AR­TI­SAN WATCH

Cuisine - - CRISPY BITS -

Jo Kemp­ton Happy Belly Ferments

RIDING THE TIDE of in­ter­est in natural well­ness, pro­bi­otic drinks are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, no longer to be found just in health-food shops but crowd­ing our su­per­mar­ket shelves and cafe menus, too. Their ap­peal lies in the ben­e­fit that nat­u­rally fer­mented foods can of­fer our health and the de­sire for al­ter­na­tives to su­gar-laden, car­bon­ated drinks. Jo Kemp­ton of Happy Belly Ferments cer­tainly sees the ben­e­fits for her­self. “My kids were the only kids in school that didn’t have a day off in the win­ter term. For my fam­ily, as our gut health has im­proved our phys­i­cal health has im­proved, too.”

The busi­ness be­gan as a kitchen bench­top fer­men­ta­tion pro­ject for fam­ily con­sump­tion. Jo says, “I got started with fer­ment­ing bev­er­ages to im­prove the health of my fam­ily, in par­tic­u­lar my son who has spe­cial needs. Med­i­cal spe­cial­ists with ex­per­tise in his area sug­gested that im­prov­ing gut health might im­prove his con­di­tion and adding pro­bi­otic bac­te­ria through the diet was one of the sug­gested routes.”

Jo has slowly ex­panded from the kitchen bench to full coun­cil food safety reg­is­tra­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, with sup­port from re­tail­ers such as Moore Wil­son’s and Farro Fresh.

Kom­bucha is per­haps the bet­ter known of the fer­mented pro­bi­otic fam­ily, but wa­ter ke­fir is pre­par­ing to make its mark, too. Happy Belly kom­bucha and wa­ter ke­fir are both nat­u­rally fizzy and fresh-tast­ing, but use dif­fer­ent brew­ing meth­ods. So, let’s delve into the slightly mys­ti­fy­ing world of SCOBYS, ke­fir grains, brews and fer­men­ta­tion.

Kom­bucha is fer­mented from black tea and su­gar. It con­tains a colony of bac­te­ria and yeast called the scoby (Sym­bi­otic Colony of Bac­te­ria) which is re­spon­si­ble for the fer­men­ta­tion process. Jo de­scribes the scoby as “an un­usual look­ing thing, like a jel­ly­fish with ten­drils,” sit­ting atop the brew­ing kom­bucha.

Wa­ter ke­fir is fer­mented with wa­ter ke­fir grains (a slightly con­fus­ing name as these soft lit­tle blobs con­tain no grain at all). First the grains are fer­mented with wa­ter and su­gar which pro­duces the ba­sic wa­ter ke­fir. For Jo’s gin­ger-beer-flavoured wa­ter ke­fir a sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion is done with fresh gin­ger and lemon juice which pro­duces a softly ef­fer­ves­cent, re­fresh­ing gin­gery flavour.

Once the fer­men­ta­tion is at the cor­rect stage the colony of bac­te­ria is re­moved and as it re­pro­duces and grows it can be used again and again. “Even if you start with the same scoby, ev­ery­one’s brew will be just a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” says Jo. “That’s part of the beauty of it.” / hap­py­bel­lyfer­ments.com

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