Living With Wild Things: Part 3, Grain Ferments

This is part-three in a three-part series about fermentation. Part-one contains information related to the nutritional value of fermented foods. It also touches upon the role that fermentation might play in personal, societal, and ecological renewal. It concludes with recipes for fermented vegetables. Part-two deals with dairy products and their non-dairy counterparts. This section is devoted to fermented grain products.


"Wow, that pink blob is moving. You are not going to eat it, are you?" I glanced at the dosa batter which was bright pink because it contained red lentils. It was creeping dangerously close to the top of the container. "Oh yes," I replied. 


We in the west are not used to being reminded that all of our food is, or was, alive. Perhaps this remembrance brings us too close to death and decay, to the realization that we too will one day become food for other organisms. But death is not merely a loss of life. Life digests life and produces more life. We are part of an endless cycle of becoming. Nothing that lives is ever lost. People have long produced fermented foods in partnership with some of the microorganisms responsible for driving nature's great recycling centers.


There is wisdom in the ancient art of fermentation which enhances the nutritional value of foods. In the first segment of this article, specific health benefits of fermented foods were explored. Here I will merely note that grains and other seeds contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent seeds from germinating in less-than-ideal conditions. Enzyme inhibitors inhibit our ability to access nutrients from grains. The practices of fermenting, soaking, and sprouting deactivate enzyme inhibitors. These practices also reduce the amount of phytic acid in seeds. Phytic acid is a substance which is found in many grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. According to Sally Fallon, this substance "can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption" (2001, p. 452).


But fermentation is not merely a matter of boring nutritional factoids. Fermentation enhances the flavor of grains and other foods. Staple foods and beverages from many cultures are based upon grains. Sourdough breads, dosas, idlis, ogi, amazake, kisk, oat porridge, beer, and chang are but a few of these. I will provide recipes for dosas, chutney, ogi, and sourdough bread. All of these recipes where inspired by recipes offered in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.


Dosas (See header picture of dosas with chutney)

  • 2 C Rice
  • 2 C Lentils
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • Ginger
  • Orange Peel
  • Coriander

Soak rice and lentils overnight in separate containers filled with filtered water. Drain and rinse rice and lentils. Blend rice and lentils in a food processor or blender. Add water as necessary to facilitate progress. Pour batter into a clean bowl and add additional water. The batter should be relatively thick. Cover the batter and allow it to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Add additional water to create a thin batter. Stir remaining ingredients into batter. Pour patter onto a hot, greased skillet. Swirl the batter with the back of a spoon so that it spreads out to form a very thin cake. Flip cake after many bubbles appear. Cook until the other side is golden-brown. Serve with chutney. 



  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Hot Peppers
  • Ginger
  • Orange Peel
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Miso
  • Cashews

Soak cashew in water for six hours. Drain cashews and toast them in a 200 degree oven. Mince herbs and spices. Chop nuts. Combine all ingredients. Serve with dosas.

In a hurry? Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend well, adding more or less yogurt and possibly a little water for consistency.


Ogi (Fermented Millet Porridge) with Blueberries and Maple Syrup

  • 4 Cups Millet
  • 1/4 Cup Whey
  • Water
  • Olive Oil
  • Maple Syrup
  • Vanilla
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom
  • Orange Peel
  • Salt
  • Blueberries
  • Whipped Cream

Ogi is a fermented millet porridge from Africa. For this recipe, I began with the recipe for ogi which is provided in Nourishing Traditions and added spices, blueberries, syrup, and the like. Wild Fermentation offers a recipe for ogi which is much simpler than that from Nourishing Traditions. It does not involve straining and discarding bran. If you eat little millet, you can use the recipe from Wild Fermentation. If you eat large amounts of millet you may want to discard bran because, as explained by Sally Fallon (2001), the bran contains a goitrogen. Soak millet in a bowl of water for 24 hours. Cover bowl with a towel. Drain millet. Process in small batches in a food processor. Mix with a large amount of water. Pour through a strainer. Mix the strained liquid with whey and leave to ferment for an additional period of 24 to 72 hours.

