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Traditional cultures knew that to properly access all the nutrition in grains, soaking or fermenting was necessary. Fermenting seeds, nuts and grains makes them more digestible and unlocks minerals for absorption by our guts.
Soaking grains neutralizes phytic acid, which is found in the bran of all cereal grains. Phytic acid is considered an “anti-nutrient” because it binds with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc, preventing your body from being able to absorb them. So you’re “unlocking” these nutrients by soaking/fermenting the grains first. Soaking grains also allows them to cook in a fraction of the time of non-soaked grains.
Creating the “Porridge Pot”
I keep a perpetual starter in a quart-sized (for 1-2 people) wide-mouth mason jar. I begin the starter by adding 2 servings (about 1/3 cup dried grains per person per day). Once it begins fermentation (which takes about 2-3 days), then I use half the contents for a serving to cook with, leaving enough to continue the ferment.
You might see bubbles forming in the glass, and it will take on a characteristic “sour” smell, like sourdough. If you wait 2 days or longer, you’ll definitely notice a soured smell. (This is a good thing, as the lactobacilli have come to the party!) The fermentation activity varies with the season and the climate.
Another great thing about the starter is that it’s very stable. I’ve gone a full week without using it, and it just keeps on fermentin’! Note that the sour taste mostly cooks out… but not while it’s cooking, mind you. It will be a bit stinky while it cooks, but it cooks quickly!
- 1 cup rolled or steel-cut oats, wheat berries, rye berries, millet, barley or any other (preferably whole and organic) cereal grain
- Filtered water
- Sea salt
- Liquid whey or pickle brine (optional)
- Raw honey (optional)
- Seasonal Fresh or dried fruit (optional)
- Raw or pastured butter (optional)
- Add grains to a wide-mouth glass quart-sized jar. Fill with 2 cups water. Add 2 tablespoons whey or pickle brine to kickstart fermentation.
- Cover with a tea towel and rubber band, or a piece of cloth and secure with lid ring (but not lid). Stash it in a corner on your kitchen counter. Wait at least two days before making your first batch.
- You should start to see bubbles forming in the glass, and it will take on that characteristic “sour” smell.
- Bring 1 cup of water with a pinch of salt to a boil.
- Add half the soaked grains (6-8 ounces by volume or about 10 heaping tablespoons) to the water.
- Add another ⅔ cup of dry grains to the Starter jar and top off with water (For tomorrow. That’s thinking ahead!)
- Lower heat to medium and simmer 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently, being mindful not to let the bottom burn! When there’s no extra liquid sitting on top, it’s ready.
- Pour into a bowl over sliced fresh or dried fruit, raw honey, and/or butter. Grate fresh cinnamon or nutmeg on top.
- To balance the meal (and get bonus fermenting points!), enjoy with some homemade kefir or yogurt (if you’re using store-bought, be sure the label says 'active cultures').