Fermenting food is a fun and nutritionally beneficial practice to get kids involved with. Katy Hofstede-Smith explains how to get little cooks interested in trying, eating and fermenting their favourite veggies this summer.
“There are so many health benefits to fermenting that I have been a long term convert and as I grew up on a very Dutch diet, to me the flavours of ferments and pickles were an already present part of my palate. But if it’s something that you’re keen to embrace, how do you introduce it to children who are far more likely to prefer sweet over sour?
Like anything, getting them involved in making things always helps spike their interest and fermenting is fantastic for little helpers. Squeezing, packing and prodding was made for junior sous chefs and there is very little that you can get wrong.
Sauerkraut is already quite familiar to many people and by making it at home you can control how strong the ferment gets (just put it into the fridge when it reaches the level that is right for you) and also what goes into it. There is something truly amazing about combing sliced cabbage, salt, water and time and ending up with sauerkraut.
Mixing up the vegetables can make it more interesting for children as well. My daughter isn’t too keen on straight cabbage but really enjoys a kraut made of carrot, cauliflower and cabbage. Making kraut with red cabbage produces an intense pink kraut, my next trick to try and convince little ones, if the colour is amazing they’ll be much more interested in trying it.
The first recipe that I really used to subtly enhance my children’s diet was fermented tomato ketchup. Traditionally ketchups were always fermented but more recently they have become the over-salted and sugar-rich sauces that we know. s something that children usually love and want to consume regularly, ketchups are a great starting point. Homemade sauce will always have more flavour and depth than your regular brand sauce, and once you’ve realised how easy it is to make, how much better it is for you and how much more interesting and complex the flavour of fermented is you’ll be won over.
Absolutely anything can be fermented so the other approach is to let the children loose on whatever they’d like to try. Dilly carrots, sweetcorn salsa, baby cucumbers, apples or strawberries; whatever they enjoy eating, let your children play with and ferment to get them more interested.
Fermenting doesn’t just have to be restricted to things to eat. Kvass and kefir are both types of drink-based ferments that are very easy to do and encourage children to enjoy, either knowingly or not. Kvass is usually slightly sweetened and can be flavoured with berries, oranges, apples or a mix and provides a huge range of probiotic benefits to children.”
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