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Fermented food recipes

Fancy making your own fermented foods and drinks?

Why not try these recipes courtesy of Simon Poffley, Gaba Smolinska Poffley, Anna Drozdova and The Fermentarium.

Just remember that if you’re making your own fermented foods it’s important to prepare them safely so as not to encourage the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria. This means using the right equipment and ingredients, following a recipe and storing the food at an appropriate temperature for the correct amount of time. If you are unsure, seek expert advice.

We are not responsible for the outcome of any recipe you try. The recipes available on this page have not been formally tested by the BBC and we do not accept responsibility of liability with regard to their originality, efficacy, quality or safety.

Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is tangy, thick and slightly effervescent which is fermented by milk kefir grains. The grains do not like metal so it is advisable to use plastic, glass or wood.


  • 500 ml full-fat milk (preferably raw organic or, at least, organic pasteurised and non-homogenised)
  • 1 tbsp milk kefir grains


  1. Add the kefir grains to the milk in a clean 750 ml jar. Cover loosely with the lid and give the jar a swish round now and again.
  2. Leave to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.
  3. Strain the kefir into a fresh container with a small plastic sieve in order to retrieve the kefir grains. You can drink the kefir straight away or keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks but it can keep longer.
  4. Either rest the kefir grains in milk in the fridge or start a new batch.

If you see that your kefir started separating into whey (like water liquid) and curds then this is an indication that it is very warm in your kitchen or that there are too many grains (due multiplication) and the kefir is ready. Mix the separated kefir with a spoon for easier straining.

Growth and division

The kefir culture will keep growing. The more culture you use, the quicker will be the fermentation process as the culture uses lactose in the milk, so you need to change milk regularly – every 24 hours. If you see that the culture grew too much you need to divide the culture and either give it away to a friend/family or store it in your fridge for emergencies (when the culture you use accidentally dies).

To store the excess kefir culture you need to place it in a glass jar with milk (amounts the same as in Step 1 or more), close the lid tightly and place it straight into the fridge. You will need to change the milk once a week or so. While in the fridge the culture will make kefir, but at a slower rate.

A very good indicator of when to change the milk is the visible separation into whey and curds. Mix with a spoon before straining, so it is easier to strain.

Vegetarian kimchi

This is the most well-known type of kimchi. In Korea where it is the staple dish this type of kimchi would contain fish paste, but here it is omitted to cater for vegetarians.

If you like, you could add a tablespoon of fish sauce if you want to get the umami flavour, alternatively miso could be used as a replacement. For lovers of hot food this goes well in stews, burgers, salads, soups or served as a side dish.

If you like, you could also add a celery stick cut into half inch pieces or a small courgette cut into thick slices.


1 small head of Chinese cabbage, roughly 700g (also known as napa cabbage)


  • 1litre water
  • 8 tbsp (80g) coarse sea-salt


  • 1 medium leek or bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1.5 cm piece of ginger, skin scraped off and grated (1 - 2 tsp)
  • 12 tbsp Korean hot pepper or other chilli flakes (if you prefer milder use less)
  • 80g mooli or radish
  • 2 tsp sea-salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp red miso paste (optional)


  1. Cut the napa cabbage in quarters lengthways, then cut each piece into 4cm pieces.
  2. Make up a brine by stirring the coarse sea-salt into a litre of water.
  3. Put the cabbage into the brine and weigh it down by placing a heavy plate over the cabbage if using a bowl.
  4. Leave the cabbage to soak for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight (but not more than 24 hours).
  5. Drain and rinse the cabbage. Squeeze out excess water. Taste a bit to check it is salty.
  6. Blend all the paste ingredients together to make a smooth paste.
  7. Mix the cabbage and the paste together ensuring that all the cabbage is well coated.
  8. Pack the cabbage into a jar and knock down to remove air holes.
  9. Cover the jar loosely and leave to ferment at room temperature for a minimum of seven days, but it can be left to ferment for several weeks. Ensure the cabbage remains under the paste by pressing it down with a clean spoon as the gases will push the cabbage up. This will only need to be done for the first few days when the fermentation is most vigorous.
  10. Once you are happy with the flavour and start to eat it transfer it to the fridge. The flavour will develop and become more sour.


Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea and is widespread across Japan, China, Russia and now the United States.

It is fermented by means of a jelly-like disc called a scoby, which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”.

Some of the bacteria create the jelly-like mass while saccharomyces cerevisiae (beer yeast) turns the sugars of the sweetened tea into alcohol which is in turn gobbled up by bacteria and converted into acetic acid.


