• Nikki Wagner


Cultivate (verb):  try to acquire or develop a quality or skill; try to improve or develop Community (noun):  the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes or interests in common. - Oxford Dictionary

Cultivating Community focuses on ways you can build community around you by regularly connecting with others, involving others in your life & projects and getting involved in events, activities & groups.   Through cultivating community you build trust, learn from others, share your passion and knowledge, as well as connect people together. Communities grow stronger through each little action.

Cultivating Community is a forum which offers ideas, inspiration and starting points for you and your community.  My hope is that you start projects, community groups and discussions around things you can do together, whether it is a food share group or Momma Bake, a mending/sewing group, a work-share/crop-share group, or whatever you're into.....we are all better together. In this issue of Cultivating Community the focus is on fermented foods and drinks.....and the best way to make ferments is to have your friends over and everyone participates in chopping and bashing and bottling and chatting and laughing!

ISSUE 4:  July 2020 "Culture" and "culture" mean two different things to a biologist and an anthropologist, but in fermentation, they overlap completely. - David Zilber Click here to listen: Emergence Magazine podcast Fermenting Culture with David Zilber  ************************* Your gut microbiome consists of communities of organisms - a collection of microbes living in a system.  More than 35,000 microbial species have been identified living on and within our bodies.  This makes up about 10% of our total body weight.  In fact, we have ten times more bacteria in the gut than cells in our body. It has famously been said the gut is the seat of all health, or all disease.   The gut sits at the juncture between your nervous system (Enteric Nervous System), your immune system (Gut-Associated Lymphatic Tissue) and your endocrine (hormonal) system.  The gut receives signals from the outside world - information in the form of foods, chemicals, microbes, etc.  The gut sorts through this information sending signals to the other systems based on its findings.  The conduit used to transmit this information is the gut microbes. The microbes create chemical messengers that influence immune system response, modulate hormones and communicate with our genes.  Gut flora (probiotics) also aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as creating additional nutrients, notably B vitamins and vitamin K2.  Gut microbes assist in the detoxification process, taking pressure off our liver and kidneys.  In order to keep our gut healthy we need to encourage more beneficial bacteria to live there by offering an environment that supports them.  Gut microbes need a variety of foods to support them and fiber to feed them - termed prebiotics.  Think of your gut as a garden...you need to plant it out (add new microbes to it in the form of fermented/cultured foods) and you need to feed it (provide it with fiber/roughage). This newsletter is full of ideas and recipes you can incorporate into your daily routine that will provide your gut with both prebiotics and probiotics.

Yogurts Homemade yogurt is divine! It's diverse, nutritious and easy to make.  Yogurt can be used in both savory and sweet recipes.  You can use cow's milk, goat's or sheep's milk.  Alternatively, coconut milk can also be cultured and used as yogurt. Store-bought coconut yogurt can be expensive; it can also contain ingredients you don't want, like sugar and starch. Homemade coconut yogurt on the other hand has only one ingredient - coconut milk. I use kefir milk grains to ferment the coconut milk just as you would use them to culture cow's milk. Using kefir grains introduces many strains of probiotics to your coconut yogurt unlike commercial products. I use coconut yogurt for sweet deserts by adding a bit of honey and vanilla using it as you would whipped cream; or in chia pudding instead of straight coconut milk or cream.  For savory dishes like tacos or curries, I add salt, lime and maybe some chopped coriander/cilantro into the coconut yogurt and use it as a condiment to contrast heavy spices. Follow the link to learn more:  Make Coconut Yogurt at Home ************************** There are a few steps in making cow's milk yogurt, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy.  I generally make yogurt while I'm standing in the kitchen at night making dinner (since I'm already there). Again, homemade cow's milk yogurt is more nutritious than store-bought yogurt and only has two ingredients - cow's milk and some yogurt to start the fermentation process.  You also have more control over the consistency when you make it at home.  If you want a softer yogurt just use it as is, but if you prefer a firmer yogurt (Greek yogurt) you can strain it for 12 hours or overnight, separating out the whey.   You can use the whey in fermenting (add whey as a starter culture), cheese-making or to feed to your chickens, dogs or pigs (it gives them a protein boost).   If you allow the yogurt to strain for a day or so you can use this firm yogurt to make labne (sometimes called yogurt cheese).  Labne has a firmer, stickier consistency and can be rolled into balls and preserved in oil and fresh herbs to use later (pictured above). As with coconut yogurt, cow's milk yogurt can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.  One of my most favorite ways to serve homemade Greek yogurt is to add vanilla, honey or maple syrup and the finely-grated rind of a whole lemon - mix them through gently and use over stewed or fresh fruit on top of porridge or as the filling in a Summer tart.  Recipes: Homemade Cow's Milk Yogurt Labne Raspberry Frozen Yogurt

