by Catherine Haug, June 16, 2011
(All photos by C. Haug)
See also printable pdf version of this photo-essay: ‘Sourdough’ Oatmeal Porridge.
Last month I wrote a photo-essay on ‘Sourdough’ Pie Crust. It uses yogurt rather than sourdough starter to ferment the flour, since the leavening ability of sourdough starter is not wanted in a pie crust.
This same method can be applied to other baked goodies such as cakes, cookies, coffee cakes, and quick breads. And it can also be applied to cooked porridges. But why would you do this?
Why fermenting grain is important
Unfermented grain has several problems for optimum health:
- It contains phytates that bind the minerals so you cannot absorb them.
- It contains toxic lectins (natural pesticides) such as WGA (wheat germ agglutinin) and alpha-gliaden (the problematic part of the gluten complex).
- Many of its minerals and cofactors are bound in such a way that you cannot utilize them.
(See my post: The Problem with Unfermented Grains for more on this).
Sprouting or fermenting the grain resolves most of these issues, improving the healthfulness of the grain. Fermentation involves extended exposure of the grain to a moist, acidic environment, such as that provided by sourdough starter, or a long soak in a water-yogurt mix.
In the case of porridge, overnight fermentation followed by a long cooking time accomplishes the same goal as using sourdough starter to make bread from flour.
It is also best if you roll (flake), or steel-cut the whole oat groats right before fermenting or cooking, for the same reason that fresh-ground flour is best (see my post The Importance of Grinding your own Flour for more).
How to ferment oatmeal for porridge
NOTE: this same method can be used for other grain porridges such as 7-grain or 9-grain.
See also printable pdf version of this photo-essay: ‘Sourdough’ Oatmeal Porridge (pdf, 400 kb). It includes more photos.
Opening a package of instant oatmeal is certainly much quicker, but is far from having the optimal nutritional value provided by old-fashioned porridge. So I make up a large batch (6 or more servings) of porridge, and store individual servings in the fridge or freezer. Reheating is easy in a steamer pot.
This recipe makes 6 servings, but you can easily modify it to make more (or fewer) servings.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 Tbsp plain, unsweetened yogurt [NOTE: buttermilk, or lemon juice can be used instead of yogurt; kefir may also work, or it may produce alcohol instead of lactic acid. If anyone tries this, let me know how it goes (see our contact page or leave a comment).]
- 2 cups warm water (105° – 110° F)
- presoaked oats (above)
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt
You also need a heavy-bottomed saucepan, with lid. Good quality stainless steel or enameled steel, with an all-clad aluminum or a copper disc in the bottom for even heating is best. Don’t use aluminum because the fermented oats are acidic and will leach aluminum into the porridge.
Or you can use a double boiler.
My saucepan is stainless steel with an all-clad aluminum disc on the bottom, and a tempered glass lid so I can watch it cook.
Ferment the oats
Assemble ingredients & equipment:
This photo shows the ingredients for the ferment:
- rolled oats (should be freshly rolled, or you can use freshly steel-cut oat groats),
- plain unsweetened yogurt (mine is homemade, in the glass jar), and
- warm water (should be filtered or at least chlorine-free).
Choose a bowl that will allow the oats to double in size as they absorb the liquid. Measure oats into the bowl; warm the water to 105° – 110° F; have the yogurt ready.
Mix the ferment
Measure 2 Tbsp yogurt and stir into the warm water.
Pour yogurt water over oats; stir to combine oats and yogurt water:
Let the ferment rest overnight
Cover the bowl with a cotton dishtowel, as fermentation happens best in the dark, and the cloth will also keep debris from getting into your ferment.
Cook the porridge:
Ingredients for cooking:
- Salt: I use Real Salt, pictured in a steel canister, or other unrefined sea salt. I do not recommend iodized salt.
- Oats: Freshly rolled or cut oat groats
- Water: filtered and chlorine free
Measure 1 cup of water into heavy-bottomed saucepan; add salt and stir to dissolve.
Add fermented oats to saucepan and stir to combine.
Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat – just until it begins to bubble. Reduce heat to low and give it a stir.
Let it bubble very gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or more. Add more water if needed to keep it from sticking to the pot. The more water you add, the larger the volume of porridge, and the softer the oats. I like to cook it at least 20 minutes and usually add 1/4 -1/2 cup more water.
Note that the longer you simmer the porridge, the more nutritious it gets (more gluten is broken down, more minerals are released from the phytates).
Give it a warm rest
Stir in a bit more water (1 Tbsp or so); cover saucepan and reduce heat to lowest simmer. I have to use a simmer plate because my lowest gas flame is too hot. Let it rest at lowest possible simmer, 5 – 10 minutes before serving.
It should have fully absorbed all the water and be quite tender and fluffy.
Serve, or store and reheat
To serve porridge: Thaw first (if frozen); reheat by steaming for 10 minutes. Garnish with honey, fruit, nuts, cinnamon or other spices. Add a pat of butter, or pour milk or cream over the porridge. Another option is to sprinkle some ground flax seeds over the porridge when you serve, to enhance your Omega-3 intake. Enjoy!
To store: Transfer to storage container(s) and let cool before adding lid and transferring to refrigerator or freezer.
This amount lasts me 1 week, so I pour the porridge into a single container, divide it like a pie into 6 servings, and keep it in the fridge (covered with the red lid).
To reheat a serving: Transfer to bowl and heat over simmering water. I use a simmer pot with basket to hold the bowl above the water. Or you could use a double boiler.
See also printable pdf version of this photo-essay: ‘Sourdough’ Oatmeal Porridge (pdf, 400 kb)
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz
- Rebuild from Depression, by Amanda Rose (www.rebuild-from-depression.com)
Related ESP Articles
- ‘Sourdough’ Oatmeal Porridge (pdf version of this photo essay)
- ‘Sourdough Pie Crust’
- The Problem with Unfermented Grains
- The Importance of Grinding your own Flour
- Gathering Summary: Making and Using Sourdough, a Panel Presentation