  • 2 litres water
  • 120 - 170g white sugar
  • 15g (approx 6 teabags) black or green tea (or combination)
  • 1 medium-sized kombucha scoby
  • 300ml kombucha from the previous batch (or the liquid the scoby came in)


  1. Boil the water well to drive off chlorine.
  2. Add the tea and the sugar, give a quick stir to dissolve the sugar and leave for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags from the solution, then leave to cool to room temperature.
  4. Pour the solution into a large 3 litre jar or other glass container.
  5. Add the scoby and the kombucha that the scoby has been sitting in.
  6. Cover the jar with a cloth and an elastic band to prevent dust and fruit flies from getting in.
  7. Leave to ferment for 5 days at room temperature away from radiators, the oven or direct sunlight.
  8. On the fifth day try the kombucha to see how it is doing. At this stage you can do a “secondary ferment” by pouring off the kombucha and adding a fruit syrup to it and sealing it in pressurised jars for 2 days. It will then be fairly fizzy and can be stored in the fridge for drinking.
  9. If you wish to drink the kombucha in its plain form then keep trying each day until it reaches your favoured point between sweetness and acidity. The speed of the fermentation process depends on the temperature as well as the health of the scoby.
  10. The scoby “mother” will produce a new scoby each time and the new one can be separated with a clean plastic utensil, it is often recommended not to use metal with kombucha scobies. Extra scobies can be given away or used for experiments with different flavours or teas.

Cabbage and apple sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a very easy form of lactic fermentation and is the ideal place to start if you are new to fermentation. It is worth remembering that we do not create great tasting sauerkraut, lactic bacteria does that.

We simply have to create the wet, salty environment that the lactic bacteria thrive in but which most of the bad types of bacteria do not.

Traditionally earthenware crocks were used for sauerkraut, some of these would have a form of air trap to prevent oxygen coming into contact with the vegetables. Other vessels such as glass or food-grade plastic are fine.

An air-lock can be fitted, which will allow the escape of carbon-dioxide and restrict oxygen.


  • 1 kilo cabbage
  • 1 apple, sliced thinly
  • 1 heaped tbsp (18g) sea salt
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)


  1. Chop the cabbage finely. A mandolin can be used. Put three large leaves aside.
  2. Slice apples thinly.
  3. Mix the salt evenly with the cabbage; this will help release the liquid which will make up the brine. If using sprinkle over the caraway seeds.
  4. Pack the cabbage into a sterilised jar, knocking it down very hard as you go so that the cabbage is covered by the brine. Place three large cabbage leaves on top of the shredded cabbage making sure that the whole surface is covered by brine. Cover the jar loosely and place on the plate or in a bowl.
  5. Leave the sauerkraut to ferment at room temperature.
  6. Check each day and push the cabbage down so it remains under the surface of the brine. (It is important that the sauerkraut remain under the surface of the brine. Carbon dioxide which is a by-product of fermentation will push the vegetables up so the jar should be opened and the vegetable pushed down under the brine. If there is not enough brine to cover the vegetables additional brine can be made by dissolving 5g of salt per 200g of water).
  7. From day 5 start tasting the cabbage to see how it is progressing. There is not an optimal level of fermentation as some people prefer a more mild flavour while others prefer the more intense flavours which develop over time. For best results ferment for a minimum of three weeks.

The brine from an old batch can be drunk or used as a starter for a new batch.

Try experimenting with other vegetables such as carrots, radishes, greens and onions. Other spices such as juniper and herbs are a good addition but better to go sparingly with stronger tasting spices.

Homemade cottage/farm cheese


  • 2 litres organic grass fed raw milk

(If you cannot get raw milk you can use pasteurised milk, add milk whey/butter milk/yoghurt or milk kefir (3 - 4 tbsp per 1 litre of milk) into the pasteurised milk, stir well, cover and leave at room temperature to thicken and separate (might take a few days)


1. Culturing/Souring the milk

Pour the milk into a glass jar, cover with the lid loosely and leave at room temperature to sour and eventually separate. The process might take a few days. This will happen quicker during the warm months and slower during the cold months and generally depends on the temperature in your kitchen. When the milk is soured and separated you will notice that there is liquid at the bottom and jelly-like solids at the top of the jar.

2. Cooking the curds

Take a stock pot that is slightly bigger than the jar you used to sour the milk. Place the pot filled with water to ¼ of its capacity onto the hob, heat on a low flame/setting, place the jar with the separated milk inside, line the bottom of the pot with a muslin cloth or an old kitchen towel to prevent the jar from cracking, cut the solids with a knife a few times to release the whey. The total cooking time will be 60-90 minutes and may be extended to 2 hrs if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

3. Straining the whey

The dry curds can now be transferred to a colander lined with muslin cloth or an old kitchen towel; the ends of the cloth can be tied together and hung on a cupboard door knob or something similar with a container underneath to catch the whey. The curds should be allowed to drain for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours and even overnight, depending on how dry you want the final cottage/farm cheese.

4. Draining further or flavouring and storing

You can now place the cheese in a container with a lid. You can refrigerate and use it as is, or put the drained curds in the tied up cloth under press for a further 30 minutes – 2 hours and have a soft cheese block like Indian paneer.

Alternatively, you can add a bit of salt and/or herbs to your liking or even some double cream for a richer cheese.

Store the cheese in a container with a lid in the refrigerator.