Fermented Drinks We are most familiar with beer and wine as fermented drinks, but there are many traditional fermented drinks that are both nutritious and tasty......  Kombucha - fermented sweet tea drink  Kefir Water - fermented flavored soda Kefir Milk - fizzy milk with a flavor similar to yogurt  Tepache - fermented pineapple drink from South America Kvass - fermented beet/beetroot drink from Russia Ginger Bug - spicy soft drink from the Caribbean Once you master these drinks there are plenty other fermented drinks you can make at home - root beer, honey mead, country wines.... Click on the name to learn how to make these yummy drinks at home! *NOTE:  you must use de-chlorinated water when making ferments as chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria

Fermented Condiments Yes, you can even make Fermented Mustard!  And... Hot Sauce - make it hot or mild depending on the chilies you add Tomato Salsa - perfect for Mexican Monday or Taco Tuesday Preserved Lemons - have lemons around all year long; perfect for Middle Eastern dishes Refried Beans - you can ferment cooked beans so they last much longer in the fridge; use with Mexican, South American or Spanish dishes, or as a dip Mayo - use as you would in recipes or on sandwiches; it's best in deviled or curried eggs Pickled cucumbers - use as you would store-bought pickles; you can ferment all kinds of vegetables, like asparagus Fruit and dried fruit chutneys - fruit takes on new dimensions once they are fermented Click on the name to learn how to make these yummy condiments at home!

Apple Cider Vinegar Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can easily be made at home - you just need apple scraps, sugar, fresh water and time.  The conversion of sugars from the apples to acetic acid is a 2-step process called acetic fermentation.  Sugars are converted to ethanol by yeasts naturally present on the apple skins or in unpasteurised apple juice; then, the ethanol is converted by bacteria and oxygen to acetic acid. You can use ACV in cooking - to make salad dressings and marinades,  and to preserve foods - pickled cucumbers, beetroots/beets, etc.  When preserving with apple cider vinegar the acid must be 5% or greater.  If you are using homemade ACV, you will need to test the pH with a test strip, otherwise, use commercially produced ACV that is naturally fermented. Flavoring your vinegar is another option - steep either sweet and floral ingredients in your ACV or use savory items like garlic and chilies.  You can even steep medicinal herbs in the vinegar - rose to make you happy, nettle to add minerals to your diet, turmeric to reduce inflammation.... A tablespoon or so of ACV taken prior to eating can help you digest your meal and it will help to reduce blood sugar levels.  There is also evidence that ACV can reduce asthma symptoms over time (probably because it is replenishing the gut with beneficial bacteria). Apple Scraps Vinegar How-to Homemade Fire Cider Herbal Vinegar Guide

Gluten-free Sourdough Bread I have been experimenting with sourdough breads lately.  My family is partial to the loaf pictured above....a wonderful Steiner kindergarten teacher gave me this recipe along with her brown rice starter.  This bread is wheat- and gluten-free, makes a large loaf that keeps well for a week in the pantry and it's results are consistent - crunchy on the outside and soft inside. Making bread isn't as time-consuming as you may think, it's a matter of learning where it fits in to your routine.  For me, I take the starter out of the fridge and leave it some place warm for the day, that evening I make the leaven and feed the starter.  These are left out over night and in the morning I place the starter back in the fridge and use the leaven to make the bread loaf.  Once the ingredients are mixed into the leaven, I pour it into a bread tin and place it somewhere warm like under the wood heater, so it can rise.  Later in the day I cook it.  Generally I do this on a day I don't have to leave the house, but I have done it around my work day - getting up 15 minutes earlier to mix the bread, then cooking the loaf once I returned home for the night.  I find putting a reminder in my phone to take out the starter helps me remember! You can play around with flours to get different flavours in your bread and you can add other ingredients like raisins and cinnamon or calendula petals or olives and fresh-chopped rosemary leaves.  You can add nuts and seeds to the loaf or experiment with roasted, mashed pumpkin or rhubarb and apple.....

A "Cultural" Shift I hope this newsletter has inspired you to create cultured foods at home and with others.  Ferments not only provide you with beneficial bacteria, extra vitamins and fiber, but they also encourage creativity and experimentation; they allow you to take time to nourish yourself, your family and those around you.  Most importantly, creating cultured foods increases biodiversity! Ultimately, this is a cultural shift; a shift away from a sedentary, poorly nourished, isolated life high in toxins and stress for one that is built on diversity, connection and purpose – a nourished life.  

I hope this has inspired you to connect with those around you and cultivate your community.

Future topics for Cultivating Community issues will include: Gardening Herbalism Dyeing Cheese making Basketry Pottery Homemade cleaning products Homemade personal care products Sewing Knitting Crochet Bushwalking/forest bathing Meditation  Book clubs Slow living If you have topics that interest you, please let me know and I will incorporate them into future issues; or, if you have resources (e.g. FB pages for existing groups, web pages, etc.) you would like me to add, let me know that, too. Nikki x

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