Bring the fermented millet and liquid mix to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly (ogi burns quite easily). Add more water as necessary. Add spices, salt, and olive oil after the porridge has become very thick. Reserve some spices and maple syrup for the blueberries. Pour ogi into a greased pan and let it harden in the refrigerator. Cook blueberries with reserved spices and syrup. Add arrowroot or another thickening agent if desired. Pour blueberries over ogi. Refrigerate for an additional period of time. Serve with whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup.  


Sourdough Starter Recipe From Wild Fermentation

  • 2 C Flour
  • 2 C Filtered or Spring Water
  • Unwashed, Organic Grapes or Plums (optional)
  • Additional Flour and Water

This is a much abbreviated version of the recipe for sourdough starter offered by Sandor Katz. For a complete version of the recipe, refer to Wild Fermentation (Katz, 2003, pp. 95-96). Combine 2 C water with 2 C flour in a bowl. Stir well. If desired, add unwashed, organic grapes or plums (local/wild ones are best), a handful of whole fruit will do. Wild yeasts abound on the skin of these fruits and aid the process of wild fermentation. Cover bowl and let it sit in a warm location. Whisk batter enthusiastically at least once per day. After some days, small bubbles will appear on the batter. (Bubbles will always appear after you stir the batter. The bubbles that we are after here will form of their own accord while you are away.)

Remove fruit. Add 2 Tbsp flour per day for three or four days. Stir as before. Add more water if the mixture becomes too thick. "Once you have a thick, bubbly batter, your starter is ready to use" (Katz, 2003, p. 96). Each time you use your starter, you will remove a portion for use in bread and reserve a portion. Add equal amounts of flour and water to the reserved portion to replenish your starter. After the replenished starter has been bubbling for 4 to 8 hours, you may refrigerate it for future use.  


Sourdough Onion Bread

  • 8 Cups Wheat or Spelt Flour
  • 3 Water
  • 2 C Sourdough Starter
  • Onions
  • Dill
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Honey

Combine sourdough starter, water, and 4 C flour in a bowl. Mix well. Let sit, covered, for 12 to 24 hours in a warm location. Add additional flour along with remaining ingredients. You may sauté the onions in olive oil if you so choose. Kneed dough and let it rise, covered, in a warm place. After the dough has doubled in bulk (which may take 4 to 24 hours or longer), punch it down and shape it into loaves. Place loaves in pans and leave them to rise for two hours or so. Bake at 350 for 50 to 70 minutes or until finished, depending on your oven, yeast, etc. To test loaves, remove them from pans and tap their undersides. A hollow sound indicates that the bread is finished. Alternately, stick a thermometer into the bread so that the tip reaches the center. 185 degrees is a good temperature for softer breads and 215 is perfect for crusty, more well done breads. Be warned that as bread gets warmer, it heats up faster, so check it every 10 minutes or so in the end.


Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread

  • 7 C Buckwheat Flour
  • 2-3 C Water
  • 2 C Sourdough Starter
  • 1/3-1/2 C Ground Flax Seeds
  • Grated Carrots
  • Grated Ginger
  • Orange Peel
  • Cinnamon
  • Walnuts
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

Combine sourdough starter, water, and 4 C flour in a bowl. Mix well. Let sit, covered, for 12 to 24 hours in a warm location. Add additional flour along with remaining ingredients. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours. Place batter into pans and leave loaves to rise for two hours or so. Bake at 350 for 60 to 80 minutes or until finished. 

If you missed them...Part 1: Vegetable ferments and Part 2: Dairy ferments.

Bernadette Miller is a student of silences, wild places, and children. Those sages teach that savoring the substance of existence is a serious frivolity. So she aspires to spend more time mucking about in gardens and streams, sunsets and impossible dreams. She has a masters degree in Health Arts and Sciences. She loves gardening, cooking, playing music, playing with children, playing with words, and watching sunsets. She hopes, some day, to find the foreign land where opinions lose themselves in the original passions and stories that birthed them. Her last article for us was: Fermentation: Living with wild things.