kissables, au natural (more than once). They are dominating and transform any dish into a red-purple medley of love. The crisp beet medallions in these vegan, gluten-free skewers meld so nicely with the smooth texture of the bite-sized avocados and crunch of red onion (which after a few hours are all a little red themselves).

the marinade
a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
the squeeze of half a lemon
1 small clove garlic, minced
a small pinch of finely grated lemon zest
about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast
a spoonful of miso paste
a dash of smoked paprika and black pepper
the skewers
beet medallions – fresh peeled beets, sliced as thin as you can… if you have a mandolin, use here!
avocado  – bite-sized
red onion
small cherry tomatoes, halved
red bell pepper

Skewer the bite-sized veg, alternating as yo go and place in a shallow dish.(…I like to put the avocado pieces next to the red onion…)

Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl, pour over the skewers and put them in the fridge. Make the skewers at least four hours before you want to eat them so the marinade can soak up the deliciousness!
Pachavega Living Foods Education

baby arugula and sunflower sprouts with creamy asparagus dill dressing with a side of ginger kimchee, sun-dried olives and strawberries

This salad was thrown together at the last minute. As any person who spends a good amount of time in the kitchen knows, sometimes the fridge can look pretty barren. This is when your imagination has the opportunity to flourish. A delicious sauce can be made with almost anything, as long as you have a good blender!

First to go on my plate was the last of the baby arugula and then a handful of sunflower sprouts! These little babies are full of chlorophyll and pack a whole wack of nutrient density in such a little amount. Did you know that one pound of sprouts provides the combined nutritional advantage of thousands of baby plants?!

The salt and sour was introduced by adding a few sun-dried, raw black olives and a fork full of delicious Pachavega’s ginger kimchee! A few bruised strawberries on their way out added a lovely sweetness that really balanced the flavour of the entire dish! I try to never have any waste in the kitchen and if any fruit or veg is too far gone, into the compost it goes, completing the cycle of nature.

To top it all off was the vegan, gluten free and raw creamy asparagus dill dressing:

1 cup organic raw cashews
fresh filtered water
a handful of chopped fresh dill
two stalks of fresh asparagus, woody ends snapped off.
the juice of half a lemon
a pinch of turmeric
a pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Rinse the cashews in a colander and place them in a glass bowl. Cover them with fresh filtered water and let them soak overnight. In the morning, place the other ingredients in a blender and blend briefly to combine, adding more water until you reach a creamy consistency  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle. This sauce will keep fresh in the fridge for about 4 days… yummy!

creamy asparagus dill dressing, ginger kimchee, sun-dried olives

yellow zucchini noodles with a raw almond sundried tomato basil sauce

rawlicious zuke noodles

a lovely vegan, gluten free dish on a lovely tuesday.
when I got my spirializer in the mail this morning, I couldn’t wait to get it out and play! Luckily I had half a yellow zucchinni left, so a quick check over the instructions to be sure I wouldn’t slice my hand off, and voila! Ready made fresh yellow zucchini noodles! They are raw, vegan, gluten free and definitely free of those heavy carbs. Drizzled with a home-made raw almond basil sauce – some daikon radish sprouts* and incan berries*

the sauce:
one cup of sprouted almonds
one small zucchinni
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
1/2 a cup sundried tomatoes (rehydrated in some water)
a clove of garlic
one tbs of miso paste (I like Gen Mai miso)
a sprinkle of nutritional yeast

enjoy while sitting on a sunny windowsill and don’t forget to slurp up the extra sauce. dare to lick the bowl clean!

*You can grow your own daikon radish sprouts at home! Look for a reputable source that has viable organic seeds – I use mumm’s sprouting seeds.

*You should always soak incan berries to rehydrate them, especially in a salad. They’ll be easier to chew and meld smoothly with the flavour of the dish.

yellow zucchini noodles with almond sundried tomato basil sauce